Pilates with small balls

There are quite ferverent opinions about the use of small apparatus such as rings and balls in the Pilates studio. Many will argue that if Joseph Pilates didn’t do it then neither should we. It’s just not Pilates otherwise. Then there’s me. I belong to the other crowd. I believe in the principles – one such being ‘centering’. Last week I talked about how being off-center (literally) can sometimes help us find the center we hadn’t realized that we’d even lost. This week I’m using the Pilates ring to help students evaluate how they execute classic exercices with and without the help/hinderance of the ring.

As a teacher, I’m not looking for perfect execution; I’m looking for body awareness; I’m looking for the lightbulb to go on. And yes, nothing is nicer than being helped up into a Teaser by the ring, but what was truly rewarding was to see students start to understand the balance and control involved in the exercise, replacing the belief that it was all about abdominal strength. 

One of my favorite ways to work in Pilates is asymetrically. It is often very difficult to judge how strong or weak we are without some sort of benchmark or comparison. However, when I ask clients to compare right and left side strength during an exercice, eyes open wide and mouths drop. Working obliques is definitely a way to get my client’s attention and to help them on their way to body awareness.

So how do I get those oblique muscles fired up? I prefer to avoid the classic criss-cross exercise which has been slaughtered by gyms and is so hard to unlearn by many, convinced they must have large, fast movements. I prefer to load one side of the body and do simple slow movements, like ‘Dead Bug’ or ‘Bridge’. I will often use the foam roller and/or hand weights to accentuate the load difference.