If you have taken a Pilates class with me, then you have most likely heard me talk about the 7 Standing and Centering Ques. I live by the 7 Standing and Centering Ques, but this is not something you will hear all Pilates instructors talk about.
So, what are the Standing and Centering Ques? They are the 7 markers on our body that
we utilize to help engage the body from the correct alignment. We start at our feet and work our way up to our head. Why do we start with our feet? Our feet are what hold our weight up all day so if our foot alignment is off, it is going to cause everything above it to be off as well. There is no point in fixing your hip alignment if your feet are what is causing your hip to go out of alignment. This is why the first standing and centering cue is your Foot Centers.
Your foot centers are three imaginary dots on the bottom of your feet. There are two on the ball of your feet and one on your heel. They make a triangle shape, so you can think of them like the tripod of your body. The goal is to have your body weight even in all 3 foot centers. This will help prevent rolling on the inside or outside of your foot.
The next standing and centering cue are your Magnets. Your magnets are on the inside of your ankles, the inside of your knees, and the inside of your inner thighs. We call them magnets because you want to feel like they are pulling in towards each other at all times. This is what helps you keep your midline awareness. (Your midline is that imaginary line that splits your body in half).
Next in the cues are your Bolts. Your bolts make up your pelvis and help with pelvic alignment. You have two bolts on the side and one bolt on the front and back. The goal is to make sure all 4 of these bolts are even on the same plane. When we have a side bolt that is a little higher than the other, that is when we have what looks like one hip higher than the other. It’s important for everyone to have a stable pelvis, but especially dancers. When a dancer is falling out of a trick or a move, it is because somewhere in the body, their alignment is off.
As you can see, we are making our way up the body. The next cue in the standing and centering series is our “Girdle of Strength” aka: your core. Your core is split up into 4 parts, and luckily for us this rhymes, so you’ll never forget that the core has four. To find the first section of your core, inhale really deeply, and stick out your lungs. Find the top of where your lungs meet and then trace your fingers down the side of your rib cage. This triangle shape you just traced with your fingers down is the first section of your core. The second section of your core is from the base of your rib cage to your belly button. The third section is from your belly button to the top of your hip bones. The final fourth section is below that. You really want all four of these sections to stack right on top of each other at all times. Think of your core like Jenga – if you pull one block out the wrong way, the rest of the blocks on top fall over. It’s the same idea with your body. If something is out of alignment on the bottom, it affects you all the way to the top.
The fifth standing and centering cue is your Breath. As humans we breathe every day but in Pilates, there is a specific way of breathing. All instructors teach it a little differently, but I like to teach you to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. You want to breath in as much air as you possibly can, really filling the up the lungs to make sure they are getting worked. As you exhale, you want to pretend like you have a straw in your mouth and really push all the air out of your body through that straw. Not only will this help strengthen your lungs, but it will also help tighten your core as you move. You want your breath to be the thing that is driving your movement and that is what is going to help create that flowing motion.
The sixth standing and centering cue is your Shoulder Girdle. You want to make sure your shoulders are balanced from right to left as it is possible to have one shoulder that rolls back and one that rolls forward, creating a twist through the body. The goal is to have them right over your hips.
The last and final standing and centering que is your Neck and Head. You want your neck and head properly aligned over your spine and not jetting forward or back. This is especially critical because no one likes having a double chin! When you keep the head properly aligned on the neck, you will prevent both the double chin and poor posture and alignment.
When I am teaching a Pilates session, I am constantly looking at these 7 cues on the client’s body. This helps me to identify where in their body they could use more attention to help their alignment, while also helping them to be pain free. This is also how I decide what exercises I am going to work on them with throughout our session. No two client’s bodies are the same, so all my private sessions are designed specifically for that individual client and what their body needs that day.