Teachers In Training Teaching Skills

How to Create Programs for Individual Alignment


Your ability to program for an individual’s alignment is essential. It’s hugely important for determining goals and meeting them, as well as for safety and client retention.

It begins with assessment of each individual’s unique posture and alignment.

Begin by performing a postural analysis on your client (See Part 2: Your ability to assess alignment and “Using Postural Assessment Everyday”). Once the postural analysis is in your toolbox, you will be able to make specific and targeted choices about exercises and their modifications.

BTW learning to program for posture is best learned with practice clients who are not paying big bucks for the session.

Now, from the postural assessment you can sleuth out clues that will help select exercises and modifications that will benefit your client’s posture and alignment.

What are the key postural features you see in the postural analysis? Write those key postural deviations down.

Key deviations are the ones that stand out the most, the ones that are the most important, distinguished, gross, or biggest deviations from ideal alignment (Pages 8-10 STOTT PILATES® Matwork & Reformer Support Materials Manual). Just look at all the deviations you’ve noted on your postural analysis and determine which are the most important to address.

Next, ask yourself what else should be addressed in the first few sessions:

In general, assessing postural features like an anterior or posterior pelvic tilt or exaggerated curves of the spine are a good starting point. For example, your client’s pelvic position and curve of the lumbar spine can help determine if you will work more in neutral or imprint.As you learned in your coursework, during the first few sessions you aim to infuse the exercises with the Basic Principles, mobilize the spine in various planes of motion, mobilize the shoulder and hip joints, build initial strength in the core, and begin to strengthen the arms and legs (Page 20 STOTT PILATES® Matwork & Reformer Support Materials Manual).

Based on those key postural features, write down your primary goal for your client.

Then look at your client’s registration document. The goals they listed for themselves should not be discounted. Think about ways to infuse your goals and the clients goals into the session. This may be with exercise selection or simply cuing an exercise to highlight a different focus. Say the clients goal is to tone the arms for their wedding. Well, even an abdominal exercises like Hundreds can be cued to focus the clients attention on the work of the arms and shoulder.

Based on those combined goals, write down what exercises and/or modifications would target the muscles that the client needs to strengthen, lengthen or shorten, and that get them moving in a larger, healthier range of motion. Write down what exercises can you add to the workout to mobilize their spine in all planes of movement, mobilize the hips and shoulders, and build initial strength in the core.

Now you should have a full list of exercises that might be helpful in moving your client towards those goals. Look at this list and brainstorm how you can highlight the basic principles to help your client gain understanding of their alignment and posture. Write down cues you foresee needing based on their posture.

This process of creating a client program based on postural assessment will not only give you a great BIG list of exercises that are targeted and specific to your client but also prepare you as instructor to keep an eye on their progress and continue to adjust their program to meet their goals.

After each session, write down which exercises, modifications, and cues worked for the client. Then take note of any progress that your client might have made.

As you continue your sessions with your client, keep referring back to your list of key postural features and your primary goal for your client. Within no time you will find your program begins to auto-populate. And the best part is that if you continue to program to individual posture and alignment, you will have no trouble building long-term client relationships.

Lastly, want more on this topic? Read this: Getting Started: First Steps in New Client Programming.

Let us know in the comments below if this is helpful.
And as always, thank you so much for reading.
Good Luck!


  • Avatar
    Abby K.
    April 27, 2015 at 10:39 pm

    Like Lauren, I’m also curious about programming for groups of students. I see myself integrating a lot of the Stott Pilates principles into my dance teaching (I already have integrated some exercises and principles into my warm-ups and cool-downs, with pretty good success), but I also worry about not being able to see and/or address each individual’s postural deviations. Safety is definitely my first concern, whether or not I’m using Pilates principles.

    I’m also really excited to use this new knowledge of postural analysis and alignment in teaching movement, and it makes me wonder why a lot of these principles aren’t more integrated into dance classes. Personally, I tend to teach adults, most of them are in their 30s and older, so I definitely want to start using some of the concepts and images from Stott Pilates into my classes. The Pilates exercises really compliment belly dance because with belly dance, we’re constantly moving the pelvis against the stability of the torso and legs, and with Pilates, we’re doing the opposite.

    With postural analysis, I’ve also realized that a lot of my dance students who I thought might have had excessive lumbar curve might not have actually had that at all, rather it was their muscles and flesh that made them appear that way. I find myself integrating the postural analysis concepts into my teaching already, even if I’m not working with individual clients yet. Ultimately, I want to prevent injuries while building strength and body awareness with whatever movement mode I’m teaching.

  • Avatar
    Caroline Liviakis
    April 22, 2015 at 1:26 am

    Question: How often do you progress directly into warming up and exercises with a client who in initially observing them sitting/walking etc. do not note any gross deviations? I am thinking of the possibility of utilizing those first few sessions with a client as maximizing the work-out element, and then when the client decides to continue further on, do a full-out postural analysis.

    • Holly Furgason
      Holly Furgason
      April 22, 2015 at 5:41 am

      Thanks Caroline for the question.
      Someone without any noticeable deviations from ideal posture may or may not have imbalances that will show up when you begin teaching them. It is hard to say.
      Some clients would really enjoy having their posture analyzed, others not so much. Every instructor works differently and every client needs something a little different. As you teach you will learn to intuit what each individual needs (and what they want).
      I would suggest trying your suggestion with a practice client. Schedule 5 sessions, the first 3 focused on getting them moving. On the 4th session do a full postural analysis. See how that feels to you and ask for feedback from the client.
      Good luck! Let me know how it goes!

  • Avatar
    April 2, 2015 at 5:56 am

    Hi Holly,

    I am curious if you have suggestions of how to prioritize postural analysis and alignment corrections when you are teaching a group – such as a group mat class – rather than an individual session.

    In my experiences teaching dance classes, I have at times found it difficult to address all the alignment issues I have observed in a timely manner within one session. My approach is to first address the most potentially dangerous or detrimental alignment concerns, while smaller misalignments might go unaddressed for several sessions.

    This makes me feel, however, that I am doing a disservice to those students who have more minor alignment problems. While they are not harming themselves, they are not fully embodying concepts and movements and I know the minor corrections would help them move for efficiently and better strengthen/target desired muscle groups.

    Would you agree that corrections in a group setting need to be prioritized as such or would you try to give more time to each individual in the first several sessions so that everyone is given a foundational assessment/correction for their own bodies, and then address the larger alignment concerns from there?

    Thank you for any insight!

    • Holly Furgason
      Holly Furgason
      April 7, 2015 at 5:39 am

      Woowzers, a lot of good questions!

      It’s funny you bring up postural analysis – We will be spending the next several course days discussing it 😀 Then in the course we will begin discussing programing for private sessions. When you complete module 2 of your course, group teaching will also be discuss so stay tuned!

      But just to give you a quick answer to your question, you cannot address everything on everyone in a single class. Think big picture and long term. Over several classes your students understanding of their unique alignment should deepen.

      Safety comes first so you need to address those issues immediately. After safety, you really try to balance giving all the students equal attention (4 students means each get 25% of your time/attention). You might start with a foundation building version of an exercise and then only have some of the students add modifications that increase the challenge.

      In my studio most students that are new to Pilates do an introductory package of several private sessions. This helps to assess the individuals alignment challenges before they move into a group.

      Thank you for the great questions! Keep learning!

  • Avatar
    Nicole Jackson
    February 26, 2015 at 6:19 am

    Dear Holly,

    This blog post was extremely helpful. I really like how you use the metaphor “toolbox”. Over the past couple of years, as an early childhood and special educator, I have come to view my skills as “tools in a toolbox.” Each tool has it’s own use, and although each tool will not work with every person, the more tools you have, the more capable and prepared you are to deal with different situations and tasks.

    I am currently working a third grade math tutor. The child I am working with is having a difficult time with her multiplication tables, and so at the start of every session, I give her a practice exercise worksheet to help her work through the process of multiplication and “warm up” her brain. Today I recognized that I need a way of measuring her progress, and I realized I can use each of her practice worksheets as a way to do this. By keeping track of where she started, and measuring her improvement each week, helps motivate both her and myself. This relates to your recommendation of using the posture analysis as a way to not only develop an exercise list for each individual client, but also as a measurement tool. By having a clear start point, it is easier to mark progress. Progress is an important part of teaching, and if you are getting paid to teach someone, they will want to know they are getting their moneys worth!

    This blog post has also helped me better understand how to develop an “exercise curricula” for clients. I understood that each individual client would have specific and unique needs, but now I have a better understanding of how to recognize these needs.

    Thank you!


    • Holly Furgason
      Holly Furgason
      April 7, 2015 at 6:05 am

      I love <3 how you have related this to something you already teach! Have you tried this with your math student? Does she feel a different sense of progress?

Leave a Reply


Instagram has returned invalid data.

Follow Me!