When I first came to Body Harmonics, there was a huge emphasis on themed classes and themes that lasted an entire 3-month season. I remember looking forward to each class I attended because I knew I’d learn or experience something new every time. Some days it was a concept, other days, a feeling in my body, an insightful cue or a new way to modify an exercise based on the theme of the day. Whatever the theme, it always exciting and magical.

Naturally, as I started teaching at the studio, I began incorporating themes into my classes. These past several years, the themes seemed to have slipped away. However, while tidying up my office, I found some long-lost written class themes and reviewed them. They’re even more exciting to me now than when I first taught them.

This rediscovery inspired me to plan themes for my winter season of classes. Planning my themes has helped me focus my intentions for classes and some client sessions in a way that is both interesting for my clients and me. It’s a great way to keep me focused and organized and will allow me to take my clients on a journey that will result in them getting stronger and more in-tune with their bodies. Walking into class this week with my theme in mind was such an exciting feeling – I felt like a 5-year old about to enter a bouncy castle. Silly, I know, but it’s true!

So what is a theme?

A theme is a dominant idea that is repeated throughout a class or series of classes. The theme in a Pilates class can be expressed through cues, exercises, small apparatus, feelings, the list could go on.

Core systems: my theme for the season

Since I hadn’t actively planned themes for a while, I chose to go back to basics and explore different core systems that we teach in the Body Harmonics Core Integrity workshop.

I wanted my students to be a part of the process and journey, so I told them I’d like to work through different core systems every couple of weeks so they could understand what “core” really is (which is way more than just the abs) and identify new ways to access it.

Brainstorming my weekly themes

I did a brain dump process similar to what I do in class design and came up with a list of ideas.

From there, I checked my calendar and saw there were 13 weeks from Jan – Mar. One week is a long weekend and another I’ll be away, so I have 11 classes to work with. I went through my themes and allocated a one for each week.

  • Week 1 – Transversus abdominus: exploring the low belly
  • Week 2 – Pelvic floor: working it both concentrically and eccentrically
  • Week 3 – Changing pace: inner unit vs outer unit activation
  • Week 4 – Rotation (anterior oblique system)
  • Week 5 – Base of support + the posterior oblique system
  • Week 6 – How instability challenges the core
  • Week 7 – The power of breath
  • Week 8 – Balance and the sides of our body (lateral system)
  • Week 9 – Multifidus: deep core stability from the back
  • Week 10 – Deep longitudinal system to improve postural dysfunction
  • Week 11 – Mobility and stability

Using images & cues to spicing up your weekly themes

After identifying the theme for each week, it’s important to think of the images and cues you’ll use to get the point across to your students. There are likely many ways to describe each weekly theme you come up with, so pick with one or two images or cues and stick with them. Explore them in as many ways as you can throughout the class. Think of how the images and cues you choose will feel and come alive in each exercise you do. Listing exercises that are most relevant to your theme may also be helpful.

If you have access to small apparatus, equipment or props, feel free to add those to enhance your experience. You want to make any prop you choose purposeful and meaningful to your clients otherwise, don’t use it. For simplicity sake, it’s best to limit this to 1 or 2 items per class.

Key message

For each theme, identify a key message. This is how you’ll introduce your theme or idea to the class. Here’s an example: “This week we’ll aim to feel the difference between two types of core: our deep inner core and the outer muscles. The inner unit is what we’ve explored the past couple of weeks – they’re the tiny muscles that are always turned on to support us deep inside. The outer unit is made up of bigger muscles that help us move throughout everyday life. Changing the speed of our movements can actually influence which group of muscles is most active. Both are important, so let’s explore.”

Go ahead and try it yourself!

I challenge you to give themes a try. Try it for a season, for a single class and even with some private clients. Once you get going with this process, there is no end to the possibilities you will come up with for creative, insightful classes and meaningful client sessions.

If you already plan themes, do you have any other insight or feedback for our readers?

If you’re new to this, what themes would you like to explore?

Please share your feedback in the comments section below.