The Wunda Chair Project: A New Online Workshop

Wunda Chair Pilates Project

Hey there!

Lately, I've ventured away from the Reformer and gravitated toward the piece of apparatus that often gathers dust in my studio. Sad, but true…

Maybe this sounds familiar?

It's the Wunda Chair I've been consistently spending more time with and, oh boy, is it making me smile and use my powerhouse!

Joe Pilates and the Home Workout

Well before Covid-19, Joe Pilates knew you need a piece of apparatus perfectly designed to use at home, even in the smallest of New York City apartments.

Enter the Wunda Chair.

Each August, Joe closed his studio to escape the oppressive heat in the city. In my understanding, Joe would encourage/badger/force his clients to purchase his Wunda Chair to exercise at home while the studio was closed.

Joe selected a handful of exercises appropriate to the client to help them maintain their workout until September when they could return to the studio.

It's this story about Joe (plus a new amazing book on the Wunda Chair) that was the inspiration for my current Wunda workout (book review coming soon!).

I Smell a Pilates Project…

If you've been reading and following me for a while you know that I am quite the crooked sister.

No one is perfectly symmetrical and imbalances provide a challenge: do the exercise on one side and then on the other side. This gives you a ton of information about your body, right?

In daily life, I find I don't stand evenly on my feet. Instead, I shift my weight mostly onto my right side when sitting or standing. Especially standing.

It's amazing how much I don't stand on my left side (insert eye-roll emoji here)…

But wait.

I could create a Wunda Chair workout to address this issue!

Excellent…

I LOVE a good Pilates Project! Read about a few of my previous PPs here, here and here.

My Wunda Chair Pilates Project includes about 20 minutes of exercises done standing with one or both feet on the pedal. As a warmup, I've added the Hundred and Footwork, and since feet are on the pedal in the Footwork series I've also included Footwork 1 leg.

Wait this sounds familiar…

As a teacher and/or practitioner of the Pilates System, you learn over time which exercises you do well and which exercises present the most challenge to your body.

Maybe you've also learned these challenges to the body are traditionally addressed in the latter part of a Pilates session in a part I like to call ‘This is for you.'

Think of the ‘this is for you' exercises in your own workout.

It's these exercises that are your personal responsibility; these are the exercises that may not make you feel proficient in your workout, that point directly to your weaknesses, and that you love to forget about and do all the other “fun” exercises instead.

But wouldn't more proficiency in your worst exercises make the “fun” ones better too?

Yes, YES and YES!!

So suck it up and join me for some ugly Pilates!

Using the Wunda Chair exercises below, I've created a new Pilates Project, for my precise ‘this is for you' situation.

The Exercises

  • Hundred
  • Footwork
  • Pull Up
  • Pull Up 1 leg
  • Side Pull Up
  • Table
  • Table 1 leg
  • Tendon Stretch
  • Tendon Stretch – 1 leg
  • Frog Facing Away from Chair
  • Frog Facing Away from Chair – 1 leg
  • Frog Facing Chair
  • Frog Facing Chair – 1 leg
  • Standing Pumping Front
  • Standing Pumping Side
  • Standing Pumping Crossover
  • Going Up Front
  • Going Up Side/Side Mountain Climb
  • Achilles Stretch
  • Mountain Climb
  • Down the Mountain
  • Star

Watch the video at the bottom of this post to see the first version of my Wunda Chair Project.

You can do it too!

In September, I host an annual Pilates Party in my home studio, just north of San Diego. The week-long party includes lessons, open studio group classes, and a new workshop. There's also a lot of eating, drinking, and socializing after long days in the studio.

This year, it's unclear what September will bring, and gathering a bunch of people together in person doesn't seem like the best idea.

But, let's party on anyway, virtual style!

This September I hope you'll join me each week on Thursdays for a 90-minute exploration of the most challenging exercises you need, the greater Pilates System and the Wunda Chair.

Join me this September

The Wunda Chair Project will meet 4 Thursdays in September 2020: September 3, 10, 17, and 24.

Class will meet 9am-10:30am PST

There will be homework!

Maximum 10 participants.

Prerequisites for this workshop include:

  1. A Wunda Chair
  2. Pilates experience

Use this link to snag your spot:

Yes! I love the Wunda Chair!

Thank you.

I look forward to sharing this new workshop with you.

Revisiting the Basics: Side-to-Side on the Short Box

Side-to-Side on the Short Box

Hey there!

This week's post is a request from a subscriber, Joanne.

Thanks, Joanne, it's high time for another post about one of my not-so-favorites, Side-to-Side on the Short Box.

Side bending, in general, has never been a skill of mine. Over the years I have fought the good fight and have emerged (occasionally) victorious.

For further reading, check out my previous posts on this same subject here and here.

The Makings of a Great Side Bend

Side-to-Side on the Short Box is the very first side bend shape you'll learn.

While not as basic as the Footwork or the Roll Up, Side-to-Side on the Short Box is one of the more manageable side-bending exercises in the Pilates System.

And for those of you who desperately need this skill of side bending, it's one hell of an introduction.

Let's Start Tall

Looking at the order of the Reformer exercises, the Short Box Series gives you one of the best prerequisites for Side-to-Side: The Reach – which is your tallest back shape.

Reach on the Short Box

The tall back shape encourages you to lift and continue to lengthen both sides of the trunk in a straightforward movement pattern. It's this lift you will preserve to take into Side-to-Side.

Consider The Reach to be your basic best friend (BBF) for the kinda-not-basic-depending-on-who-you-are Side-to-Side exercise.

With beginning or first-time students you may wish to delay adding Side-to-Side to their program depending on how well they do the Round and Reach exercises.

What's going on back there anyhow?

TBH, it was news to me that anything on the back of me would be useful to do Pilates.

Short Box exercises – decidedly one of the meat-and-potatoes series on the Reformer – can be challenging since you are essentially stranded up there on that box with no feedback and nary a spring in sight.

One of the best places I've found to illuminate the back of me as I side bend is on the Cadillac.

Roll Back One Arm on the Cadillac

The Roll Back done with one arm is a wonderful place to feel your back on the Mat as you make your Side-to-Side shape.

But what exactly am I doing? Where am I going?

If you're like me, maybe Side-to-Side has been mysterious for a while.

I remember so vividly each time I'd visit this exercise in my first year of Pilates group lessons on the Reformer. I'd have a plan in mind, but I soon came to associate this exercise with “Oh this is the one where Lesa comes to fix me.”

Years later I'd finally feel that one side really didn't know how to lift or move at all.

And over the many years that I've been practicing Pilates, I've been taught this exercise MANY different ways.

Ultimately, you're looking to find equal strength, lift and length on both sides of the body without compromising your tall back shape.

I believe the direction to lean forward, or add a twist to the front corner of the box to be just a few ideas to help the truly Side-challenged folk. It can be a good option for a while and with practice, ultimately lead to even better execution of the exercise.

The Pole: Your Apparatus of the Moment

Joe Pilates never leaves us unprepared.

Luckily he suggests using a pole for the Short Box Series.

Look at the pole and see a big truth-teller for Side-to-Side and Twist.

Does one end of the pole point downward when your student bends to the side?

Both sides of the trunk must work to lift up both ends of the pole. Sounds easy I know…

If you bend to the right side, it must continue to hold up the pole as the left side lifts up and over.

Which brings me to my other hot tip for Side-to-Side… Spine Stretch Forward?

Spine Stretch Sideward, Anyone?

Think about the Pilates Mat exercise Spine Stretch Forward.

Spine Stretch Forward on the Mat

This forward-bending exercise requires you to get a big LIFT! of your bottom and back up and over the bony landmark of your ribcage. To get more opening in the middle back just under the ribs, this is the spot you're after as you Spine Stretch.

Meanwhile back in your side-bending exercise, work to lift each side UP and over the rib cage without any shifting or crunching. Give it a try and see what you think.

Side to Side on the Short Box

New this week on my YouTube Channel

Check out today's video for more nerdy discussion on all things Side-to-Side.

Subscribe and never miss my newest videos which publish twice per week on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Enjoy!

Wanna join me in class?

Tuesdays thru Fridays I'm teaching small group open studio classes via Zoom. You'll do your own workout with supervision and “in the company” of others.

Use this link to book into my May class schedule for just $15./class:

Yes I'd love to join your class.

June classes coming soon!

Visit my YouTube Channel: New Workouts + A Special Offer!

Hi there –

First I want to welcome you if you are a new subscriber. Thank you so much!

For my OG subscribers – if you've been reading posts since way back in the day – thank you so much for your continued support, kind words and good humour.

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Do you know I have a YouTube channel?

Subscribe to my channel and receive 2 new videos each week. PLUS! As a subscriber, you'll be eligible for my very first Pilates Giveaway coming next month. And It's a nice one, I promise.

New Videos You Won't Want to Miss

Back in February – when people could still visit you at home, I filmed the first episode of my new series ‘Between 2 Arm Chairs.' This episode features my friend, colleague and longevity expert, Dr. Nicole Marcione.

In the video Dr. Nicole and I give a little preview of her recent workshop, Longevity, the Brain and Pilates which I had the privilege to attend in person last year.

Dr. Nicole has graciously extended a special promotion to my YouTube subscribers. In the description box you'll find my promo code for big savings on her amazing workshop!

Check it out:

More Wunda Chair, please!

So many of you enjoy working out on the Wunda Chair. Good for you!

It's one of my favourite apparatuses and I have started a new series of short (but brutal, trust me) videos on our lovely Wunda.

Here's the first in the series – a shorty at just 5 minutes.

And in just a few exercises, it will make you sweat I promise!

Stay well and make sure you get in your Pilates workout – no more excuses like “I don't have time to workout!”

Do you have any video requests?

Lay it on me in a comment below…

Revisiting the Basics: Elephant

Revisiting the Basics: Elephant Edition

Hey there!

Today’s post is on my favorite Pilates exercise animal, the Elephant.

It's everything, this one.

It's useful.

It's challenging.

It's versatile: do it on 1 leg or morph it into an Arabesque, the Elephant‘s got something special for you.

Elephant 101

Revisiting the Basics: Elephant Edition

In your very first lesson, the Elephant delivers a valuable skill you’ll need to execute complex Pilates exercises.

Exciting, right?

Think about your Reformer workout: your Tendon Stretch, Snake/Twist, Up Stretch, Headstand 1.

Have you ever struggled to close the carriage in these exercises?

I know I have.

An excellent Elephant will save the day!

The Elephant in the Room

There’re many Elephants out there and sometimes it’s hard to know which one will serve you best.

Did you know that a few tiny (and magical) details can transform your Elephant experience?

In the Elephant you don’t get the best view of the exercise. Really all you can do is stare at the carriage underneath you or your stomach or your thighs… what’s going on up there on your back tho?

Never you mind about that for the moment.

All Roads Lead Back to Romana…

In my recent visit to another helpful basic, the Frog, I shared one of my my favorite quotes from Romana Kryzanowska:

Pilates is INTELLIGENCE guided by the WILL using MEMORY and IMAGINATION assisted by INTUITION.

Pro Tip: Use your Imagination to better your Elephant.

Imagination Tip #1:

Feel your heels press deeply into the carriage in front of the shoulder blocks. What if they could venture below the level of the upholstered bed of the Reformer?

Where do those heels originate in your body?

Imagine the long line of the back of you that starts at the shoulder seams of your shirt.

If you love to use your arms and shoulders once you grab that Footbar it can be liberating to invite those shoulders and your upper back down toward your heels.

It might even open your chest.

In might help your elbow joints relax and unlock.

It might make you use your center a bit more.

Bottoms up!

Imagination Tip #2:

Remember later in your Reformer order you’ll be working on the Short Box.

When you sit on the Short Box with the pole overhead, imagine you could lift everything that's on top of that box: your bottom, your low back, your waistline, your arms.

Imagine you are pushing that pole upward by lifting your bottom. You know, that underneath part you sit on…

I know, crazy, right?

Now turn yourself into an Elephant.

Poof!

What if your bottom pushed that Footbar away? What would that feel like?

Give it a try.

It may make you use your stomach better without even trying.

Show me your hands!

I’m always amazed by minor tweaks you can make to a wrist, a little finger, a big toe, the ball of your foot, that radically change an exercise sending more awareness and engagement to your center.

Tiny tensions that steal your powerhouse include:

A locked elbow.

Revisiting the Basics: Elephant Edition

Your apparatus (the Footbar) assists you to connect your hands, arms, and shoulders into the larger muscles of the back. Locking the elbow joint can break this connection to the back muscles and put a strain on the joint(s).

A broken wrist.

Revisiting the Basics: Elephant Edition

Similar to a locked elbow, a broken, leaned-upon wrist breaks your connection to the back and literally weighs heavily on the wrist joint.

A lifted pinky who’s off to have tea or a manicure.

Revisiting the Basics: Elephant Edition

Without the grip of your fingers, a valuable connection is missed and your poor pinky is unable to lead you into your beautiful back muscles.

#therespowerinthatpinky

“Bulldog” wrists.

Revisiting the Basics: Elephant Edition

Similar to your #pinkyprobs above, the inward turning of the hands creates an imbalance front-to-back in the body. The leaning-in thumbs and forefingers allow the shoulders and chest to overwork and compromise the connection of the outer hand (the pinky again!) into the back muscles.

If this is you, see what happens if you try to straighten our your “bulldog” hands to get more work in the grip of the smallest fingers. It might be very exciting. If it is, give it a try when you do the Rowing exercises.

Cool calm, connection…

Grip strength even, and alignment!

Revisiting the Basics: Elephant Edition

#alignmenttrumpsall

My footbar is naked which I prefer to allow for better wrist alignment and work in my stomach, which keeps me “light” on my hands. Thick padding on a footbar and small hands can make this connection difficult to achieve. If your hands sweat a thin sticky pad can help you feel secure with just your stomach and your grip strength.

“Stand back,” said the Elephant, “I'm going to sneeze!”

In your training program maybe you learned a bunch of “rules” about how to do the Elephant.

Rules you heard may have included:

  • Stand on your feet.
  • Lift up your toes.
  • Press your feet into the mat.
  • Your shoulders should be over the footbar.
  • Your back is round.
  • Your back is flat.
  • The Elephant is like Downward Dog.
  • This is Pilates, the Elephant is NOT Downward Dog.

The good news is that at some point in your long and celebrated Pilates career they will all be true.

They’ll all speak to someone’s body (maybe to your own) to better their Elephant.

For example, look at the 2 that are the most troubling:

  • Your back is round.
  • Your back is flat.

The Elephant shape must fit into the greater Pilates system: let this be your test.

Now's when to use your ‘we only have one exercise’ mantra.

The Elephant is your Roll Up stood up on its feet.

Revisiting the Basics: Elephant EditionRevisiting the Basics: Elephant Edition

It's also your horseback.

Revisiting the Basics: Elephant Edition

This is the shape you are after.

Now look at your (imaginary) student:

Are they too flat to be a Roll Up? Then they need to be round(er).

Are they too round somewhere in their back to be a Roll up?
Then they need to flatten somewhere (and probably round somewhere else).

What about your feet – should you lift your toes up off the carriage?

Maybe.

What would happen if you pressed all of your foot into the carriage? What happens in your center then?

Give it a try. These are all noble experiments!

Like this series? Which basic should I revisit next?

Revisiting the Basics: Frog

Frog on the Reformer

Hi there!

I have great affection for all things Frog. I just love it. I talk about it all the time.

It's SO damn useful.

And prolific.

You can't take 2 steps away from the Reformer without tripping over 500+ versions of the Frog all around the Pilates studio.

Am I right?

Take a look at more Frogs here and here.

Frog on the Reformer

I'll bet you first visited the Frog on the Reformer when you were a very new student.

Maybe even in your first lesson.

Wambly wambly Frog with those long-ass straps can be quite the shocker. Later with your strong center you'll whip through your Frog and Circles without thinking about it.

Footwork 2.0

Frog on the Reformer echoes the Footwork series which precedes it.

It's the less-supported sibling of our trusty first Footwork exercise.

Footwork on the Reformer (Divana)

It's taken me years to warm up to Footwork, but I've always loved Frog.

It feels like a plan.

A plan to reach and support the lower body as it travels far away from the center of your body.

It's such a good plan it shows up in many other complex exercises like Teaser on the Cadillac:

Teaser on the Cadillac

Frog presents a challenge in the midst of your favorite upside-down piece of workout candy, Short Spine Massage.

High Frog anyone?

High Frog on the Reformer

Frog's got some love for everyone.

Disappearing Act

If you've completed a classical Pilates training program maybe you've moved from “Intermediate” into the “Advanced” work on the Reformer and your Frog disappeared when you added in the Long Spine Massage.

I hate when that happens.

You owe it to yourself and your commitment to your Pilates Path to visit your Frog(s) regularly even as an “advanced practitioner.”

You can achieve the Frog without being proficient – but I urge you to apply your proficiency to all of your fundamental exercises, including your Frog friend.

So after your Long Spine Massage, visit your Frog and Circles as a ‘be nice to your back' moment before you lose those long straps.

Double Leg Stretch

Meanwhile on the Mat, the Frog is the best part of the Double Leg Pull – aka Double Leg Stretch.

Double Leg Pull on the Mat

In the past I've described Double Leg Pull as ‘wind-relieving.'

Which is true.

But that's not why I'm smiling…

Joe Pilates wasn't concerned with giving you abs of steel; he created a total health system for your body.

If your spine is inflexibly stiff at 30, you are old; if it is completely flexible at 60, you are young.

The strength and suppleness of your back are all over Joe's manifesto, Return to Life through Contrology.

And they're all over his method.

I consider the Double Leg Pull, my favorite example of the 2-way stretch, to be the best back stretch ever created.

A Squat Lying on its Side

As a human, you're always conscious of what happens in the front of the body. You can see it.

Your legs, shoulders, arms, and stomach are in your field of vision and like to run the show.

I often find it helpful to imagine the exercise happening on the back of me. I work to create an opening and elongation of the back instead of the distracting folding-up Frog in front of me.

If you can find an opening in the back and preserve the openness of the hips despite the folded-up-frog choreography there's cause for celebration.

It sounds crazy, doesn't it?

It's the best Frog plan of all!

It feels amazing, although I also find it to be super hard to do.

On the Mat.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Pilates studio, you've been doing it all along:

Leg Springs on the Cadillac

Springs+Repetition+Memory

I love Romana Kyzanowska's definition of how you use your mind in your Pilates workout:

Pilates is INTELLIGENCE guided by the WILL using MEMORY and IMAGINATION assisted by INTUITION.

Memory makes you remember choreography and where your arms and legs go, right?

Yes.

But using springs creates a memory in our muscles as well.

Also damn useful.

Think about the first moments of your Reformer order:

  • FootworkFrog is inherent
  • Hundred – You can use your Frog to reach into the position. No springs here, just a memory of them.
  • Frog + Circles – The springs must be resisted so your legs don't flop back into your chest.
  • Coordination – same Frog action, plus a little extra, and now the memory of the springs will keep the back of the body enlivened without the springs' help. They are good teachers.

Coordination and Double Leg Pull share the same spring memory which liberates your Frog skill and takes it all over the studio and into life.

Yup. It's AH-maze-ing.

Frog goes Vertical

Pumping on the High Chair

But maybe that lying down Frog is not sending you the message…

I find taking the Frog vertical can make a huge difference.

As luck would have it, you've got many options for exploring your Frog straight up.

I love what the Pumping on the High Chair (above) can teach you about your bottom and your back.

Other places you'll experience vertical Frog are in the Stomach Massage Series – the recap of your Footwork exercises in the middle of your Reformer workout.

Stomach Massage Reach on the Reformer

Need a solid Frog ending?

Check out the Skiing exercise on the Wall:

Skiing on the Wall

Crazy Like a Frog

See how many Frogs you can find in your next workout.

Think about it all happening on the back of you and see what you think.

Lemme know how you do in a comment below 🙂

Enjoy this small Frog gift from my YouTube channel

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