I love cueing the gaze. If you are an instructor or a student of Pilates, using your gaze/or cueing the gaze, to facilitate movement is key. Here are some examples:
* Ab Prep/Stomach Series: Look straight ahead. One of the biggest mistakes I see is students looking straight up towards the ceiling. This puts a lot of strain in the neck muscles and upper trapezius muscles. (side note: if you can't curl forward and up to about your shoulder blades, then either use a towel or a band, or simply use your hands to support your head and neck; another option is keeping your head down). If you use the head down option, keep your gaze forward and cast slightly down to facilitate abdominal engagement. Again, look straight ahead, or between your thighs; if you are curled forward and up, avoid looking down at your belly and make sure to keep a peach between your chin and your chest.
*Breaststroke/prone exercises: Use your gaze to keep your neck long and your spine extended. Pretend there is a small ant under your nose. As you lengthen your body forward and continue this line up, follow the ant to the edge of your mat. The biggest problem I see in these types of exercises is the neck. The cervical spine should follow the line of the rest of the spine, so think "no wrinkles in the back of your neck." Play with your gaze in this prone (on your stomach) position and see how the proper gaze "unkinks" your neck and lengthens your spine.
*Kneeling/Standing exercises: Use your gaze to "lift" your body. I like to cue the gaze "slightly higher than eye level" to facilitate a feeling of lightness and length in the body during standing or kneeling exercises. The key term here is slightly; any higher and you will create tension in the back of the neck.
Standing on the Reformer: Use your gaze to help you balance. Find a "spot" to stare at in the distance and quiet your body from the inside. Remember to gaze only a fraction higher than eye level to keep you lifted and light in your body.
Side Lying/Side Kneeling exercises: Use your gaze, once again, to keep the line of your neck following the line of your spine. Look straight ahead and find a spot in the distance to look at.
Focus: I find that the gaze also helps my students with focus. By finding a spot in the distance they report a feeling of inner quietness which helps them to stay focused throughout their Pilates session.
The gaze is an incredibly useful tool and I would love to hear your special "gaze tips."