To V or Not to V: Let Connection Be Your Guide

Joe Pilates had a keen eye.

Joe looked at the skeleton and noticed the specific way our feet hang on the skeleton.2-Way Stretch and the Anatomy of Pilates

In the natural position of the bones the feet have a slight splay to them.

For this reason we use the heels together-toes apart position in our beloved Pilates method.

You may have learned this position as Pilates Stance.

Jay Grimes maintains there is no such thing as Pilates Stance. It is a made-up word. Joe didn’t make it up or use it. Joe simply looked at the way the bones hang on the skeleton.

To V

To V or Not to V: Let Connection Be Your Guide

I love the connection and organization of the lower body I get from using the heels together-toes apart position. It's great when standing and even better when I have my lower body reaching into the air.

To V or Not to V: Let Connection Be Your Guide

For me – I've got a slight bow to my legs – I find it to be ideal.

However, the V is not the only option we've got for our Pilates exercises.

Parallel feet hip-width apart proliferates in the method as well: Neck Pull, Short Box, Long Back Stretch, Up Stretch, Elephant.

Joe Pilates wants us to have it all.

Or Not to V

To V or Not to V: Let Connection Be Your Guide

Certainly there are individuals for whom the V position of the feet is not appropriate.

  • Structurally those with knock knees often need a parallel-feet-apart position to have room for their knees to not overlap.
  • An individual with a knee issue may need to omit the V position – among other things – for a while.
  • The ballet dancer who lives life in turnout could find a nice challenge in a parallel position.
  • Those with a weaker side – also me – benefit from using a parallel position so each side must work individually and cannot rely on the other.

But what about those who could kinda do either position?

In our Pilates method there are no hard-and-fast rules. In fact, if you learned certain rules in your training, what would happen if you considered them to be simply guidelines?

Maybe the V position looks okay, but upon closer inspection it doesn't seem to be… quite… right.

What's to be done?

Let connection be your guide.

Every lesson we teach – just like our own lesson – is a work in progress.

Diligently we work on connecting our various parts into center. We work to exert greater control over our muscles, our movements and our daily life.

There's no reason we can't weigh a few options for our foot position while we're at it.

We're learning too.

Our feet are far away from our center and cultivating the muscles of the back and seat with our foot placement is a noble quest worth exploring.

Let's look at a bit of Footwork on the Reformer as an example:

As you perfect your 1st Footwork exercise – Toes – and also the 4th Footwork exercise – Tendon Stretch – ask yourself some questions based upon what you're seeing in front of you:

(Eyes open, mouth shut preferred.)

  • Do the knees look crowded or overlapped?
  • Does it look like one side might be working more than the other?
  • Do one or both knees want to lock?
  • What does the hip look like compared to where the knees and feet are?
  • How's the alignment of hip, knee and ankle?

If you answered ‘yes' or ‘not great' to the above questions it might warrant a trip to the Parallel Universe…

Wait.

What's all that about connection?

In our Pilates workout we're always looking for more action in our center.

All our Pilates exercises for the feet are magical and wonderful for the health, flexibility and well-being of our feet. Agreed.

But wait, there's more.

Imagine if you will, our 4th Footwork exercise again – the Tendon Stretch:

To V or Not to V: Let Connection Be Your Guide

Using the strength of the center – stomach lifting and bottom working – we'll stay light on our feet.

The whole body works to lift up in the front and lengthen downward in the back culminating in the heels reaching under the bar.

Often students will want to drop their weight when the heels drop and the ankle must overwork to hoist them back up to the toes. Boo… unhappy ankles…

Constant controlled motion is required as you reach lower with the heels and rise up again.

Hey! This maneuver done standing up is also a great way to end a Mat class:

  • Can you rise up to your heels with the strength of your center and not just by leaning forward?
  • Can you lower your heels without getting any shorter?
  • Never underestimate the Pilates exercises done lying down… you will eventually be asked to do them standing up!

Embrace the Grey

Part of the excitement and the teeth-gnashing of our beloved Pilates Method is there is no one rule to apply to every body you'll meet.

On one hand, Yay! There are not really wrong answers only better and more informed choices to be made.

Conversely, our powers of observation require constant cultivation.

  • We must truly show up and respond to the unique individual in front of us.
  • Maybe watch your student for a while saying nothing and plan your strategy.
  • Assign value to your own opinions about what you see as well as those of your mentors and from your training.

See what you think.

Questions?

Comment and join the conversation, we're a lively bunch!