Finding the Pause in Pilates

 In Continuing Education, Pilates, Professional Development

Pilates PauseA moment of silence. A second of observation. A chance for reflection.
Ever since attending a recent somatic workshop for yoga instructors based on Body Mind Centering (BMC), I’ve been contemplating the search for pauses in life. Naturally, I extend that interest to my teaching of Pilates and exercise.

I began wondering how to adopt these pauses that yoga instructors can easily integrate into their teaching by the inherent nature of yoga and how the poses are held. I was struck that Pilates in itself is NOT about the pause but about the continuous movement. After all, “flow” is one of the Pilates principles.  So I’ve been exploring where to insert or discover the pause in our work as Pilates instructors.

As I contemplated the pause in my own teaching, I realized that it’s actually what identifies my private sessions.  I love working slowly with clients and helping them gain awareness in that moment of reflection.  While clients are typically coming to us for a “movement experience,” some people actually need that permission to pause. Pause from movement. Pause from motion. Breathe. Considering the unrelenting speed at which many are moving throughout the day, both physically and mentally, slowing down might be just what the doctor ordered for them.

But it’s trickier when I contemplate the group class setting. When teaching a number of people rather than just individuals, finding the pause can be a more complicated matter with various bodies to guide and a pace to maintain.  Yet even there, the pause is possible and, in fact, equally valid. I’ve sometimes felt sidelined by my slower-style classes, particularly as I see the popularity of high-energy ones that are adored for the intense, fast-paced workout they offer.

But to pause and reflect before moving, in the middle of a movement, or even afterward, is equally valid and should be encouraged as well. To connect to a deeper level.  To uncover our habitual movement patterns. To offer the potential for discovery in our bodies — as well as in our minds. And that mental discovery could also impact our emotional states. This cycle has tremendous growth opportunity as well as a chance for change. What an incredible and encouraging concept!

Even within the classical Pilates framework, or in one with more of a strictly fitness focus, the pause is possible. We often take for granted that we can actually change the pace of an exercise, but what about the rhythm? Changing the rhythm means changing the beats, and what distinguishes each beat from another is in fact a pause!

So inherently, the pause already exists within Pilates. The simple exercise The Hundred is about rhythm as we inhale for five counts followed by an exhale of five counts. In that exercise alone there are numerous possibilities for altering the rhythm (although we rarely do – we usually just alter the speed.) But changing the rhythm would also change the pause. This can be a fascinating concept to explore – and one which I’ve begun in my classes and workshops.

You see, pausing in itself leads us to step out of the box, to see where we excel and where we can improve as instructors. It enables us to realize what we love and we didn’t even know was possible.

So as I give myself permission to pause, I encourage others to explore the idea as well.  Pause in your Pilates practice, pause in your teaching, pause in your life. Let’s see what we can discover in the process.

What have you experienced in altering your teaching or in exploring a new way of presenting an exercise or concept?

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Showing 7 comments
  • Marcia Polas

    I so agree! I find it sometimes hard for a new client who has done some or a great deal of Pilates to adjust to my style…one that includes finding the work, staying inside it and definitely a pause. Thanks for thoughtfulness.

  • piLALAtes

    Great blog Rebekah! I love the “pause” and use it often when I teach for students to become aware and notice movement and what movement has changed in their own bodies. I agree most people are not aware of their own bodies and need those little pauses to take inventory and feel what is happening in their own bodies.

    • Barbara

      I’m all about the pause sister! I have found that those who struggle with finding stillness and quiet within our hour together actually love it the most. To find the breath and to simply FEEL we must pause! Lovely post!

  • Anne Mercer

    I teach a core stability Pilates mix
    and find that using ‘pause’ is essential to
    ensure that clients have the correct muscles
    engaged. So often if they have ‘flow’ they have
    lost the essential engagement of core muscles
    and the benefit if the exercise is lost.

  • Kerry Ratza

    Reading this from Lopez Island, Washington, nicknamed “Slowpez”, I truly appreciate your sentiment. Slow is good Pilates. Encouraging students to find the relaxation within the challenging moments is growth food for the mind, body and soul. No wonder Pilates changes lives, especially when blended with somatic work. I salute you and LOVE that you teach slowly.

  • Pamelah Antoine

    The pause for me has been an extremely important concept in my teaching. In every one of my combinations Yoga, Pilates, & Ki-Hara classes I end the class with chanting and meditating. In the meditation instructions, the main focus is the pause between the breath cycle, focusing on softening the heart center beneath the sternum. The chanting is done to calm the heart and mind. It is the key to delving into our most deepest place of enlightenment. The place to experience existence, consciousness and bliss absolutely.

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  • […] don’t slow down enough to identify a feeling you aren’t accustomed to you will miss it. If, as Rebekah Rotstein  wrote a few weeks ago, you don’t find the pause, you’ll miss the most exciting […]

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