It’s been a few years since I confused the soles of my feet with the palms of my hands. It’s been even longer since I got my right side and my left side confused. But, alas, in the past few months, there have been times I can’t get these simple things straight.
My greatest challenge when practice teaching Pilates is cueing coordination. There are SO many details. “Sit with your knees bent” seems like the simplest instruction, but there are at least five different ways you can do it. And after you figure out the outline of the position, it’s time to focus on the shape of the spine, the pelvis, the neck, the shoulders, the toes and hands.
One time I stuttered to someone to “put the soles of the feet on the mat” when they were on their stomach. Ouch!
My only remedy so far for this issue is a three step process: RECITE, ASSESS, CORRECT/CHALLENGE.
The first thing I had to do when I started teaching was memorize the coordination cues like a script and repeat them over and over. It’s great to think through the exercise and try to casually cue it as it happens in your head, but there’s likely to be a delay, folks. How often do you tell someone a descriptive, complicated story without pausing at some point to process the words you want to use?
So, first I RECITE the (memorized) basics of the exercise.
This gives me time to ASSESS the situation during the first 1-2 reps. Are the shoulders crawling up? Is he/she really rotating the whole upper body, not just the arms? By memorizing the first few lines of each exercise, hopefully you give your brain time to scan the body for any problems.
Lastly, you have (somewhat memorized) CORRECTION and CHALLENGE cues. Once you know how to make the exercise more correct or harder, it’s simple enough to pull from a vast list of imagery or muscular engagement cues. Of course it doesn’t end there. This “step” has to be repeated as the reps add up, hopefully continually changing the way the person does the exercise.
It’s similar to performing. There’s a prepared aspect and an improvised aspect. With 80+ exercises (not including all modifications) that I’ll be tested on for my certification, the preparation is hugely time-consuming, but the improvisation is the most rewarding part. There’s nothing like finding a cue that works well for someone and really making a change in their bodies. That’s why I do what I do!