Props: Challenge, Tool, or Distraction?

Today’s post is all about props. Are they helping challenge muscles, distract from the exercise, or a tool to help with the exercise?

Think back to the first time taking a Pilates class and how you felt. Overwhelmed? Confused? Out of breath? Exhausted? The first timers would probably find the props to be a distraction. In your head there are so many thoughts: when do I breathe? Where do my legs go? My arms are doing what? And then the instructor gives you an image to focus on. That’s a lot to begin with and on top of that you’re asked to put a ball somewhere, hold a magic circle, etc. For those first timers the rule of thumb that would benefit them most is “less is more”. If it’s a private lesson remove the prop and if it’s a class don’t have anyone use the prop so the newbie doesn’t feel left out.

Now think about a client who comes to class or a lesson and has tight hamstrings or the hip flexors overpower or their hips are tight and sitting is uncomfortable. This is where the props are very beneficial. Sitting on that block or moon box makes saw on the mat feel achievable. Or using a magic circle during corkscrew can help target those obliques hidden behind the overpowering hip flexors. Same idea here for the prop during class- if it works for one person have everyone do it. That way those who need it the most won’t feel singled out.

Magic circle. Pilates ring. Ring of fire. The last one certainly rings true during a Pilates mat class when used for almost every exercise and especially when you add two magic circles! The time to challenge a class with the magic circle is when you know the clients and know they are capable of doing the exercises with an extra element added in. These are the ones who have come to class time and time again, they know the exercises, they can focus on the movement and using whatever prop you choose.

The most important thing to remember is what purpose does the prop serve: tool, challenge, or distraction? Your intent might be one thing at the start of the class or lesson but also remember it could change after the start or midway through and we want to be able to adapt.


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