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Questions for your Pilates teacher:

Updated: Sep 10, 2023

1: When do I breathe?

I always giggle a little when asked this.

How about. Now. Also-again?

But most importantly- deeply.

If you'd like a breathing cue, you most often breathe with the stretch of your spring in classical Pilates. Inhale and fill the body with oxygen as the spring stretches under your reformer or within your eye line on the Cadillac. Inhaling can create oppositional energy and feed oxygen to our muscles. But keep in mind we can't stop breathing without special training. Yes, we might hold our breath as we try something new, but we never pass out because the body breathes. Your Pilates teacher does not know best when your body should breathe; your body knows.

Would you like to change your breathing pattern? Please do! My mentors remind me how Joe Pilates rarely cued precisely when to breathe within each exercise. There are many exceptions. Stomach massage: We create a bellows with our body. I would like you to exhale when you close your carriage. Most often, we will cue an exhale to close the reformer carriage. Think of the knee stretch series. However, if we think for a moment, for many of us as we begin to practice the Pilates method, the breathing cues may hold us back- if we follow every breathing cue in a class to a T, we may hyperventilate or run out of breath. We are unique, and so is the timing of our breath. If you feel confused, keep moving; your breathing will flow. The breath is important, but in the beginning, move. The breath is a tool, not a rule.

2. Where should I feel this?

Surprise! The answer is not your abdominals. Science has now proven that even if you think you are engaging a muscle and your teacher believes she sees you engaging a muscle, the muscle is not necessarily "engaged." If we attach electrodes to that muscle, we may find that those specific muscle fibers are not employed. This is why we no longer cue pelvic floor engagement. That is now known to be out of a Pilates instructor's purview.

While thinking can help prepare the body for a movement, only moving against force or exertion can engage muscle fibers, and they will not be isolated to a single muscle; everything is connected.

Thinking of engaging a muscle can also create a tension pattern, and it can work against optimal movement. We cannot think of muscle engagement as we pick up children and put away groceries. Not only would we forget, but life would become exhausting if we remembered! This is where the method works best. If taught correctly, the movements will help create connections (yes, eventually to our core and breath). Moving against a force can create sensations where, over time, connections can be felt. Some teachers can take you on a cueing journey, which can be fun, but the work itself creates a felt sensation.

Not a thought pattern but a movement pattern. Where and when you feel something will be your unique experience. If you feel a blank spot on your feet, back, or abdominals, feel that blank spot. It will change. Your sensations will differ whenever you meet your body on the apparatus. Pilates teachers cue too much; we know this. All the great elders within the method warned against it, and we all forget. We are a passionate bunch! You don't need to feel what your instructor mentions. This is between you and your spring.

Am I doing this right?

Yes. It is a journey, and you are figuring it out. Every moment is precisely right for your practice right now. Can your technique be perfected? Yes. Are you working with oppositional energy? Can you deepen your exhale? Close your carriage silently?

Keep in mind- not every exercise is for everyone. This is why we have hundreds to choose from and multiple apparatuses to support your journey. For example, you will most likely benefit from practicing your swan on the high barrel if you encounter neck, shoulder, or lower back tension while practicing swan on the mat.

Should my neck hurt?

No. Put your head down and continue moving. Your teacher can assist you with optimal positioning after class...if you'd like it, you may receive some homework!

Let me know if you have other questions. I'm here to help.


Caroline and Zoey


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