Classical Pilates Workshop In Athens Greece…

“Presenters: Dana Santi, Tony Balongo and Gloria Gasperi. This Workshop is for teachers who want to simplify their teaching, but stay to the point. Teach the client to move and listen to their body. Learn to observe and understand their needs without interfering. Hosted by Keren Patzia. Further details about the convention on the website Early bird payment by the October 1st, 2018”

From The Abdominal Series… To The Upper Body Series…

I have discussed the importance of shoulder work in one of my previous blogs. Considering that I will be discussing the dynamics of some of the upper body exercises included in the Pilates method, it may be in your best interest to refer back to my previous blog “Shoulder Stabilization” if you have any questions related to the shoulder area while reading this blog; as it is beneficial for instructors to gain insight pertaining to the dynamics of the shoulder as the arms move in conjunction with the shoulder joint(s) (i.e. Glenohumeral Joint and Scapulothoracic Joint).

There are a variety of upper body exercises to choose from in the Pilates method. I think it is important to learn the classics such as hug-a-tree, give-a-gift, triceps salutes, and the seated chest expansion (keep in mind it is not uncommon for these exercises to be referred to under different names)….. all which are seated arm exercises done on the box. Having your clients perform these exercises on the box forces them to isolate the trunk muscles (providing that you are cuing them to sit upright, in a flat back, on the box). 


The arm series is a necessary component to a reformer Pilates class for proper arm work enables your clients to access their deep core muscles (this also holds true while your clients are performing most of their abdominal exercises e.g. in the hundred the position and energy applied to the arms effects the intensity of the abdominal work). By having your clients perform the arm series on the box with intent and awareness to build arm strength along with core strength (which leads to better posture) you will help your clients develop better technique when they are performing exercises such as The Hundred and Chest Lift. 

Below I have listed the arm exercises I mentioned above along with the following links to help you develop a deeper understanding of the exercises and the cues that accompany these exercises.

Hug-A-Tree (chest fly)

Give-A-Gift (forward row)

Triceps Salute (close stance with arms)… should be performed with a slight lean forward in a flat back.

Triceps Salute (wide stance with arms)… should be performed with a slight lean forward in a flat back.

Seated Chest Expansion (tricep row)

There are many different cues you can use while guiding your clients through their arm exercises… all if not most of the cues pertaining to a flat back can be applied to these exercises. 

“Verbal Cueing is the art of using words to get a client to move efficiently through an exercise. This learned skill of effectively communicating with clients on all levels is the key to becoming a quality Pilates Instructor. Proper word choices and the framework for cueing are crucial for effective instruction which results in performing an exercise or movement with specific intention, quality, or with correct muscular engagement. Proper word choices can be further divided into relevant subcategories such as directional, anatomical function, sensory perception and imagery. The framework for cueing is the detailing and explanation of what is contained in the movement. To be more effective, instructors should know the exercise and the individual needs of each client to determine what the best cue is for them.”

An important note… it is fundamental to have at least a basic understanding of the classical method of Pilates. Whether you are new to the Pilates method or not I recommend that you attend training from different senior teachers as they will all help you develop a deeper insight into the Pilates method. Keep in mind that some of these senior teachers hold close to the classical methods for they have been trained directly by the Pilates family… so if you have the opportunity to train under one of these classic teachers, I highly recommend it… as  there is nothing more holistic and practical than the classical methodology of Pilates within the Pilates realm. Whether or not you choose to abide by a classical regimen, as a Pilates instructor, you will gain an invaluable in depth understanding that will enable you to grow and prosper as a Pilates instructor.

Below I have provided links which will guide you to some of the senior teachers who have been trained in the classical Pilates method:

Moses Urbano

Susannah and Sam Cotrone (and their staff)

Dana Santi

Another important note… I highly recommend that you purchase this book… “Pilates By Rael Isacowitz” which can be found by clicking on the link below…

Thank you for your time and thank you for reading. I look forward to your questions and comments. 

“Carefully keep an open mind, an open heart… and always aspire to learn from those who know.” -anonymous quote


From The Single Leg Series…To The Abdominal Series…

The abdominal series is considered a core component to a Pilates class… especially in the mat Pilates series. Although reformer Pilates is known to be more so a form of full body conditioning in comparison to mat Pilates… guiding your clients through an abdominal series during their Pilates session is vital to helping them establish more core strength and trunk stability. 

There are many ways you can help your clients develop control and stability in the trunk as there are a variety of exercises you can incorporate into your class that target the trunk of the body such as the chest lift and the hundred which are two of the most common abdominal exercises in the Pilates method. 

The benefits to focusing on abdominal strength goes well beyond aesthetics… by having your clients perform exercises that develop trunk stability and strengthen their core you are helping them to improve their posture, breathing patterns, and over all physical and mental well being.


When cuing your clients through their abdominal exercises make it a priority to bring awareness to their breath. The breathing patterns during these exercises differ from that of a normal breath. Some instructors will elude to cuing the percussive breath… a breathing technique that was coined by one of Joe Pilates senior students… Cues involving the percussive breath are very effective as this style of breathing brings more activity and awareness to the deep trunk muscles (i.e. local core muscles) involved with breathing and stabilizing the trunk.

Below I have listed a series of abdominal exercises that focus on the deep trunk muscles (including the chest lift and hundred) that you can guide your clients through during your Pilates sessions. I have also included a list of links that explain these exercises and how to effectively cue your clients while they perform these exercises.

The Chest Lift 

The Chest Lift With Rotation

The Hundred

The Single Leg Stretch

The Double Leg Stretch

The Single Straight Leg Stretch

The Double Straight Leg Lower Lift

The Cross Cross

An important note… be sure to always offer complementary exercises when you are training your clients. Once your clients have performed all of the abdominal exercises you have incorporated in your Pilates class make sure to offer exercises that encourage spinal extension such as:



Breast Stroke Prep

Full Breast Stroke

Another important note… the links that I have included provide examples of the exercises performed in the mat series. It is important to know that there are many exercises in the Pilates method that can be transferred from the mat to the reformer (especially the abdominal exercises). To modify for these exercises on the reformer… a single red spring for the abdominal exercises listed above  is appropriate… although the exercises that involve spinal extension may need to be performed on a single blue spring. If you are working with a classic reformer then one spring is probably most appropriate. 

For those of you new teachers… please voice your questions, comments, and concerns…. I am here to help. I am also open to hearing the thoughts and opinions of those of you who are experienced in teaching the Pilates method a well. I hope this blog as been informative.

The Reformer Warm Up Continued… From The Foot Series… To The Single Leg Series…

After your clients have performed the foot series you may want to consider incorporating the single leg series (in a supine position) as there are many benefits to working the limbs independently. By distributing the load of the springs onto one leg you are encouraging your clients to develop symmetry in their bodies for it is not uncommon for the body to have asymmetry due to muscular imbalances. 


The single leg series also challenges your clients to physically multitask… in turn building more coordination between the mind and body e.g. in the bicycle series one leg is performing a single leg press while the other leg pedals forward and then backwards (for (x) amount of repetitions)… a common facet to a reformer Pilates session as range of motion exercises are usually incorporated.

In a reformer Pilates session rotational exercises (usually involving the shoulders and hips) are performed in both directions to restore range of motion and instill stability in and around the joint(s). The backwards rotation is fundamental to unlocking imbalances resulting from repeated linear/forward motion (an issue associated with poor biomechanics and/or over use). The latter is why you may want to consider guiding your clients through exercises such as bicycle during the warm up. There are also range of motion exercises that involve the spine such as bridging which I will be discussing in another blog. 

To help you design the remainder of the phase of your warm up, I have listed a series of exercises that you can add to your reformer class after your clients have completed the foot series (I usually do not have my clients perform more than two different styles of single leg work during the warm up. You may want to consider how much leg work you will be putting your clients through after the warm up is completed):

Single Leg Extension (Parallel)

Single Leg Extension (External)

Single Leg Kick (Parallel)

Single Leg Kick (Pilates V)

Bicycle (Parallel) 

Bicycle (Pilates V)

All of the exercises listed above are to be performed on the right and left side (for (x) amount of repetitions). Make sure to have your clients pedal forward and then backwards during the bicycle series. It is also important to be sensitive to your clients physical ailments and the population you are working with e.g. if you are working with a less physically apt group of clients be sure to lessen the repetitions and encourage them to voice their concerns while you are training them so you can accurately gauge the spring load appropriate for them. 

Cues that are utilized during the foot series (especially cues that focus on pelvic position and glutes) are applicable to the single leg series (you can refer to the cues listed in my last blog “The Foot Series”) as it is important to intermittently remind your clients to engage the muscles in and around their pelvis (i.e. glute muscles, transverse abdominis, and inner thighs… all of which are fundamental to engaging the core). This will help your clients bring stability to the ankles, knees, hips, and low back while performing the single leg series. 

I hope the information in this blog has been helpful to those of you who are involved with the Pilates method. My intentions behind this blog are to help those who are new to teaching Pilates. If you are an experienced Pilates teacher I look forward to hearing from you… your questions, comments, and concerns are more than welcome! Questions, comments, and concerns from those of you aspiring to teach the Pilates method and from those of you who are new to teaching the Pilates method are definitely welcome as well…

Thank you for reading! 


Reformer Pilates… The Warm Up… The Foot Series…

The foot series is one of the best ways to begin preparing your clients for the rest of their Pilates session. As I mentioned in one of my last blogs, placing your clients in a supine position with their feet on the foot bar enables them to feel their alignment as the carriage will serve as a tactile reference where they can feel the inward and outward curves of their spine (the lordotic curve of the cervical/neck; kyphotic curve of the thoracic/mid-spine; lordotic curve of the lumbar/low back; kyphotic curve of the sacrum/upper portion of the tailbone). 


To help your clients more effectively position on their carriage, consider cuing them from their feet up beginning on the balls of their feet (i.e. toes around the top of the bar). Once you have set them into the desired foot position (whether parallel, external, or internal) cue them to tuck their pelvis/and or hips by slightly tilting the coccyx upward (this is an extremely important cue as this enables your clients to access their glute muscles which leads to more stability in the joints of the mid to lower extremity i.e. ankles,knees, hips, and low back. After you have cued your clients for hip/pelvic position focus on the position of the upper extremity i.e. head and shoulder position… at this point cue them to slightly tuck their chin to their chest and to turn their gaze point past their nose (as this will soften the neck and shoulder muscles) and then cue them to bring their shoulders back and down (i.e. downward rotation of the scapula). By cuing your clients to adjust their head and hip position you are enabling them to restore the neutral state of their spine. With a few other cues such as “navel into the spine”; “knit your cage together”; and or “find and hold a subtle squeeze at your waist” your clients will begin to understand, feel, and further restore their alignment ultimately creating better patterns in their bodies (due to mind-body awareness and muscle memory). Make sure to be sensitive to over cuing your clients (especially if your clients are new to the Pilates method). Remember to be patient and thorough by moving slow while guiding your clients through their warm up.

There are mainly three different places to cue your clients to place their feet on the foot bar during their foot series during a reformer class… all of which include: the ball of the foot (sometimes cued as toes on the foot bar) which encourages plantar flexion; the heel of the foot (usually cued as heels on the bar) which encourages dorsiflexion of the foot; and the arch of the foot (which is considered a neutral position). You may want to consider incorporating all three foot positions while designing your Pilates class for there are many benefits to performing all three foot positions during the foot series. Aside from these primary foot positions there are variations to your foot series which include: close stance parallel (i.e. straight); close stance external (i.e. Pilates V); close stance internal; hip width parallel; hip width external; hip width internal; wide stance parallel; wide stance external; wide stance internal. “Dorsiflexion is the movement at the ankle joint where the toes are brought closer to the shin, curling upwards, and decreasing the angle between the dorsum of the foot and the leg. According to experts, athletes should aim to have at least 15 degree of dorsiflexion to be within normal limits.”

I have provided a list of exercises in the following order to help you cue your clients effectively through their foot series. I have also provided links that will provide you with visuals along with helpful information pertaining to the exercises I have listed below:

Close stance parallel (on toes) double leg press

Close stance parallel (on toes) with rotation both directions (i.e. adding rotation in the ankles…plantar to dorsiflexion of the feet).

Close stance external (Pilates V) calf raises

Close stance external (on heals) double leg press

Close stance external (on heals) single leg kick on both sides 

Close stance wide stance external arches of the feet on foot

While teaching your Pilates classes it is important to keep in mind that it is very important to ask if your clients have any pre-existing ailments such as ankle, knee, and/or hip issues. If so be sure to take this into consideration as some stances (especially stances including internal) can be counter productive for some of your clients. Be sure to provide modifications on the exercises you are guiding your clients through when necessary… and these modifications can be as simple as cuing one of your clients (providing that they experiencing difficulty in a certain stance) to rotate into a different stance if they feel it is more productive for their alignment.

Thank you for reading. I hope this blog has been helpful to those of you teaching or aspiring to teach the Pilates method. I am always open to questions and comments.

Backbends In Your Pilates Class…

Rosa Diaz Vilchez en Pilates

Backbends can be very challenging to teach while instructing a Pilates class. This is largely impart of your clients apprehension to want to extend their spine. This is unfortunate because backbends have so much to offer. Backbends (under the guidance of good instruction) have the ability to: Relieve anxiety and stress, Bring your spine back to its natural flexion, Relieve chronic back or neck pain, Improve breathing, and Stretch your abdominal muscles & internal organs.”We bend forward all day long, sitting at a desk, driving our car, picking up our kids or pets. I used to think it was supposed to be this way, that backbends weren’t natural. Turns out our spines are meant to be flexible and have a complete range of motion forward and backward. By regularly practicing backbends you will restore your spine to its natural flexibility, reducing your chances of injury. Increase the flexibility in your spine, increase the flexibility in your life!”

Considering the difficulties involved with designing and teaching a reformer style Pilates class that involves backbends I have created a list of exercises that encourage extension (listed in the order you should consider teaching them in):

Series 1

Tricep row

Tricep kickback


Series 2

Wide Stance Pull-Up

Close Stance Pull-Up

Lat Row

Lat Row With Rotation

Series 3

Close Stance Tricep Push-up

Wide Stance Lat Push-up

Breaststroke Preparation

Full Breaststroke

An important note… For the prone series you may want to consider grouping three but no more than four exercises involving extension in a prone position as your clients may feel overwhelmed from performing to many backbends. It is also important to gradually counter your clients out of their backbends by adding the following poses and exercises that encourage flexion of the spine:

For Stretching:

Cat Cow On The Box

Childs Pose (i.e. rest position)

For Exercises:

The Roll Back Series

The Row Series

Short Spine On The Box

While instructing a pilates class it is important to incorporate exercises that flex, extend, and neutralize the spine in-order-to help your clients restore their natural alignment. Ending your classes with your clients in their supine position with their feet in the loops is a great way to encourage spinal traction as this series is very efficient at restoring the natural inward and outward curves of the spine.

Thank you for reading! I look forward to your questions and comments as always.




Shoulder Stabilization…


The shoulder area in its entirety is complex and extremely dynamic as far as function is concerned. The complexity of the shoulder girdle can lead to many challenges while training your clients. In this blog I will be discussing the various components involving the shoulder girdle and how you can more effectively cue while guiding your clients through their arm and shoulder exercises. 

To help clarify confusion related to the complexity of the shoulder area, I have blogged about some of the dynamics and components of the primary joints of the shoulder girdle and the musculature surrounding them below:

Leonardo Da Vinci

The primary joints of the shoulder girdle consist of the following: Glenohumeral Joint (GHJ); Acromioclavicular Joint (ACJ); Sternoclavicular Joint (SCJ); along with the Scapulothoracic Joint (which is considered a false joint, as it is entirely dependent upon the musculature of its surrounding for stability). The Glenohumeral Joint (shoulder ball and socket joint) is one of the most fragile joints in the body due to its structural, muscular, and functional dynamics. This joint has the capacity for a large degree of rotation in comparison to the other joints of the body. The upper shoulder joint is also very unstable because the head of the arm bone only partially rests in the socket of the shoulder… “The head of the humerus articulates (moves) with the glenoid fossa of the scapula – hence the name. The head of the humerus is, however, quite large in comparison to the fossa, resulting in only one third to one half of the head being in contact with the fossa at any one time. The humerus is further supported by the glenoid labrum – a ring of fibrous cartilage which extends the fossa slightly making it wider and deeper (almost like if you have a deeper bowl, you can fit more in it!).” … so it is vital for trainers/ instructors to incorporate exercises into their clients regimen to encourage and restore shoulder function and stability.

The Acromioclavicular Joint (ACJ) consists of the lateral end of the clavicle articulating with the medial aspect of the anterior acromium. The Acromioclavicular joint plays a large role in channeling forces throughout the upper extremity (which consists of the (arm, shoulder, and axial skeleton). Mobility of this joint is limited impart of the role of its surrounding ligaments which include the following:

Leonardo Da Vinci

Acromioclavicular Ligament which consists of strong superior and inferior ligaments, and very fragile anterior and posterior ligaments restricting anterior-posterior movement of the clavicle on the acromion.

Coracoclavicular Ligament consists of the Conoid and Trapezoid ligaments, and further forms a tense heavy band to prevent vertical movement. 

The Sternoclavicular Joint resides at the following: the sternal (proximal) end of the clavicle, the cartilage of the first rib, and the upper and lateral parts of the manubrium sterni (the upper part of the sternum, or breastbone).

The Sternoclavicular Joint is the only joint that holistically links the upper extremity to the axial skeleton,  through the clavicles. The Sternoclavicular Joint is involved in all functions and movements of the arms. This dynamic i.e. connectivity between the arm and axial skeleton as a result of the Sternoclavicular Joint is one of the many reasons why the arms are essential to performing deep core work e.g. during the Pilates hundred exercise it is cued for clients to lengthen and extend the arms (by not locking the elbows but by reaching from the back of the rib cage and shoulder into the arms in turn developing a harmonious contraction among the arm muscles) to more effectively stimulate the core. With proper technique involving form and breath trainers/instructors can assist their clients in accessing their deep core muscles.

The Scapulothoracic Joint is completely dependent on its surrounding musculature for stabilization and control. The muscles in and around this false joint which provide control include:

Leonardo Da Vinci

Serratus Anterior muscle which holds the medial angle of the scapula against the chest wall.

Trapezius muscle which rotates and elevates the scapula with elevation of the upper arm.

It is also important to take into consideration that during scapular elevation the Glenohumeral Joint rotates 2 degrees per every 1 degree of scapulothoracic rotation. As a trainer and/or instructor, knowing this is incredibly important to understanding the dynamics of what is considered the mid-spine (the thoracic portion of the spine which is located in close proximity to the shoulder blades which reside on the posterior portion of the cage) ://  this area of the body generally lays dormant due to a lack of awareness on your clients behalf as most people do not realize that the scapula move in conjunction with the arm (i.e. they do not know how to activate the proper muscles to perform the various actions of the arm).

I have provided a list of cues that you may find helpful while you guide your clients through exercises that involve the arms and shoulders:

  • “settle your scapulae on your back”
  • “draw your shoulder blades down”
  • “relax your shoulders (bring them down from around your ears)”
  • For a more visual cue… “Pretend you have back pockets and gently tuck your shoulders into your back pockets.

It is also helpful to remind and encourage your clients to move the scapula vertically (i.e. upward and downward rotation) and horizontally (i.e. abduction and adduction) along the back of the rib cage when performing the various exercises that involve the arm and shoulder.

To close, it is important to always cue your clients from a muscular standpoint so that they safely execute their exercises. There is nothing wrong with bringing awareness to the body from a structural (i.e. skeletal) aspect but it is vital to your clients wellbeing to cue them to move through the correct range of motion by engaging the proper muscles… while you also cue them to fire muscular activity from their center (i.e. core) out through to their limbs. 

Whether you are a trainer, instructor, and/or individual seeking to increase the quality of your resistance training techniques… I hope you found this blog informative. Feel free to embellish this blog by commenting or asking questions. Thank you for reading.