// CHALLENGE PARTICIPANTS WITH STANDING PILATES
by Zosha Piotrowski
Standing Pilates involves creating movement sequences that challenge concentration and control through stability and/or mobility. These movement sequences can combine large muscle group actions such as squats and lunges in varying planes
with added arm movements to challenge coordination. Stability can also be tested through balance movements, a
challenge which can be increased by layering either arm or leg variations. Additionally, kinesthetic awareness can be
challenged by simply closing the eyes.
Standing Pilates is a great way of starting and finishing a Pilates class. It is also an excellent way of creating body
awareness that can transfer to everyday movements. When we look at some of the principles of Pilates such as
alignment, breathing, centering and control, we can see that they can be applied to any movement we perform, be it
traditional Pilates or otherwise.
Standing Pilates doesn’t aim to adapt the matwork movements to standing, as the overload is often not the same. The focus we want to achieve in standing Pilates is taking the core principles and applying them to standing movements. Our goal in doing this is to challenge coordination, balance and posture while moving the body through different planes.
Let’s look at an example of a sequence that could be performed either at the beginning or the end of a Pilates class.
The first movement is:
1. Basic squat with arms on the thighs (photo 1) or arms crossed over the chest followed by standing lift on the toes, and arm circles.
Layer the movements by teaching the squat first, then
the lift up on the toes and then add the arm circles while holding the toe lift.
Teach alignment of the bones and use of breath, without being overly structured with the breath. Play around with the
- Breathing in as you squat down
- Breathing out as you come up in the squat
- Breathing in as you lift up on the toes and then breathing out as you circle the arms.
Remember that there is no right or wrong with the breath!
Experiment and teach how to breathe instead of being
caught up in when to breathe.
The next layer is:
2. Holding the toe lift and moving the arms forward and back (like in ‘The Hundreds’ Pilates exercise) (photos 2 and 3).
This is challenging neutral position while adding lever movement. Again, remind participants about keeping the breath even and anchoring the neutral position by switching on the glutei muscles.
Keep the sequence flowing by returning back to the squat and repeating the sequence. You can also add another layer by lifting one leg off as you lift up on the toes (quite challenging!) and/or when you circle the arms.
The second standing Pilates sequence involves a combination of balance in different planes:
1. The first movement is a single leg squat performed with a neutral spine. The goal is to sit the weight evenly through the heels, ball of foot and toes as the hip and knee bends. The body lowers naturally at the same time (photo 4).
2. Follow this movement with an opening of the chest. Arms lift up in a V-shape with the thumbs pointing to the back. Squeeze the buttocks to protect the back and keep one leg lifted to challenge balance and alignment. Be mindful that the hip of the lifted leg does not hitch up, this can be corrected by dropping the hip, which will switch on the gluteal muscles (photo 5).
Repeat single leg squat and single leg hold with chest opener on the same leg for up to 12 repetitions and then swap legs.
The following movements can be added to the above sequence:
1. A single leg hold while moving the arms forward (photo 6).
2. Opening the arms wide, keeping neutral spinal alignment (photo 7).
3. Then adding a rotation of the spine while keeping the hips and knees to the front (photo 8).
4. W ith the body to the front, take the arms behind the head (photo 9).
5. Keeping the spine long and core connected, laterally flex the spine slowly to one side (photo 10), being mindful that the hip doesn’t hitch up.
6. Place the foot down on the floor (photo 11).
7. Extend alternate arms over to the side (photos 12 and 13).
8. Finish by focusing on stability in the torso as you bring the body back to neutral (photo 14).
Repeat the whole sequence with the other leg lifted off the ground.
Remember to teach the precision of movements as you go through the repetitions. Participants will then have a deeper
concentration and understanding of what they are hoping to achieve in each movement.
These sequences can contribute to any portion of a Pilates class. Be sure to explain to participants why these movements are effective and how they can improve their overall mind body connection and quality of movement. Experiment and play with movements and enjoy challenging your participants in a way that is both functional and applicable to daily life.
Zosha Piotrowski, BSpSc
Zosha is an international instructor trainer and convention presenter. She is involved in developing instructors and talent in freestyle group exercise and was a key program developer for Network Pilates courses. Her goal is to motivate others with her energy and to bring wellness and entertainment into people’s lives. Zosha is also co-host of Pilates TV on Foxtel’s Lifestyle Channel.