March MATness Series: 8 Cueing Techniques for Group Classes

I feel like the Pilates Community comes together for March MATness and it’s so exciting! My series this month is teaching tips and exercise variations of the Matwork with support from small and large equipment. This week is ALL ABOUT TEACHING SKILLS and techniques to help you have a successful class.  (If you are new to teaching pick one or two of these suggestions)


1.  Focus or Theme – I come in with an idea, of what I would like to explore with the group. For example last week, I introduced the concept of feet the fascia connections, the bones of the feet, and the micro-movement of the calcaneus – we discussed the weight in the feet and the arches doming upward to support the body. I had them give a quick self-guided myofascial release of the foot then continued into standing sways to test the weight of the foot. We transitioned into the reformer footwork, feet in straps, and matwork bridges. During the footwork and feet straps, I continued to remind them about the weight in their feet. We headed to the Mat – to work on bridges. The weight in the feet and positioning of the femur bone in the hip socket if in the correct alignment for that individual can activate the entire fascia system. The question throughout the class “Notice where you feel your weight in your feet? When is the connection the strongest?”

2. Work all ranges of motion. I plan these exercises AHEAD into my class – I come from a contemporary school of Pilates (STOTT Pilates // Merrithew) I speak about flexion, extension, rotation, and lateral flexion. I have two of each exercise prepared in my head.

3. Set your rhythm or flow of teaching. Have an idea about how many reps you would like each exercise to be; if you have a 50-minute class know that you could probably teach 10 to 15 exercises. How do these and exercises integrate and flow together, how many transitions will you be using if you are moving between multiple pieces of equipment?

4. Use cues that offer support and are inclusive for all bodies. Often we use shape cues as teachers; perhaps a particular body will feel that they’re unable to create those anatomical positions.

For example, when I cue the hundred, my first step is to bring the legs to tabletop sink that lower back down towards the mat, it doesn’t have to touch the mat it just depends on your spine, as long as abdominals are lifted, and your lower back is stabilized, that’s a position for you. Reach the arms towards the hips nod the chin peel the upper back off the mat. The abdominal wall should be flat and you should feel supported in your body, reach the energy through the tips of the toes and simultaneously out the crown of the head; began vigorously pumping your arms. If I were to cure for more ABSOLUTE shape cues, for example, shoulder blades off the mat or lower back has to press down into the mat those are exclusive cues that not everyone can do or should do based on their spine.

5. Flow and rhythm of your teaching. You can typically get 10 to 15 exercises in a 50-minute class. How you set up from exercises to exercise and one piece of equipment to another, MATTERS. I don’t have a hard rule of how many changes per class, but I want to get the body into a rhythmic place where the focus is on connecting to the movement. If I change too quickly from one exercise or one piece of equipment to the next, without felt a sense of success from the last exercise; it can create discordance. Here are my tips for rhythmic set up:
Exercise Name // Spring Setting // Beginning Position // Action // What’s Stable & What’s Mobile // Essence // Modifications Progressions and Regressions // WHY – why are we doing this exercise?

6. Corrections, Pilates is personalized. Every single person has different joint mobility, flexibility, endurance, strength, proprioception, and mind-body connection. There are two schools of thought on corrections. One school of thought is : JUST LET THEM MOVE. The other school of thought is: CORRECT AND ASSIST THE BIOMECHANICS. When I am working with my “regulars” in a group class, I know intuitively who needs more support and who needs to move. I am a technical teacher and biomechanics are very important to me. However, So is movement expression and movement connection; some days we work on biomechanics and some days we work on movement flow. For me, there has to be a balance of both.

7. Permission. At the beginning of class, I permit the clients not to listen to me, they are in charge of their muscular endurance. For example, I’ll use the hundred, if they start to feel muscular tension in their neck, I will tell them to put their head down and continue the pumping of their arms. If they feel their lower back start to arch and loose their abdominal connection, I tell them that they have the freedom to modify to tabletop or feet on the floor. They are responsible for their body and their practice, the goal is to work in a dynamic and a connection of body to restores optimal and functional movement.

8. Varied Cues. I am a big believer in verbal, demonstration and tactile (hands-on) cueing. I use all of them in a 50-minute class. I use Proprioception (directional relationships), anatomical (muscular, bones, fascia), imagery, breath-focused, and energetic cueing. The body is in relationship to the whole human being (mind and spirit).

What are your techniques for teaching group class? If you are interested in learning more about how to improve your teaching skills I would love to help you with coaching! Please join my newsletter for current events and inside teaching tips!

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