Finding the Pause in Pilates
A 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?