#CuesToUse: Setting Up For "Elephant"


There are some things in Pilates that are as sure as the carriage crashing, and people's inability to distinguish toes from heels when setting up for Elephant is one of those absolutes. It happens almost every single time. You say, "lift your toes" and the heels go up. After a little informal research (posting a meme on a facebook forum) we quickly learned just how widespread this problem actually is. Here are some of the top #cuestouse from the Pilates teacher community. Please add your cues or thoughts in the comments below!

1. "Lift all ten toes"

I think this is my favorite. It (almost) always works and requires the least extra words. (Thanks for the tip Faye Stevenson of Bayside Pilates in California!)

2. "Now lift your other toes!"

This was by far the most common response recommended by Pilates teachers including Lesley Logan of ProfitablePilates.com. Brief, to the point, now move!

3. "Lift your toenails"

This works. It is one I have tried several times, and it IS effective. I first heard it from Breathe Pilates Miami owner Gretchen Wagoner, and Buff Bones® creator Rebekah Rotstein swears by it. Rotstein says, "When told to list their toes in Elephant, most people automatically lift their heels (I know we've all seen that!) So I use the cue "lift your toenails" and then there is no confusion!" It is effective, BUT be aware that it creeps some people out (they don't like the word "toenails"? This cue actually became the topic of friendly debate during a recent seminar I attended. "How do you lift toenails?" My response, "Just try it." Which brings me to the next cue...

4. Add a tactile cue by touching their toes with the instruction

This was suggested to me as an alternative to the toenail cue. An educator suggested adding a tactile cue with the verbal instruction for a one-two punch. It is worth a try for one-on-one instruction.

5. Catch them off guard

Julia Shmurak of Pandora Pilates (@pandorapilates) in Coconut Grove says to try an unexpected cue that makes them think before acting such as "Lift the front of your feet." I am definitely going to try this one!

6. repeat, repeat, repeat

Preston, Lancashire-based Pilates teacher Maria Morrissey quotes Pilates descendent, Gertrude: "You have to tell them what you are going to tell them, and then you have to tell them, and then you have to tell them what you told them, and then go back and rephrase it with love and patience..."

What are some of your most effective cues for Elephant set-up? Comment below!