“We are what we repeatedly do…”

Joe Pilates Quote

“We are what we repeatedly do.

Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

If you're a new subscriber to the blog – welcome! Thanks for joining me on this wonderful roller coaster of a ride called The Pilates Method.

Foot Department of Corrections

Last week I threw down the gauntlet – to myself as well – to visit the Foot Corrector and the 2×4 every day in the month of February.

“Why do I do this to myself?” wafts through my brain as I struggle to make foot exercises a habit one day at a time.

I almost failed my own challenge on Day 3.

By Day 6 I had an epiphany. I think my stomach actually connected to my feet when I used the 2×4.

I usually do the Foot Corrector exercises first, followed by the 2×4.

On Day 7 I “accidentally” did the 2×4 first. What a difference it made for my connection to my feet! I'm gonna use this order for a while to see if it teaches me further.

How's it going for you? Hit me up in the comments if you're playing along. Go nuts and give yourself a pedicure!

Jay Grimes Strikes Again

Recently I read this blog post by Nathalie Gonthier-Thomas, a teacher at Westwood Pilates in Los Angeles. The owner of the studio, my friend Daniela Escobar, shared the post via Instagram.

I urge you to give it a read.

In a nutshell, the author shares a story of her experience in class with Jay Grimes. As she works a particular exercise, she feels that one body part really wants to take over. When she comments about feeling the exercise in this way she is expecting to be guided by Jay to work more correctly.

To her surprise, Jay turns the tables on her asking “What are you going to do about it?”

I witnessed another version of this comment as well.

Years ago at a Pilates conference produced by the lovely Amy Kellow of Everybody Pilates, one of the workshops included Jay teaching a first-time student.

Jay taught a young, coordinated, reasonably fit woman. She really caught on to how he asked her to work the exercises. He could see she was smart. She soon realized that what Jay was looking for on the various apparatus she visited – Reformer and the Mat – was similar in many ways.

When she got to the High Chair for the Pumping exercise toward the end of the lesson she told Jay that when she pushed the pedal down her back came away from the back of the Chair.

“Well, who's fault is that?” he asked with a smile.

The next time the pedal went down her back stayed against the Chair.

Jay has a way of sending a clear message that only you can create true change in your body. He is merely a guide.

The Virtual Pilates Studio

One of my favorite things about our current era of online teaching is that it helps me curb my people-pleasing ways.

I'm often too happy to help. Or I hover when I don't need to. I have also been known to enable…

Now, with clients in their own space, the ball is literally in their court. I can suggest and guide, but you're truly on your own in your designated Pilates space.

I like how this situation quietly sends the message of ownership.

Jay is right. Unless you know your workout and claim it as your own, there cannot be real change.

The Open Leg Rocker in your Workout

I've got a few super motivated and nerdy clients. Frankly, they're all awesome.

One, in particular, is extremely diligent. Janet practices her Mat exercises daily.

Yes, you read that correctly.

Daily.

This dedication –  this devotion – to Pilates and to her well-being has sky-rocketed her understanding to nerd cult status. You know, no correction too esoteric, no exercise too insurmountable. On the Mat.

Recently, we've been working on perfecting her Open Leg Rocker.

We are just beginning to do the exercise without the assist of foot straps on her feet.

Open Leg Rocker with Strap Assist

In the Pilates studio, you can use the foot straps from the leg springs for this assist. At home, lots of everyday items can serve you: a folded-up towel around each foot or a longer stretching (or stretchy) strap work just as well.

For a while, used regularly (every time you practice), this simple assist can open up the entire back of you.

In Janet's most recent lesson, I suddenly realized she was not using the straps to assist and her hands were nearly all the way at her ankles.

It's steadily getting better over time, over many months.

In addition to the Open Leg Rocker, we've been talking about the lift in the trunk of her body since Day 1.

Open Leg Rocker in your Life

I nearly swooned last week when Janet told me a story about noticing a new skill in her body.

I love when that happens.

We've often bonded over being similarly sized humans.

We're short. About 5'3″ but, you know, sorta…

Post showering, evidently many people hang their towel over the shower curtain rod to dry. I do this too.

Historically Janet could never reach up to the top of the curtain rod to stretch out the towel if it gets a wrinkle in it. Vexing, I agree. How will it dry like that?!

Turns out now she is able to reach up there with no problem.

I know you know all this, but this is why we do the Pilates exercises. To hang up our fricking towels in high places like it's no big woop.

Sure! Open Leg Rocker is a great ice-breaker at parties – and the next party I get to attend I'll be sure to bust one out – but if you can reach and bend to get stuff, that is where the money is folkx.

Rant. Over.

Meanwhile, how's it going with your feet?

Use this video to give your toes some love this Valentine's Day.

The Power of Incremental Change: Open Leg Rocker Edition

Open Leg Rocker 2010: Christmas Edition

Open Leg Rocker 2010

Hey there!

Happy 136th Birthday Joe Pilates! I think of you (mostly fondly) every single day.

Welcome to my new series: The Power of Incremental Change.

As the new year approaches, 'tis the season for Pilates resolutions. What are your workout goals?

Maybe you already know which exercises you'd like to wrangle in 2020?

Will it be a year of the Snake?

What are my 2020 Pilates Goals?

I am just starting to find more lift in my center and bottom and it is exciting. You're always rolling up and down from somewhere, right? It happens in ALL of the exercises.

Gradually my meat and potatoes exercises have expanded into more of my “normal workout.” I pulled myself back from the Headstands and Backbends and Flying Squirrels to get more of my powerhouse in order.

Yes, sometimes you need to use your stomach.

The powerhouse needs shoring up!

In 2020 I want to get back to all of the exercises I have on my Reformer poster.

Yeeesh.

2019 was really the first year I willingly subjected myself to all of my one-sided and side-bending exercises that I have hated hated hated and never would do.

Double yeesh. The ego is delicate…

2020 will be the year of all things Side Kick Series! A scissor is a scissor is a scissor I always say.

And in every Pilates workout, one of them is just an exercise away!

I'll be looking for you to hold me accountable here on the blog: Side Kick Series 2020: You heard it here first.

The Years in Review

Even before I wrote my first blog post in 2012, I had the chance to view a few photos of my Pilates workout. Back in the day, you didn't have a camera/video recorder with you 24/7.

Now you and I can document our workouts more prolifically than even Joe Pilates himself.

Joe Pilates would have loved Instagram!

Back in my performing days – BTW I'm more ‘actor-who-moves-well' than ‘professional dancer' – I would often see photos of myself from dance numbers.

Sometimes what I thought I was doing in my head would match the picture.

Sometimes…

More often what I thought I was doing and the image in the photo was not the same thing at. all.

And wouldn't you know it's the same in my Pilates workout?

In your lessons, if you ever doubt your instructor's eye there's nothing like a video of the Long Stretch Series to help you realize, “Oh…that's what they're talking about…”

You study with teachers whose knowledge and eyes you envy trust.

In your lesson recording, you can literally see what your instructor sees – perhaps for the very first time – and see if you were able to make the correction in your body.

This is vital to your longterm Pilates education.

I thought it'd be fun to check out photos of the same exercise from different years to see (hopefully) steady progress. Use your own photos and social media accounts and play along with me!

This first episode of the series will begin with my favorite Mat exercise, the Open Leg Rocker.

I thought I'd start with a fave and then work up to looking at photos and videos of exercises I hate.

Sound good?

You're always welcome to stampede straight to your nasty exercises…

Open Leg Rocker

I'll start with a few criteria for the exercise:

  1. Open Leg Rocker is a wonderful opening/stretch of the entire back.
  2. You are in the very same position as the Teaser with regard to both the balance point and the back shape which is round.
  3. Your scoop is deep and your arms reach all the way up to hold the ankles.

First up – the Naughty Auties:

2008

Open Leg Rocker on Rocks

What do you see?

I see the shape of my back that is not really round and almost has a wee archy spot – you guessed it – right in the rib/middle back area.

I also see a lack of spaciousness in the hip and thigh area – that leg is all bunched up in there and close to my stomach…

I could also unfurrow my brow, but perhaps it's sunny…

You must start somewhere. Maybe if I weren't perched high up on a rock in this photo my exercise would look a bit different… Maybe not cause check out the OLR from 2010 at the top of the post…

Fast forward:

2015

Open Leg Rocker 2015

Aha! This looks better after just (!) 7 years of the Open Leg Rocker

And all those OTHER Pilates exercises…

#babysteps

What do you see?

I spy a Round(er) shape for sure… still the vestiges of the short middle back/rib area but getting much better.

And look at all that space between my scooped stomach (who could tell in 2008?) and my thighs!

Now to be picky I could look at how my head is plopped onto my body… a bit forward which shortens up the back of my neck as I look up. Keep an eye on this…

Now to drop into the present day:

2019

Open Leg Rocker 2019

What do you see?

I finally see a more rounded and open space in the middle back/rib area! Now the continuous line of the back goes all the way up to the base of the neck.

There is more to be done to continue the length into the neck and head position. Duly noted.

Is that the final frontier in your Pilates practice? Figuring out where your head should sit on top of your body?

I also see even more spaciousness in the scoop of the belly. The upper leg is starting to look more developed on the backside (the bottom) than on the front quadricep side. The bottom has more presence in the exercise.

Oh goody!

My 3 photos from 2008, 2015 and 2019 respectively show that 11 years of Pilates practice have been incrementally perfecting my Open Leg Rocker.

And while it's not perfect, it's is better.

And that's awesome.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

One day at Vintage Pilates we were discussing the usual “clickbait” titles of Pilates videos and online content.

5 Minutes to Sexy Abs!

Long Lean Legs in 10 Minutes a Day!

Have Better Sex with 3 Simple Pilates Moves!

You've seen them.

Maybe you've even believed them.

A longtime client of Jay's – let's call him Adam – deftly weighed in with a zinger. Adam is in his 30s? 40s? and originally came to Jay with a back problem. Today he does an amazing advanced Reformer workout and you'd never suspect he'd had any back problems at all.

His Around-the-World on the Short Box is damn near swoon-worthy…

No one would click on the truth, Jay:

15 years to a Better Back!

Peals of laughter in the Pilates studio.

Roll the tape!

You can harness the power of the technology literally at your fingertips to better your Pilates practice.

At first, it might be tough to watch yourself workout. So much to get over even before you can look at the exercises. Maybe you're not happy with your shape, your hair, or even you in general.

I feel you.

In 2008 I was a brunette. In 2019 I'm nearly an arctic blonde. Persevere. A lot of living goes on in 11 years.

But it's all okay. You're always you to everyone you know and hold dear. In 20 years you'll take a look back and be amazed at how cute you were all along!

And there's power in reviewing photos and videos of your own workouts. And self-love.

And learning for God's sake! You'll use your teacher's eye to better your own. I love a good scroll on IG to work on my skill of looking at the body. Maybe you do too?

There's always lots to see.

I eagerly await the email from my online lesson to review the recording. Grab a cup of coffee or if necessary, a glass of wine. Do what you need to do. What I hear from my teacher during my lessons has to get filtered through my concentration so I welcome the opportunity to hear it all again when I review the recording. I listen much better.

Try it out for yourself.

If you're not taking online lessons currently and you're curious, use this link to book in and give it a go.

You'll get a great workout plus a recording of your lesson. It's a whole extra hour of Pilates education!

Win – Win!

What exercises will you visit from your Pilates past?

What are your 2020 Pilates Goals?

I'd love to know.

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.

Love, Hearts and the Pilates Method

Love, Hearts and the Pilates Method

The original version of today's post was my very first blog post ever on Pilatesology, so I thought today I would shine it up a little and share some love, circulation and Pilates on this, our sweetest of all days.

February

  • Valentine's Day
  • Hearts!
  • Chocolates
  • The Hundred

Ah but I digress…

Pilates does wonderful things for your heart muscle.

There are also many individuals who express an extreme devotion and LOVE for the Pilates Method… including moi of course!

Love, Hearts and the Pilates Method

The heart is equated with:

COURAGE “You gotta have heart!”

ENTHUSIASM “Put your whole heart into it.”

A STRONG WILL

A SPIRIT TO SUCCEED

All of these are helpful in approaching your Pilates workout.

Deep in the heart of your Pilates workout:

See? Another one… the vital part or essence of something…

The Hundred

Love, Hearts and the Pilates Method

Whaaa?

Perhaps one of our most “memorable” Pilates exercises is the Hundred (100).

On of the first exercises one learns as a Pilates student, the Hundred is ever-present, lengthy and challenging to do well.

The Hundred uses vigorous pumping of the arms from your strong center and deep, full breathing to warm up the body. You'll get the blood circulating (heart!) and squeeze all the stale toxic air out of the lungs.

Bodily House Keeping with Blood Circulation

or What's not to love about quality house keeping?

Love, Hearts and the Pilates Method

I like to refer to my workouts as an ‘internal shower' followed by an external one:

This is the equivalent of an ‘internal shower.' Your blood will flow with renewed vigor as the direct result of your faithfully performing the Contrology [Pilates] exercises.

Translation: Just do it and trust the exercises are working. Remember that Rome was not built in a day…

These exercises induce the heart to pump strong and steadily.

You are moving and hopefully sweating. Remember it is a workout!

As a result, the bloodstream carries and discharges from your system more of the accumulated debris created by fatigue. [Pilates] exercises drive pure, fresh blood to every muscle fiber of our bodies, particularly to the very important capillaries which ordinarily are rarely ever fully stimulated once we reach adulthood.

Capillaries fully stimulated… check!

As a heavy rainstorm freshens the water of a sluggish or stagnant stream and whips it into immediate action, [Pilates] exercises purify the bloodstream and whip it into instant action.

Feelin' like a stagnant stream? Then let's see some action! Move, move, MOVE…

The result is that the organs of the body, including the important sweat glands, receive the benefit of clean fresh blood carried to them by this rejuvenated bloodstream.

This is like porn for vampires…

In addition…note that all the exercises are performed in a sitting or reclining position. This is done to relieve your heart from undue strain as well as to take advantage of the more normal, original position of the visceral organs of your body when in such positions.

Pilates is NOT a heartbreaker. 🙂

All quotes can be found in Joe Pilates' book Return to Life Through Contrology.

Contrology is Joe's original name for his method.

BONUS!! Check out this NYT article for a play-by-play at the cellular level! 

BONUS #2!!  more deets on our heart-friendly Hundred from one of my Pilates besties, Benjamin Degenhardt.

And here's where to find me in 2018.

Get a Fantastic Workout on your Busiest Day

Get a Fantastic Workout on your Busiest Day

I dearly love my Pilates workout. Last week I was on a family vacation and I got in an invigorating Pilates Mat workout each morning in the lovely hotel fitness center.

I've got ample time for my Pilates workout when I am away from my studio. Sure I miss the Reformer, but daily Pilates is luxurious.

How can I aspire to a daily workout at the top of a busy workday? This is my conundrum.

“I can't do anything in less than an hour!”

Yes. I can. And you can too.

My beef for years was how to get in the full-on hour workout – a big Reformer workout – during a super-packed busy day. My morale runs high in the morning, dips around lunch time and at the end of my day I've really got my sights on dinner and not the Hundred.

Boo…

My Go-To Pilates Workout for Busy Days

Today I'd like to share with you my new plan to workout little by little throughout your day.

And you'll still feel fabulous!

At the end of my day I'm also more inclined to want closure for the workout I started earlier. Usually it feels too daunting to begin my workout at 7pm.

And I'm hungry.

3 Cheers for the Small Apparatus!

In today's video I share the apparatus and exercises I use daily. I will change up the major apparatus, whether I'll be doing Mat, Reformer, Cadillac or Chair. But the small apparatus ritual at the top of my workout remains the same.

For now.

If I've got more time I will do all of my small apparatus exercises, and if I am running late in my morning it only takes about 5 minutes to do a pared down version.

A couple scenarios…

No time to workout? There's an exercise for that.

Busy Day #1

6:55am

Small Barrel: Arm Series (Circles, Up/Down, Hug, Breathing) and Leg Series (Circles, Walks, Beats, Scissors, Bicycle, Hip Twist).

You'll finish in about 4 minutes.

1:30pm

Foot Corrector: all the exercises included in the video

Mat: Hundred, Roll Up, Roll Over, One Leg Circle, Roll Like a Ball, Single Leg Pull, Double Leg Pull, Scissors, Lower Lift, Criss Cross, Spine Stretch, Open Leg Rocker, CorkScrew, Saw, Swan, Single Leg Kick, Double Leg Kick, Thigh Stretch, Neck Pull

In about 20 minutes you've done all your Foot Corrector and jumpstarted your Mat exercises.

7pm

Mat: High Scissors, High Bicycle, Shoulder Bridge, Spine Twist, JackKnife, Side Kick Series, Teaser, Seal

Yes, you could finish up all your Mat exercises at this point at the end of the day, but dinner is often a real concern…

Or maybe you'll workout on the Reformer:

Busy Day #2

7:30am

Foot Corrector – all the exercises included in the video

Small Barrel: Arm Series (Circles, Up/Down, Hug, Breathing) and Leg Series (Circles, Walks, Beats, Scissors, Bicycle, Hip Twist).

Reformer: Footwork, Hundred, Overhead, Coordination

In just 15 minutes you've visited 2 small apparatus. You've also gotten the ball rolling with your Reformer.

1:30pm

Reformer: Long Box (Pull Straps, T, Backstroke, Teaser), Long Stretch, Down Stretch, Up Stretch, Elephant, Long Back Stretch, Stomach Massage Series

In about 20 minutes post-lunch you can complete Long Box 1 Series, Long Stretch Series and the Stomach Massage Series. Maybe you can get it done in 15?

Not too shabby.

6pm

Reformer: Short Box Series, Short Spine Massage, SemiCircle, Knee Stretch Series, Running, Pelvic Lift, Side Splits, Front Splits

Mat: Roll Like a Ball, Open Leg Rocker, Seal

At the end of the day you'll finish off the major exercises in what you may know as an Intermediate Reformer workout followed by an invigorating rolling ending.

Well done!

Give it a try and see how you do. Share your tips and successes in a comment below 🙂

I hope you'll enjoy this workout as much as I do.

Thanks for watching! 

Oh and about this video…

My body generally avoids the Shoulder Bridge on the Small Barrel. It's always my intent to include this exercise after the Bicycle but alas, as I edit this post I realize my body has gotten the best of me AGAIN and I “forgot” to include Shoulder Bridge in the video.

Bad Pilates Teacher!

You should still do it (and so should I).

Let's help each other…

Classes, Private Lessons and Much Much MORE!

October 5-8, 2017 I'll be in Portsmouth UK at Everybody Pilates. Private lessons are filling up! Reserve your spot by using the link below:

Everybody Pilates Mind Body Online

I look forward to seeing you there.

And here's where to find me this Fall.

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