Aloha Wendy. You made the effort to reply so I will go one step further to attempt to be of help.
One way to learn to engage and stabilize the glutes in any position is to first engage them in a position that you are able to do so. Then you atttempt to create the same activation in the new position. You repeat this drill as necessary.
A very effective position to use as your base activation position is to put the heels together and flair the feet out (a “V” posiiton) while standing. You then isometrically attempt to turn the feet even further, attempting to widen the “V” only the feet do not actually move. Focus on contracting the glutes completely. Do this progressively over several days to slowly learn to activate the glutes. Being too aggressive could lead to over tightening the low back and spasms, so go slow and back off at the first sign of the low back getting over stimulated. You can keep going back to this drill and then attempt to engage the glutes in the desired exercise/movement.
An example for you to apply this to Pilates would be to first perform the activation standing next to a reformer. Then get on the reformer laying supine on the spring tensioned bed. Place the foot bar in the position that will be used with one or two springs (going light initially) hooked on. Place the feet in the “V” position on the bar so the bar is across the midfoot/arch area and extend the legs (don’t lock out the knees, it just isn’t good for them to be locked out). Now you attempt the activation with the isometric foot turn out stimulus. Once you get good at getting this activation position to work, you can use it instead of getting up to stand every time you need to reconnect the glutes neuromuscularly. This becomes your base stimulus while on the reformer in the supine position. Now you attempt to activate the glutes during the target exercise and go back to the base position to reconnect and then back to the target exercise, etc.
Now hopefully you will be able to see a pattern to apply to other Pilates exercises. Find a base position that you can easily engage the glutes in that is easy to go to and from, then transition to the target exercise and back until you achieve the control and glute activation that you desire.
If you have any trouble with this, just get back to me with some feedback on what you are experiencing. I will be glad to work you through any issues. Take care.
Being a Pilates Instructor inherently runs the risk of getting stuck in a “repertory rut”. Most of the exercises are bilateral/single plane which is great for learning, more doesn’t mimic everyday life joint mechanics. I try to remind myself that we are doing Pilates to be better at life, NOT just better at Pilates!
Here’s an internal article I find helpful:
I try to progress my clients to single leg bridging (shoulder bridge) as soon as they are stable, SI joint especially. However, it still does little to challenge the eccentric gluteal recruitment to encourage “loading to unload”. The more I add multi-plane motions, the better results I seem to get.
Here’s my current favorites list:
heel squeeze prone (starting simple)
bridging with pelvic rotation; single leg bridging
side elbow/knee planks, perhaps lifting top leg
scooter on reformer w/moderate resistance so no arms on foot bar
cross-over press chair, standing on floor
step down on chair (small range for knee issues); add pelvic rotation
side skate reformer, add pelvic rotation
Focusing on my eccentric phase and allowing my body to naturally “follow thru” to seems to helping lighten up on my hyper-tonic hamstring gripping, but that’s just what I’m able to feel inside my own body. Here’s hoping my clients are getting it too!
I am not a Pilates instructor, but I do agree with Ariadne with regard to using the bridge position to engage the glutes. There are many variations–both legs, one leg, and with or without various props or weights. The bridge is very effective and helping clients understand how to engage the glutes–and make that mind body connection.
Hope this helps.
I can see that you are Stott Pilates certified, so it does make sense to me that you want to find ways to integrate more gluteal work during your session using the tools and techniques within that discipline.
I like to use bridge position. I will do a set with squeezing up, then squeezing in, then squeezing one side up at a time (I call it the zumba move), then squeezing up and in together. I then repeat with the heel of the foot lifted, and then with the ball lifted. Then I do a second set with a yoga block between the thighs. I find this helps engage the inner thighs, and the pelvic floor. (in yoga we would talk about finding uddiyana bandha). For more advanced students it can be moved up to one leg variations, or you can use a ring in place of the block, though I find I have to cue people to squeeze it with the hands before putting it between the thighs, and to do so again when removing it to avoid hip stress.
You might look to see if there are any training videos from Linda Freeman Webster. She did a workshop at the last IdeaWorld combining Pilates and yoga. I thought some of her standing work was really interesting. I’ve been adapting pieces of it in my own core classes.
I am sorry I didn’t understand the bum and glutes part of the question, but I hope this is useful.