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The Art of Cuing

Pilates is a popular exercise system that aims to improve strength, flexibility, and posture through a series of controlled movements. One of the key elements of Pilates is cueing, which is a verbal or physical instruction given by the instructor to guide the client into the correct alignment and movement.

Cueing is an essential part of the Pilates method and is used to help clients learn how to move with control and precision, while also helping to prevent injury. In this blog, we will explore the various types of cueing used in Pilates, the importance of proper cueing, and how cueing can improve the overall Pilates experience.

Types of Cueing in Pilates:

There are three main types of cueing used in Pilates: verbal, visual, and tactile.

Verbal Cueing: This is the most common type of cueing used in Pilates. It involves the instructor giving verbal instructions to guide the client through the movement. For example, the instructor may say, "Inhale to prepare, exhale to roll down through your spine one vertebrae at a time." This is used for online and in studio teaching.

Visual Cueing: This type of cueing involves the instructor demonstrating the movement for the client. This can be particularly useful for clients who are visual learners or who are struggling with a particular movement. For example, the instructor may demonstrate the proper alignment for a plank position, showing the client where their hands should be placed and how to engage their core. This is useful for online and in studio teaching as the client can mirror the instructor.

Tactile Cueing: This type of cueing involves the instructor using touch to guide the client into the correct position or movement. For example, the instructor may place their hand on the client's lower back to encourage them to engage their core muscles. This type of teaching is only done in studio and cannot be achieved online.

The Importance of Proper Cueing:

Proper cueing is essential in Pilates as it helps clients to achieve the correct alignment and movement patterns. When clients are properly aligned, they are less likely to experience pain or injury, and they can achieve greater benefits from their Pilates practice. Additionally, proper cueing can help clients to engage the correct muscles during the movement. For example, if a client is doing a Pelvic Curl exercise, proper cueing can help them to engage their abdominals, glutes and hamstrings rather than hanging into their lower back muscles. Cueing can also help to improve the mind-body connection, which is a key component of the Pilates method. When clients are focused on the instructor's cues, they are more likely to be present in the moment and to connect with their body, breath and mindful movement.

How Cueing Improves the Pilates Experience:

Here are some of the ways that cueing can improve the Pilates experience:

1. Increased Body Awareness: Cueing helps clients to become more aware of their body and how it moves. This increased awareness can help clients to make the necessary adjustments to their alignment and movement patterns, leading to greater benefits from their Pilates practice.

2. Greater Precision: Proper cueing helps clients to move with greater precision and control. This can help to prevent injury and ensure that clients are using the correct muscles during the movement.

3. Mind-Body Connection: Cueing can help clients to develop a stronger mind-body connection, which is an essential component of the Pilates method. When clients are focused on the instructor's cues, they are more likely to be present in the moment and to connect with their body and breath.

4. Improved Results and Posture: When clients are properly aligned and using the correct muscles during the movement, they are more likely to achieve the desired results from their Pilates practice. Proper cueing can help to ensure that clients are getting the most out of their Pilates practice.

5. Benefits of ‘cueing’ for clients: Using effective language and cueing is also important because it can create a positive learning environment, increase motivation, and help clients feel confident in their abilities. Clear and concise communication from the instructor can help achieve a deeper understanding of the exercises and improve their performance.

6. Increased Muscle Activation: Pilates cueing helps students activate specific muscle groups, including the pelvic floor muscles, which are essential for core stability and overall body control. By targeting these muscles, students can develop strength, flexibility, and balance.

7. Injury Prevention: Pilates cueing can help prevent injuries by teaching students to move in a controlled and safe manner. By emphasizing proper alignment and engaging the appropriate muscles, students can avoid overuse injuries and other common Pilates-related injuries.

By providing clear, effective cues, Pilates instructors can help clients develop better body awareness, establish a strong mind-body connection which leads to a fruitful, healthy, happy and be pain-free.

Benefits of ‘cueing’ for the instructor themselves:

Effective cueing helps the instructor communicate more clearly with their clients, leading to better client understanding and execution of the exercises. This, in turn, can improve client results and satisfaction. Furthermore, using a variety of cueing techniques can help the instructor tailor their instruction to different learning styles and abilities. By using different cueing methods, the instructor can ensure that all clients receive the instruction they need to perform the exercises safely and effectively.

In addition, cueing can help the instructor maintain their focus and presence during the session. By continually monitoring and adjusting their cues as per the body they’re teaching in front of them there and then. Each body is different! Being present is of utmost importance. The instructor stays engaged with their clients and the session, ensuring that everyone stays on track and making progress towards their goals as their own individual according to their needs for their body.

Finally, effective cueing can help the instructor develop their teaching skills and confidence. As they become more skilled at cueing which takes time – patience is key and patience is the ‘Heart’ of the body in terms of teaching in general. Instructors are better able to identify areas for improvement in their clients' movements and provide specific feedback to help them progress. This, in turn, can lead to greater job satisfaction and a more rewarding teaching experience.

Cueing, and cueing ‘The Pelvic Floor’ go together just like you inhale then you flow into an exhale:

One of the most important aspects of cueing in Pilates is the focus on the pelvic floor muscles. The pelvic floor muscles are a group of muscles that support the pelvic organs and play a crucial role in maintaining posture, stability, and balance. In Pilates, the pelvic floor muscles are often referred to as the "powerhouse" or the "core" of the body, and they are essential for maintaining proper alignment and preventing injury.

When cueing the pelvic floor muscles in Pilates, the instructor may use a variety of techniques, including verbal cues, visual cues, and tactile cues. Verbal cues may include phrases such as "engage your pelvic floor," "lift your pelvic floor," or "draw your pelvic floor up and in." Visual cues may involve using imagery to help the student visualize the movement, such as imagining a balloon being inflated inside the pelvic area, or my personal favourite is: ‘Imagine your pelvic floor is an elevator. The doors open at the bottom, we walk inside and the doors gently shut, we need to get to the top floor; imagine the lift is slowly being pulled up to level one, we stop and inhale keeping on that same floor number, then start to exhale first! While drawing up the pelvic floor up to level two in your lift, we pause and inhale and it carries on to three and so on up to level 8.” Tactile cues may involve the instructor using their hands to guide the student's movement and provide feedback on their engagement of the pelvic floor muscles.

The cueing of the pelvic floor muscles is particularly important in Pilates because these muscles are often weak or underdeveloped in many people, especially those who sit for long periods or have had multiple pregnancies. Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles can help improve posture, reduce back pain, and prevent urinary incontinence.

In summary, cueing is an essential aspect of Pilates, and cueing the pelvic floor muscles is a critical component of this practice. By providing clear, effective cues, instructors can help students improve their body awareness, develop better posture, and strengthen the muscles that support the pelvic organs. Effective cueing allows individuals to focus on the mind-body connection and achieve optimal performance during each exercise. Each body is different and requires individualized cues. A good Pilates instructor should take the time to assess each individual's body, understand their unique needs, and use cues specific to their abilities. Through attentive and mindful cueing, Pilates practitioners can achieve the full benefits of this exercise modality.

Written by: Rebecca Maddox



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