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Positions in Pilates a Workshop series by Kirk Smith

Positions in Pilates is unlike any course you’ve had before.  We will look at exercises from the Pilates repertoire that clients find problematic then learn to trouble-shoot those problems using isometrics.

In the Pilates method, control is perhaps the most important principle. The method builds on the ability to stabilize. The key to success in Pilates is identifying positions that are difficult to stabilize and getting better at those positions. Positions in Pilates is a course in corrective isometric exercises. An isometric exercise is one in which there is no change in position. In an isometric contraction, there is very little change in a muscle’s length. An isometric exercise develops the contractile capacity of a muscle by developing strength in a specific position. Choose the right position and you enhance the contractile capacity of the muscle throughout its range.  In Positions in Pilates you analyze numerous positions that we find in the Pilates method.  You learn to strength test these positions and how to use isometrics to turn around weaknesses.

  • Learn a practical tool kit that underpins and supports your Pilates practice
  • Identify weak links and turn them around faster than ever
  • Get measurable results in your sessions

Positions in Pilates is currently taught in three courses modules: Lower Body Focus, Upper Body Focus, and Trunk focus. Each course is a weekend course that offers 12 hours of TPS CECs.

Participants will learn to:

  • Assess clients for range of motion and strength
  • Select corrective isometrics
  • Make yourself and your clients stronger in minutes

In this workshop we will explore all the elements of the Teaser and put them back together again with better understanding, performance, and ability to teach the Teaser. While it does not look like most “activities of daily living,” the Teaser is a great teacher and barometer of opposition, a quality which transfers to all movement.

In this workshop we analyze the anatomy and biomechanics of the shoulder girdle and the shoulder joint. We learn that optimal mechanics is not only safer, but that it is safer because it enhances the connection of the upper body to the ribcage, and through the powerhouse to the ground. This grounding strategy dissipates forces rather than concentrating them, which means less stress on the joints. This workshop reveals the coherence of the system that is more than the sum of its parts. This workshop is at the core of Kirk Smith’s approach to classical Pilates.

Participants will learn:

  • To evaluate cues for mechanical versus aesthetic benefit
  • To understand force couples in shoulder mechanics
  • To see the relationship of shoulder mechanics to total body movement
  • Why clients hike their shoulders, and when to let them do so
  • Practical application of the Grounded Reach in every Pilates format (mat, reformer, cadillac, chair, barrels, magic circle, ped-a-pole and bean bag).

This workshop can be taught in two formats, either 3 hour or two 3 hour blocks. When taught in a single 3 hour block, the applications will be limited to working with mat (with weighted pole) and at most one other apparatus, such as cadillac.

The Swan on the Ladder Barrel is one of the most complete exercises in the Pilates method. It starts where we start with the beginner, with control and lift of the basic C-shape. It unfolds to a strong straight line, then proceeds to extension, then, at the more advanced level, the extensions are challenged by considerable lever length. The exercise finishes with a return to rest in the C-shape in which it began. The exercise seems to tell a story of birth, growth, strength, unfolding, and return to rest. It also encompasses the fundamentals of the C-Shape and the extension of the hips and spine, and knees, and the controlled return to flexion.

This workshop examines the lift mechanisms for righting the spine while maximally distributing and grounding the forces involved. Dissipation of force = reduction of stress. Key players in this dissipation of forces include the coordinated use of the abdominal musculature with the use of the lower extremities, with a particular emphasis on the posterior chain of the lower body, including the feet.

Our study of the Swan teaches us the essential elements of Contrology. Contrology involves the study and practice of the control of the set of movements, which without eccentric control, would simply be collapse. This insight is applicable to every exercise in the Pilates method. A grounded powerhouse is stronger, safer and capable of more expansive movement!

Participants will learn:

  • How to perform and teach the classical “Swan on the Ladder Barrel” in a way that is safe, continuously connected, and illustrative of the full arc of the method
  • How to know when your client is ready to learn the Swan on the Ladder Barrel
  • How to prepare yourself and your clients for the Swan on the Ladder Barrel
  • How to apply insights from the Swan to other exercises in the method, in particular on the mat
  • Why the Swan on the Ladder Barrel is important for every teacher of the method to experience, even if you do not have a Ladder Barrel in your studio.
  • To experience and teach extension in which forces are well distributed, grounded, and balanced

This workshop can be taught as a single 3-hour workshop or expanded to two 3 hour workshops. In the two-workshop format, more time is dedicated to practical application of the learnings from the first workshop to more exercises, basic to challenge level. It is best taught in a fully equipped studio.

From the most basic exercises, such as the “Hundred,” Pilates makes demands on the neck that can be too much for some of our clients. How do you deal with these clients? When do you use pillows? How much pillow? For how long do you use pillows?

At the other end of the spectrum, we have advanced clients who want to be challenged the way we want to challenge ourselves with Pilates. What can you learn from the Neck Pull, the Crab, the inversions (from Roll Over to Corkscrew, Overhead to Headstands) that can help you teach the basic exercises better?

This workshop will look at the structure not only of the cervical spine, but also of the shoulder girdle and other structures above and below the cervical spine so that we can better understand how to dissipate forces on the neck.

We will then examine the learnings from more advanced exercises, with special attention paid to the “Neck Pull”, and realize the importance of length and opposition. We will use the “Neck Stretcher” and deepen our insight that we are always working the whole body. Dissipation of force is key to success in Pilates, and one of its most important teachings. It is crucial when working with the neck.

Participants will learn:

  • Pertinent anatomy of the neck and shoulder girdle
  • Strategies for dealing with vulnerable necks (tight, stiff, weak)
  • Improved awareness of the head and neck in movement
  • How to execute more challenging exercises more safely
  • How better to deal with excessive thoracic kyphosis
  • How to apply insights from advanced exercises to more basic ones

This is a three hour workshop. It can be taught with only a magic circle, or with other apparatus, such as the neck stretcher, the cadillac, and the reformer.

A workshop for everyone (not just Pilates teachers and students).

In this workshop we have lots of ground to cover! We will review the phenomenal book Earthing by Clint Ober, Stephen Sinatra, M.D., and Martin Zucker. We will look ahead to ways we can expand ways we can heal ourselves and others.

Remember, Pilates enthusiasts: Mr. Pilates was into minimal footwear back before the term existed! He was on to something.