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…


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.


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

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  1. Thanks for this Andrea!

  2. Joseph deruvo says

    A very well stated and balanced insight to something that can become very intrenched in people’s thinking!

    • Thanks Joseph, yes no one foot position will be perfect for every individual… but we often consider the V to be an absolute in Pilates – and really there are NO absolutes LOL – thanks for reading and for sharing your thoughts here 🙂

  3. Alessandra Niccolai says

    Another brilliant post! These days I appear to have a bit of a foot fetish (you might have noticed ????????????) !
    and this simply and clearly explains the options for alignment. ????????
    So many times I’ve been trying (unsuccessfully!) to force my feet into a v… as I am knock kneed I find the v position really tricky in some exercises… and doesn’t give me the connection I need…..I’m still trying to work out when to v or not to v!! It’s a work in progress!!
    I’m loving the ‘up the front, down the back’ and have been exploring this further with those 2×4 exercises you kindly taught me …. when standing it’s often a bit easier to feel the LIFT we are trying to find in all the exercises we do…????????and it helps clients to understand too !! Double yay! ????????????????
    So… #rockon Andrea ???? #pilatesfootfetish???? See you soon xoxo
    PS ‘ Eyes open, mouth shut preferred.’ Really made me lol ????

    • Hey there 🙂
      So glad you are feeling the benefits of your 2×4 exercises – so challenging and effective those guys… and the parallel position works so well for you, I agree. Alignment trumps all!
      And yes, the sentence “Eyes open, mouth shut preferred” was for Jay <3 - (I hope that turns into a heart)
      xox - I will really see you soon now!

  4. I love your blogs. Another great one. I live in Pilates V, parallel position is an amazing challenge for me, and the connection to my center and finding the inner thighs is what I need.

    • Thank you so much Andrea. I am like you I think – I benefit from both positions for different reasons. Keep up the good work! xo

  5. This was such a great post. You made really good points for me to think about and practice to see if I can get even more changes in my body. I always love your creative way of writing. Thanks Andrea! 🙂

    • Joel!
      How lovely to have you share your thoughts here 🙂 It was such a lovely Grad weekend – I feel like I got to know everyone a little bit better and hang out having Pilates and fun. We’ll all remember our moment in the sand LOL… I thank you for your kind words on the blog and I do believe we will see each other again soon – hopefully later this year 🙂
      Let’s continue on our pursuit of Pilates excellence! xox

  6. Yeah!! I’ve been really paying attention in this past few weeks to the V o r n o t t o V.
    I really see in almost every position where the V is “normal” it’s not so good for me. Similar to Alessandra, we are knock knee’d sisters! Swan on the Barrel with heels slightly apart and NOT touching gives me so much more reach up and out and let’s my lower back release. Also, Tendon Stretch, not in V, I am forced to move the Carriage with my stomach and NOT my butt/arms, surprisingly I can also do the one legged version better like this too. The V often initiates a ‘buttock clench’ in me vs a “inner thigh wrap” (how’s that for a band name?…welcome to the Glastonbury stage, The Buttock Clenches!!). Even in Short Spine, going overhead with a V and not a V can completely change the connection, or in my case, free my tight lower back to get more lift. I look forward to always playing with this because as I improve and make more connections every day (or even on a different day), “The V” just might be my friend again. Fascinating.

    On another note. Reformer with a tennis elbow really takes the force out of the arm (good for me!), you can’t pull the straps with your arm so you are forced to use your Center 🙂 Imagine…. I also slammed my OTHER pinky toe and dropped a paddle board on my already injured pinky. yeah, I’m one hot mess this summer. I need to make toe bumpers.
    see you soon! xox

    • Oh my – careful of your toes and elbows!! I too have been playing with the V or not to V in my Mat workouts mostly. Since I am one-sided it helps so much to keep my center – both sides – and the seat – both sides – working more properly and equally. I love to V as well, but I feel it leads to my stronger side overworking… boo… let’s play with V or not to V when I see you in the studio. Everyone is on board with the Swan around the studio topic as well. We all cringe and make faces at the prospect of Swan, so it is a good item for the agenda LOL.

      Please stay tuned for more blog posts and videos I promise. You are an amazing subscriber, Pilates student and human being and I am thrilled that the Pilates Method and social media have brought us together (insert big hug here).

  7. PT’s all advise parallel so that is what we follow ????????

  8. Cate davies says

    Thanks Andrea. Having being taught Pilates V as an absolute and then realising that it just doesn’t work for certain clients, I’d already gone with my intuition of altering foot position, so it was great to have this article to clarify the issue & back up my own practice. V does wonders for me personally but I’m going to experiment with parallel now.

    • Yes, there are a lot of “absolutes” in our training programs and for many good reasons. But it feels good to use your own intuition and really evaluate what you see in the body of your student. Good for you! As you saw in the post – I am a big fan of parallel especially for those with imbalances – as one example. Really challenging and good connection when the sides must fend for themselves. Have a good time exploring and share your thoughts and observations here if you like 🙂

      Thanks again for reading!
      Kind Regards,

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