Here’s an imagery cue that works well in so many situations. Supine, standing, even during movement. It’s so versatile that you can probably use it about 5 different ways in 1 class.
Headlights. When your aim is to edit out transverse movement, this is the cue for you. Think of headlights on a car. Both shine in the same direction, straight ahead of the car. You can’t disassociate the car from the headlights. Where the car points, the headlights point. And vice versa.
Imagine that the hips bones are mounted with headlights and just like a car, those headlights must shine directly ahead of the body. Hip disassociation exercises lend themselves particularly well to this cue. Leg Circles I, Shoulder Bridge, Bridging w single leg variations, Standing Balance I/II and others enjoy improved form and more benefits are reaped when this cue is used. In supine, headlights shine on the ceiling directly above; in Standing Balance I, towards the wall or mirror just ahead; and Standing Balance II, the floor just below.
Feel free to play with this one and see which exercises it improves for your clients. Often times introducing it towards the start of a class is a good idea because you can refer back to it with other exercises you didn’t even realize it would be helpful for!
We are all taught to ask our clients to “use the breath.” But what do we really mean? What do we want our clients to do with the breath? We can recruit the breath to either increase or decrease intra-abdominal pressure to either support a movement or increase the challenge of the movement. That’s a lot to think about for a client. Can we cut the client a break and just relax?
Let’s use the breath to unwind. You know, take a deep breath, chill. Take the Bridge as a simple example. Lie on the mat, close your eyes. Take a deep breath in, then let it out. Slooowly. Repeat. On the third breath, with the eyes still closed, as you exhale, imagine that the spine is heavy. So heavy it sinks into the mat, pulling your ribs and belly button with it. It’s weighted there, each vertebra. One more inhale and on the exhale, keeping the feeling of weight in your spine, use your hamstrings and glutes to do the “heavy lifting.” Inch by inch, bone by bone, send your tailbone towards the back of your knees and knees over toes. As each bone follows the vertebra before it and lifts off the mat, it is freed of its weight. Complete the movement with an inhale at the top and a long exhale as the vertebrae reconnect with the mat (and their weight) one by one.
Placing this breathing sequence with Bridging at the front of your class plan can also really help clients gain mindfulness and prepare them to approach the rest of class with an elevated level of body awareness.
Create more effective pelvic awareness and hip disassociation during bridging with this Cue of the Day.
At the top of your bridge, imagine your pant pockets are full of heavy sand. To empty them out, drop first your right hip, then return to the top of your bridge. Now drop your left hip in the same way, maintaining height through your opposite hip. Alternate this way until every last grain of sand has been emptied. Center yourself at the top of your bridge and roll back down out of your bridge.
This cue allows for an intense variation on the basic Pilates bridge. By isolating one side and then the other, you create the opportunity for the client to mentally isolate the pelvis and gain awareness through the transverse abdominus while at the same time moving through an intense gluteal fold (glute shelf) workout.
Clients will benefit from coordination efforts, pelvic stability and tone through each of the gluteus muscles, as well as through the hamstring muscles and contralateral adductors.