Teachers….When new students/clients come into the studio and they begin to learn the Pilates method, often times they say….

I don’t feel this…

And let’s be honest, this can be frustrating at times. Why? Because, we feel the work, know that the body responds, and we really want them to feel it too!

However, your beginning client might have a lack of proprioception (mind-body connection or body awareness).

Let’s look at a couple different definitions of perception and proprioception.

David Lesondak, Fascia, what it is and why it matters, pg. 149

Perception is mediated by sensory nerve endings found in muscles and fascia which give information concerning movement and position of the body.

Madeline Black, Centered pg. 324-325

Proprioception has an effect on equilibrium…..Feeling the limb positions and movement of the body is called felt sense. The brain’s representation of the body parts gives the feeling of ownership to the body… Practice involves motor skills which increase the activity of proprioception and body maps to the brain… Deliberate practice is necessary for effective training to stimulate the growth and bring changes in the body’s map.

That your QUALITY of movement counts. We are teaching clients how to connect their movement creating a “map to the brain”.

How do we help the clients feel it?

1. Give them verbal cues to where their body is in space. Which would could include the shape of the body, the mechanics, the muscle emphasis, the placement of bones, the lengthening quality – like reach your fingers to your toes, press the crown of your head to the ceiling)

2. Give them tactile (a hands on cue) to help them find where their body is in space.

3. Demonstrate the movement connections.

4. Give them specific corrective cues while they use a mirror and notice if the client can fix it on their own. (not all studios have this option, it’s just another tool). If they can see it sometimes the can self-correct which is what we want. They need to own their practice that is the only way they will improve.

5. MOST IMPORTANT- You have to consistently correct the movement pattern until it becomes integrated. This one is tough, bc if they hear the correction too often in the same way the stop hearing it.

6. Use unilateral variations can develop a better sense of preferred pattern and non-preferred pattern. , Unilateral exercises can help them feel more instability which helps them find a felt sense of feeling it.

7. Use props to give them bio-feedback to the fascia and nervous system. Example: magic circle, small ball, and thera-band.

8. Change the equipment of the exercise. If you are working on the reformer try a variation of it on the chair or on the spring board.

Question, how long does this take to develop a sense of connection?

Research shows re-patterning can take 6 months to 2 years depending on the person. Honestly I start to notice progress at 10 sessions and then again around 30 sessions. Quality of movement is key.

I know it sounds like a long time. If you explain what is happening in the brain, and that you are helping them with their connections patterns and movement mechanics it will take the pressure off of them getting it right the first time. I explain they are learning a new technique, like if they went to learn golf – they wouldn’t be successful in 1-2 lessons, right?

I was recently working with a male client exercise mermaid on the chair. He is very new to Pilates and was really getting frustrated on “not feeling it”. He comes from a cross-fit background and loves to run, lateral flexion (side bending) was not part of his routine. He started to get frustrated,and when the emotions start to come in the fascia system tightens up. I decided to teach lateral flexion standing with the Fletcher Towel (you could use a thera-band or a maple pole as well). He immediately felt the pull of the side body fascia and I helped him to stabilize his hips while cuing him to ground his feet and pull up through the legs. He immediately felt the movement and begin to relax because he was getting it.

This idea of getting it and being successful is important for the client. Try to take yourself back to when you first started, you probably still have an exercise that you you don’t love. Share you experience, sometimes clients feel intimidated that they are expected to “get it” and “feel it” right away.

This should get you started! I hope it was helpful! As always I love your thoughts. Please private message me if you want to join my mailing list for blogs, events, and workshops!