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Pilates and the Moments In-Between: Transitions on the Reformer

Into the Short Spine Massage on the Reformer

Hey there!

It's a beautiful Valentine's Day here in San Diego! I hope you had an amazing weekend in your part of the world.

Thanks for taking the time to join me for another day on the Pilates Path.

Department of Foot Corrections Recap

Ball of the Foot on Foot Corrector

Two weeks ago I proposed a challenge I fully expected to fail.

Good news! I'm halfway through this monthly challenge, I've managed to do my exercises at some point every day and I've nearly got a brand new pair of feet.

Well, they look the same but they're definitely more talented!

I thank you for playing along.

TBH there were a couple of nights I was lying abed about to fall asleep and I bolted upright, realizing I'd neglected to do my exercises. Yikes!

Good save.

Day 9 connected my stomach to my feet for perhaps the very first time. I kinda get stuck gripping in the hips and buttocks. By Day 10 I lifted out of that stuck place and my back tells me I'm on the right track.

Thanks, Foot Corrector!

And on Day 11, I placed a whole new pair of feet onto the footbar to start my Reformer workout.

Wow. I did not expect that.

Or did I?

All the little balls were lined up like they knew exactly where to go.

And we're only halfway through the month.

Imagine if I were to adopt this habit daily. Or for the foreseeable future…

Thank you, thank you, powerful Pilates method.

How is it going for your feet? Drop me a comment below and share your progress. Feet are exciting!

Transitions on the Reformer

Out of Swan into Pull Straps on the Reformer

Adding transitional moments to your Reformer workout is not easy to do. This requires mental and physical control.

You must first be proficient in the 2 exercises you are connecting.

Next, you must know where you're going and get there.

The above transition out of Swan on the Long Box and into Pulling Straps/T-Straps removes one spring and adds a moment of counter stretch. Win win!

Also in life, it's the moments of transition that potentially pose a true challenge.

These in-between moments steal your focus from the tasks at hand.

You're thinking about where you've come from or where you'll be moments from now. It's hard to stay in the moment, in these often awkward moments of transitioning from one space to another.

Enter the Pilates Method

Arches into Heels on the Reformer

Transitions are a brilliant feature of the Pilates System. Early on in my Pilates practice, I enjoyed the specificity of the instruction of how I was to move from one exercise to the next.

You know me, I love a good plan.

Although mainly taught on the Reformer, transitions add an extra layer of proficiency to every piece of Pilates apparatus.

What's the point?

Backstroke into Teaser on the Reformer

The iconic Reformer transitions (think Backstroke into Teaser) can be more difficult than the exercises they connect. You can advance your workout without needing to add any new exercises. Woo hoo!

Benefits of connecting the exercises together into one continuous chain of movement include:

  • new challenges to coordination and balance
  • increased stamina and endurance because you're not stopping
  • increased brain function to think faster and anticipate the next exercise in the order
  • Pilates skill infiltrating into pedestrian elements of the workout (reaching for springs, picking up the box, etc…)
  • time available to eventually add more exercises!

Is the goal of transitions to do fancy spring changes while you balance on top of the box?

Not quite.

As you move through your exercises, it's easy to anticipate the end, drop your energy and connection to your body, only to have to scrape it all up off the floor again to rally for the next exercise.

Who wants to do that? That not only sounds hard to do but is also inefficient.

All your precious connections into your center, graciously given to you from your Reformer will stay intact and ready to serve you when you've achieved an efficient transition.

Transitions ultimately can:

  • efficiently take you from one exercise to the next without unnecessary movements
  • feed your progress into the next exercise rather than hamper it
  • please you as you utilize a hard-won skill
  • challenge your focus and concentration
  • surprise and delight you with new capabilities: look what I can do!

My Favorite Transitions

Out of the Hundred and into Overhead on the Reformer

There are several categories of Transitions in your workout.

My favorites are what I like to call ‘personal transitions.' They are not prescribed and often reinforce skills that you've achieved over time. It's a moment of proficiency in your workout – a new skill that now takes you from one exercise to the next.

Examples include:

  • rolling up into a Teaser without using your hands after the Hundred to drop 2 springs for the Overhead
  • placing each foot exactly where it goes (without fidgeting!) when mounting the Reformer for Side Splits
  • stepping up for the Tendon Stretch exactly on the edge of the carriage without sitting on the footbar
  • any precision challenge you give yourself as you arrive at the beginning or end of an exercise

I've been enjoying personal transitions on the Foot Corrector as well. Placing my left foot on top of the Foot Corrector is a challenge to my balance. It's amazing how much that foot is disconnected from the rest of me – meaning my stomach. Losing my balance brought my awareness to this lack of center.

Now I know that I am not in control of this transition. Look! A “new exercise!”

Control and precision can be your friend for life.

Transitions on the Reformer: An Online Workshop

Into the Rowing Series on the Reformer

It's a pleasure to teach my February workshop dissecting the Complex Reformer exercises. Next month my online workshop will tackle all those elusive moments-in-between. On the Reformer and elsewhere, time permitting.

Transitions. The moments in-between. This is where the stuff of life happens!

Picking up a bag of groceries. Reaching behind you. Getting in and out of the car.

Transitions are a part of everyday life. And that's when you really need your Pilates workout.

For the unexpected.

In a total of 8 workshop hours, you'll examine getting in and out of all your standard Reformer exercises. You'll set yourself up for success!

Transitions on the Reformer will meet 4 Thursdays in March: March 4, 11, 18, and 25, 2021.

Class time will be 9am – 11am PST

There will be homework!

Maximum 10 participants.

Prerequisites for this workshop include:

  1. A Reformer, classical apparatus preferred
  2. Pilates experience

Space is limited. Reserve your spot today.

More Transitions! Transitions!

Into the Backstroke on the Reformer

A few years ago I created a series of posts and videos all about these beloved in-between moments.

Check them out on the blog:

Or watch the playlist on my YouTube channel.

Until next week: Stay efficient, my friends!

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

The 7th Principle of Pilates: MOVE!

Jumping on the Stomach on the Ladder BarrelThis week's post is an oldie but its topic has even more resonance today than when it appeared on pilatesology.com in 2012. Read Pilatesology's original post even if you're not a member. Wanna join? Use my code Andrea30 and extend their free trial to 30 days.

My Pilates Confession for this week…

Remember your least favorite Pilates exercises we used for our little Repetition test?

Are you bored or are you better?

My few Ladder Barrel exercises have added a 4th friend: The Standing Stretches – also known to Romana's Pilates peeps as the Ballet Stretches.

And I am proud to admit I'm a bit better at them… and what about my 3 other exercises?

I'm sure I am a bit better…but it's too early to tell for sure… more repetition for me!

How did you do?

What are the ‘Principles of Pilates'?

Most all Pilates training programs – mine included – spend the first hour of the first training weekend imparting some basic information about Joe Pilates and his method.

On my first page of notes: Pilates is… (in 3 words) Stretch with Strength and Control.

Okay, cool.

Next my notes tell me what most if not all Pilates instructors also learn very early on:

The 6 Principles of Pilates:

Concentration

Control

Centering

Precision

Flowing movement

Breathing

True, these 6 principles do accurately describe what differentiates Pilates from other forms of exercise.

They do not, however, come from Joe Pilates.

Whaaaaaaaht???

It's true.

Jay weighs in…

Jay Grimes points out that Joe Pilates did not come down from the mountain one day with stone tablets proclaiming the 6 Principles of Pilates.

I always laugh when he says this because I think of Mel Brooks as Moses in History of the World Part 1. Moses comes down from the mountain to announce his 15 Commandments, accidentally drops one stone tablet and quickly changes the number to “…10…! 10 Commandments!”

But Joe Pilates would have had the stone tablets, the tiny white shorts, and a cigar I think, yes?

I know, getting a little off-topic.

So if not from Joe, from whom do we get these 6 lovely principles?

Enter Romana…

The 6 Principles first appeared in The Pilates Method of Physical and Mental Conditioning by Philip Friedman and Gail Eisen, two students of Romana Kryzanowska.

Originally published in 1980 (more than a decade after Joe Pilates died, yo.).  It “was the first book of its kind – bringing Pilates out of the elite studios and into the lives of millions of Americans.”

The Pilates Method of Physical and Mental Conditioning

Jogging and running had exploded in the late 1970s. By 1980 a fitness craze was sweeping the country and an obsession with health, beauty, and youthfulness was having profound effects on American culture.

Students Gail and Philip met with Romana seeking specific ways to differentiate the Pilates Method from other forms of exercise.

What made Pilates special?

Certainly, the 6 principles they created are inherent in the Pilates system.

But another more important principle is missing.

Let’s call it the 7th Principle of Pilates: Move!

Who knows, maybe if Joe dropped his stone tablet other precious gems were lost as well:

“Thou Shalt Not Bang the Carriage.”

“Quiet the Clips.”

“What you don’t like, you do twice.”

Try it for yourself.

Let's follow the 7th Principle of Pilates. Move!

All those other 6 principles will happen automatically when you commit to simply move.

Concentration: You'll remember the exercises and focus on what you are doing. As you continue to move you'll have to think faster from one exercise to the next. Moving requires engagement.

Control: You'll move in a safe and effective fashion. The continual movement will challenge your control.

Centering: You’ll be toast without your stomach.

Precision: You'll maintain your form. The continual movement will challenge your precision.

Breathing: You'll most certainly have to breathe… The movement will require you to breathe more deeply and fully. I love it when this happens!

Flowing movement: OMG yes! You are moving!

All this involves TRUST of course.

Trust yourself AND the Work

Trust in Joe's work.

Trust that it is getting the job done without you micromanaging and getting all up in its grill.

Trust to let the body lead you without your mind working overtime, or over-indulging in the breathing.

Perhaps…you know who you are…

Trust.

Let go.

Let go and Let Joe…awww… #pilatespunsarethebest

What's your experience when you commit to move in your workout?

I'd love to know. Share your successes in a comment below.

Revisiting the Basics: Footwork on the Reformer

Revisiting the Basics: Footwork on the Reformer

About last week…

In last week's post, I challenged you to visit a few of your nastiest exercises. Did you get bored with them? Or did you get better at them? How did it go?

I'd love to know.

TBH, I decided on my 3 exercises quickly but only managed to visit them a few times… sign me up for another week.

So far I am neither bored nor better.

My 3 exercises to continue to wrangle:

Ladder Barrel exercisesLadder Barrel exercisesLadder Barrel exercises

Side Sit Ups, Side Stretch, and the Backbend.

Clearly I need to hear Joe Pilates' words again:

“Practice your exercises diligently with the fixed and unalterable determination that you will permit nothing else to sway you in keeping faith with yourself.

So I'll keep the faith at full speed for another week at least. How'd you do with your exercises?

Meanwhile…

Jump into a new series with me this week!

Nearly 2 decades into this amazing method, I'm finally (mostly) ready to tackle the-most-basic of all basics: Footwork on the Reformer.

Let's. Go.

Footwork at a Glance

In the traditional Pilates system 4 exercises begin our Reformer workout:

  1. Toes – the official name, but dare I say, Balls
  2. Arches
  3. Heels
  4. Tendon Stretch

For the record, I've never been a fan.

Kerry DeVivo of Excel Pilates Annapolis, one of my first teachers, used Footwork as her go-to workout on busy days. Not all the exercises on the Reformer, there was no time. 

JUST the Footwork.

She loved it.

Ugh.

Why subject yourself to such torture?

Even my most horrible Mat exercises would be more fun than Footwork on the Reformer all by itself.

#FootworkProbs

At first, I found the Footwork exercises to be frustrating. So much focus on the minutiae of my misbehaving foot, arch and ankle was such a drag. Not to mention I had the quads of 10 men… *sigh*

Can't we just move on to the Hundred and all the fun stuff?

What's really going on here?

I need an attitude adjustment…

Let's Zoom Out

Jay Grimes and Vintage Pilates (and time) have liberated my Footwork series.

I'm more than just a pretty pair of feet…

Joe Pilates was often asked, “What is this exercise for?”

“The BODY.”

Good answer! Thanks, Joe.

Footwork is your first big warmup of the lower body.

Footwork on the Reformer

The Hundred continues this theme of warming up, now for the upper body.

100 on the Reformer

What a pair!

#fullbodyworkout

Mobilizing and lengthening the back is more vital than perfect legs, feet, and ankles – at the moment. 

These things take time.

Most importantly MOVING through this series plucks you out of your busy mind and into laser focus: controlling your body. You may even sort yourself out on your way to the Tendon Stretch.

Joe Pilates has your back on this one.

Literally.

Can you be long, tall and straight like the Reformer behind you? Nope, but it's the trying that counts.

The Footwork series is a great place to take full advantage of your most supportive friend, your partner in crime, the Reformer.

Ready? Set? Footwork!

A whole Pilates studio of apparatus lies in wait to exploit your Footwork skills. Surely all of our 500+ exercises in the Pilates Method will benefit.

Footwork on the Reformer is the very first skill to haunt you (perhaps even taunt you) on every apparatus you visit.

Footwork on the Reformer

It's your very first squat!

Joe Pilates takes it easy on you at first. You are horizontal, fully supported by the apparatus and free from pesky gravity.

Check out these Pilates morsels! See if you can find their inner Footwork

Frog on the Reformer

Frog, in many iterations and on multiple apparatuses, is the ultimate Footwork clone.

Pumping on the High Chair

Pumping on the High Chair puts our Footwork (and our Frog) upright. I find changing the relationship to gravity can be a huge help in honing our Footwork skills.

Centering on the Ped-o-Pull

Focusing on your inner Footwork can make even grueling exercises on the Ped-o-Pul possible. In the photo, I am using a bit of Footwork to help with my Centering exercise.

Wow! The scope of the Footwork exercises makes it a whole lot more fun.

Now for something completely different (NOT)

Our Footwork series also provides a strong foundation in formidable exercises:

Greg Swan on Barrel

Swan done on the Ladder Barrel puts the strength of your Footwork to the test.

Headstand 2 on the Reformer

OMG it's a moment of Tendon Stretch from our Footwork series smack dab in the middle of the Headstand! An old familiar friend despite the challenging position…

Tower on the Cadillac

And you can clearly see some Footwork skills in my personal nemesis, Tower on the Cadillac. Thanks, Joe Pilates, someday I will learn!

Lights! Camera! Footwork?!

Joe Pilates starts you off right away with the fundamental skill of the Footwork series.

Visit your Footwork and all your fundamental Reformer exercises in these videos:

Use the first one for a detailed deliberate pace and the one below for the same group of exercises done at a brisk pace:

Need help finding your bottom and actually using it in your Footwork series?

Check out this video as well:

Have an amazing Pilates week. You got this.

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