I can’t help but geek out over Boomerang. If anything is more my passion than Pilates, it’s MOVEMENT in general. Boomerang is such a great movement integration exercise. It’s one of the few in Pilates’ original mat work that explicitly calls for a sequence of previous exercises in a choreographed movement. Spine Stretch, Rollover, Teaser. All mashed together, yet beautifully highlighted.
That’s where today’s cue comes in. Break it down to the building blocks. Any time you create a movement sequence for a client to work through – and I LOVE to do this for clients – it is really helpful to start with the pieces and string them together for a final few reps of pure flowing movement. You can refer to earlier exercises in the class if you’ve done a piece of the sequence already, or you can do the exercises in order just before stacking them together to create a fluid a movement.
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One week of March MATness is complete! Thanks for sticking with me and I hope you’re enjoying the daily dose of Cueing Theory.
Our cue today is “like a wave.” We want our spine stretch to be like a wave in two major ways. First, the curve of the belly. The abdominal wall stretches the spine back, up and over, just like the curl of the wave. Second, the energy. A wave has a never-ending loop of energy, just like our spine stretch when we flow from the top to the bottom of the movement.
Short and sweet for today! Be sure to follow us on Instagram (@worldisyourstudio) to find yours truly taking on the March MATness challenge day by day. And sign up for our Cuesletter to get these cues sent directly to your inbox and be the first to hear about them!
At the end of a class, many Pilates instructors tout the line “feel that you’ve grown an inch taller today.” What’s more accurate, probably, would be to say “feel that you’ve found and extra inch in your height today.” And that might actually be possible for some.
Consider for a moment, sitting up straight, as tall as you can. Could you possibly sit up any taller? Most likely, you could. If you were told to hug into your midline, lift your pelvic floor and create space between your vertebra. All fine and good, but what about your clients? Would that granular instruction work for them? Where is the midline? And how on Earth do we find the pelvic floor (more on that here)?
Today’s cue has the purpose of giving the client a goal when it comes to axial elongation; something they can reach for, quite literally. Ask the client to imagine a witch’s black, pointy-tipped hat (still going with the season here, but a top hat works just as well) hovering just above his or her head when she’s seated. Ask the client to sit up straight and reach the spine into length in order to fit the hat onto her head.
I find this is most effective at the end of a movement. For instance, as the client comes to the top of Assisted Rollup and is meant to find a neutral spine and pause, give the cue as she is reaching for axial elongation and neutral spine. You’ll find that the client will give you a little extra reach, possibly that elusive extra inch, if you give her a something to reach for!
A seasonal visual today…I’m going to harken back to a previous post and update it for Halloween…because I’m sure your clients are begging for some Pilates images to go with their Pumpkin Spice Lattes.
Remember that beach ball? We were diving up and over it to maintain space in our vertebra as we isolate flexion in the thoracic spine. Embrace the season and imagine instead a big, fat jack-o-lantern. Check back to the beach ball post for all the juicy details, but for quick reference, use this one for Rollup, Standing Rolldown, and Spine Stretch.
One of the most pertinent reference points for Pilates students is Pilates itself. So many of the exercises build on each other and it is a great tool to be able to refer back to some of the movements achieved in an exercise the client knows well, in order to set the stage for a new or more challenging sequence.
Let’s start the discussion today with a gimme. Bridging. It’s one of the first exercises we learn and a staple in class planning. I’ve mentioned the escalator cue for bridging in an earlier article, so let’s build on that. As a client becomes more familiar with the segmental spine movement inherent to bridging, it is an easy one to refer back to when we introduce a new exercise or help the client improve upon an exercise that they find more challenging.
Any time we want the client to move bone by bone through the spine, we can always refer back to bridging. The examples are diverse and plentiful. To start with, this referral cue translates for Roll Down and Roll Up. It’s great for seated exercises such as Spine Stretch, Saw. It’s great for exercises that require movement from seated to lying down: Assisted Roll Up, Teaser. It’s even key to getting the most out of the descent of inversion exercises: Roll Over, Corkscrew, Jack Knife.
I could probably go on and list most exercises in the whole of the Pilates repertoire, but you get the point. Use the Bridge.
Maintaining space and length in the spine during thoracic flexion is a challenge. Teaching a client to do the same is even more difficult. When the exercise calls for the client to reach over straight legs (either seated or standing), ask them to imagine a beach ball is placed right at the crux of the hips. Then ask them to curve their spine up and over the beach ball. This emphasizes that the hips should not hinge and that the lumbar remains long as the thoracic spine curves up and over the ball. Once thoracic mobility improves, this cue will facilitate the client’s attaining the desired “U” shape at the end of the movement.
Another thing to note is that if you happen to have an appropriately sized ball in your studio, using this as a prop to physically illustrate this cue is incredibly helpful.