Sep 22 2016

Between the cues: The magical sound of silence


Whether you are teaching a private session or group classes, there are so many moving parts to observe, assess, and instruct. As teachers, we all have different strategies to manage this, whether through the use of cueing, hands-on adjustments, or breaking down movements into incremental parts. 


It is easy to get caught up in the minutia, and to try to manage every Movement in every body all at once. This sends us down the rabbit hole of cueing and cueing and cueing until every possible Movement is seemingly under control. 


The principles of Pilates guide us to encourage control and precision throughout each exercise, and at the same time to breathe, coordinate complex movements, concentrate on moving with integrity, and do all of that from the center of the body. Whew, that's a lot to cue.


Do we really need to integrate all of that at the same time in every exercise? Joseph Pilates himself said in Return to Life through Contrology that “PATIENCE and PERSISTENCE are vital qualities in the ultimate successful accomplishment of any worthwhile endeavor”. This takes time, and if we have this time to perfect and improve the quality of our movement, it would be reasonable to believe that we can work on perfecting just one principle at a time. Imagine how much easier your life would be as a teacher if you could just take time to help clients improve the quality of their movement, rather than trying to make it perfect right from the start.


If we can take it down a notch, and allow the bodies in front of us to just move, imagine the information we can gather from taking the time to observe rather than trying to manage every Movement. There are so many valuable clues that hide in the silence. If we don't take a moment between the cues to listen to what our clients' bodies are telling us, we miss those magical opportunities to truly make a difference in their Movement. 


There are a number of benefits to embracing the silence between your cues, here are just a few:

  • Observing movement patterns – watching a client’s movement between cues allows you to see their true movement pattern.
  • Appropriate exercise selection – when we are constantly cueing through a pre-planned choreography, we miss the subtle hints about what a client truly needs. The silent moments let you determine where the body in front of you needs to go next.   
  • Regroup, reassess and redirect – having a moment to get your thoughts together is very helpful especially after a long day of teaching. Take a breath then carry on.
  • Integrate the mind into mind-body exercise – having some quiet time between cues allows your client to feel their movement, to process what you are teaching them, and to notice the difference that you are making in their body.  
  • Put the ‘I’ in Group – while your clients are moving between your cues, you have the time to give individual attention to each participant. This personalizes each client’s experience, and keeps them coming back.
  • Encourage client feedback and engagement – if clients have the chance to talk, and you have the time to ask, they will provide you with important feedback about how they are feeling and what they are noticing. This allows your client to stay engaged and feel that they are a part of the process, not just part of a herd following commands.
  • Connect with your client – while the client is quietly integrating the movement you have just taught them, you have the opportunity to connect with them on a personal level. If your client feels connected to you, you will have them for the long-term. If they don’t have this chance to connect, it makes it very easy to walk away.


In your next class or private session, just get your clients moving, then try layering on cues just one at a time, like planting a suggestion. Sit back and observe, and listen to the silence. Let your client's body tell you where to go next. You will quickly realize all of the magic that you have been missing, and you will truly begin to make changes in your clients' lives. 


Learn effective cueing techniques and strategies in the upcoming BODY HARMONICS® Pilates Mat & Reformer Intensive Teacher Training program. Are you already a Pilates Teacher? Ask us how you can bridge your existing Pilates certification. Visit to see the current course calendar.


Written by

Holly Wallis, BODY HARMONICS® Director of US Operations,

PMA®-CPT, Studio Director
ReActive Movement, 6200 LaSalle Ave, Oakland, CA 94611


© 2016. All rights reserved.


ReActive Practitioners have extensive training and experience working with many structural and functional conditions, including...

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