Welcome to March MATness 2021!

Swimming on the MatWelcome to March MATness 2021!

If you're a new subscriber, thanks so much for reading and for joining us on the endless journey that is the Pilates Method.

Thank you March MATness 2020

Pilates Corkscrew exerciseThis month brings the one-year anniversary of the pandemic and COVID-19. Just one year ago we all got intimately acquainted with our homes when the world went on lockdown.

Last year, inspired by my colleagues, I decided to do a full Mat workout every single day of the month. So I dusted off my exercises like no big deal. Each day, for the month of March, I'll do my Mat exercises. Great.

Enter March 13 and 60+ hours of flying back to the US: event canceled, trip aborted and country about to close. That being said, Kuwait is a fantastic place to have lunch. Highly recommend.

Although I didn't do any exercises on the plane, I wouldn't realize how precious 34 Mat exercises could be until I returned to them on March 14.

And every other day in March.

I closed my studio to in-person instruction, taught the few online clients I already had, and threw myself at the Mat. Anything to stem the tide of anxiety ready to wash me away.

Those Mat exercises, for 30 minutes a day, were a gift.

A thoughtful respite to my day…

30 minutes of inward focus to return me to life.

A new kind of life, where I now more than ever desperately needed the Pilates Method.

Though this be MATness, yet there is method in't

I'm not alone in having had copious amounts of time to devote to my workout. My work schedule nearly cut in half gave me lots of time to visit my apparatus, who now stared at me blankly wondering why they'd gathered dust.

I remembered all over again why I love this Pilates stuff in the first place. I remembered why I love teaching this method and sharing tools that make our bodies feel so good.

‘Invincible' is the word that comes most easily to mind.

Let's add ‘resilient' and ‘powerful' to the mix.

Man, did I need it.

Today is Day 2 of the MATness: The Roll Up

The Roll Up on the MatIf you're reading this on the day it publishes, March 2, 2021, welcome to Roll Up day!

It's a favorite of mine but it sure didn't start out that way.

I've written many blog posts over the years to help me.

I hope they help you too.

What's New for the Roll Up in 2021?

As the month of March sprawls out in from of me, there's serious Roll Up practice time ahead.

I've been looking at our old friend the Roll Up with new eyes. In the big picture, the Roll Up presents you with the opportunity to better your skills of bending forward.

The Roll Up reminds you the lower body does not begin at your hips and legs. It requires an integration of all of the back of you, committing to the standing body ever more deeply as we lift ourselves up and over in opposition.

Work your Hundred well, friend, and you shall be rewarded.

Thinking of the body in pieces and parts can distract you here. The Roll Up takes teamwork.

To the humble Push Down on the Wunda Chair I go.

Foot Corrector February Follow-Up

Pilates Foot CorrectorIf you joined me last month for daily foot exercises I hope you had a revealing month with the Foot Corrector and 2×4.

It's fascinating what change you can foster in 28 days.

Although I did notice more proficiencies in my foot exercises, they really paid off when I visited the Reformer and the Mat.

In about 10 days, I could connect my center (think upper stomach center of gravity) to the balls of my feet and lift up out of my hips and legs. This is a big skill I need.

It took all month long to do the Tendon Stretch one side at a time without falling over or swaying in the wind all over the place. I didn't try it in the combo yet. That calls for stellar balance and I have merely “balance” at the moment.

Keeping lift on one side at a time was a skill I thought I had, but evidently not so much…

What happened in my Reformer workout?

Stomach Massage on the ReformerBasically SO much happened – was alive – than before Foot Corrector February.

Some notable specifics:

  • Everything was better. Thank you, Jay Grimes.
  • I could literally stand on my feet in all those exercises where your feet fly around in the breeze.
  • I was a master of Running. It was that good. It felt amazing. Don’t take that little guy for granted.
  • OMG Swan on the Box: much less awkward! I could float up off that box.
  • I played with a bunch of crazy stuff in the Horseback (since my foot exercises have made me superhuman). This one's not always in my wheelhouse…
  • I was hoping something magical would happen to my Breaststroke but alas, still meh…
  • All the actual standing stuff – Long Stretch Series, Stomach Massage – felt better, still challenging but better.
  • I noticed where my feet still haven’t found proper purchase on the footbar – Semicircle, Control Push-Ups, Headstands
  • The left side of my Front Split needs some work tho – oh that left leg! It wants to conquer the world!
  • The moment of rising up to the ball of the foot in Control Balance Stepping Off. Hey, I’ve been here before! Look what I can do…

I need to do these exercises every day for forever (that old chestnut).

They make me so strong.

Enjoy the MATness

Roll Like a Ball on the MatI encourage you to visit as many of Joe Pilates' Mat exercises as you are able.

For lots of free learning, I recommend doing them every day. It doesn't take long. All of the exercises in Return to Life only will take you only 25 minutes if you keep your transitions snappy.

Use this video blast from the past to get you started.

New MATness Merch!

Women's white T-shirt with imageFor March MATness 2015 I created whimsical images, especially for my least favorite exercises.

At that time, one of my most feared/hated exercises was Swimming.

Kill me now, was all that came to mind.

Hence the featured image for this post.

Fast Forward to 2021 and although I dare not say it's a favorite. I have a new appreciation for it. It's diagonal stretching feels so good in my body.

Enter the Tiny Shark Shirt do do do do do. Check it out.

I made one for myself and I love it so much I want to share it with you all. It's available in a white and black women's crop tee and unisex sizing.

This image makes me laugh and reminds me that “these things take time” (thank you Jay) and that even the most horrible exercise can improve over time.

Thanks so much for reading!

Have a great workout. You know you want to.

The Self-Guided Group Class: It’s a Movement!

Self Guided Online Group Pilates Class

Hello there and welcome to another awesome week on the Pilates Path!

Thanks for reading and sharing your time with me today.

Foot Corrector February

It's nearly the end of February and the finish line of my 28-Day Foot Corrector Challenge is within sight.

If this challenge is news to you and your feet are crying out for some love, get all the deets in this post. This challenge in tandem with MarchMATness would be a boon to your Pilates Mat exercises.

Another bonus: You'll have 31 Days!

More about the unexpected treasures found in daily foot exercises comin' atcha in just 6 days!

The Self Guided Group Class

Illustration of Pilates Teacher and Laptop

Do you know I offer online group classes?

It's true.

My home studio is fully virtual and I've created the Zoom equivalent of Joe Pilates' gym: students working out, sweating, and having fun all together in the same room.

Remember that?

I love witnessing a new a-Ha! moment, a glimmer of new understanding, or a funny Pilates anecdote. I'll take all the humanity I can get right now.

All of my classes are self-guided.

Yes, you read that correctly.

You'll do your own workout on whatever pieces of Pilates apparatus you have on hand.

If you've got a whole studio to use, that's fantastic!

If you're an enthusiast or at home with only a Mat, that's perfect as well.

You'll work out at your own pace, doing exercises appropriate for you with the supervision of an instructor.

Me!

As you move through your workout, I'll offer suggestions, a correction or two, and perhaps a round of polite golf applause for a job well done.

If you're working on learning the order of your exercises on the Mat or Reformer, keep your list of exercises nearby while you build your program.

In the virtual world, you're literally on your own. You must take ownership of your workout and therefore of your health and well-being.

All that being said, if you're used to a group class with a teacher telling you what to do from start to finish, you may feel unsure of how to proceed. Or even wonder why you might want to…

No worries, I'm happy to help.

Autonomy in your Pilates Workout: Practice what you Teach

The Private Lesson and Instructor-Led Group Class models are modern inventions.

They're not bad models by any means.

But they lack a key ingredient to harnessing the full power of the Pilates Method: the voyage of discovery.

No journey on the Pilates path is complete without this vital component.

Joe's Original 8th Avenue Studio

The Pilates System: What's the Best Workout for You?

All accounts of life in Joe Pilates studio describe it as a gym: everyone working out – moving – together in the studio on one or more pieces of apparatus.

From Caged Lion: Joseph Pilates and His Legacy by John Steel:

Eventually I got the message it was necessary to be able to do the routine by yourself. While that may seem difficult, it really isn't. The routine teaches itself to you.

This is not a speedy process.

The Pilates method takes devotion. It's literally a practice.

Self-practice outside of the studio setting increases your proficiency.

YouTube videos have their place as well.

But the benefits of nurturing your workout under the watchful eyes of a teacher are unparalleled.

My ability to do the exercise routine slowly but continuously improved from session to session. I was getting stronger, I was moving better, and my posture was improving.

I was enjoying the feeling of well being.

I had only to show up at the gym, get down on the Reformer, and clear my mind so I could direct every bit of my attention to moving the right part of my body in the right way at the right time using the right muscles.

True progress is made over time.

You're developing skills in your body as you would learn any sport or physical discipline, by repeating the same exercises many, many times.

Your body and mind are learning together.

Joe was trying to help you learn and acquire exercise, his particular exercise routine, as a habit to improve your life…

You were there to learn, not to work out.

An Experience is Worth 1000 Words

You Can't Teach Pilates Quote

Ideally, teacher and student work together as a team.

And without true ownership of your Pilates workout, there cannot be real change. As you learn your exercises and become more independent, the exercises and the apparatus become your teachers as well.

They're often better teachers because they give you an experience.

The experience may lead you to discover a skill or a moment that I've been telling you about for years.

Talking is easy to tune out. And talking isn't teaching.

An experience, however, you'll remember. You'll feel special.

Like you've got a secret (weapon) no one else knows about.

One that's well worth the price of admission.

Ultimately, it's not about me, the teacher.

It's about you.

Who knows you better than you?

How to Do your Own Workout

Pilates Teacher Gives Thumbs Up for Job Well Done!

Wanna get started?

Use this link to book into one of my self-guided, supervised classes and join me!

But wait…

There's more!

The Pilates System is Alive and Well and Living All Around the World

It's not just me.

It's a movement.

Continue your journey on the Pilates Path with a trusted guide.

Self-Guided Online Classes Worldwide

Depending on location, some self-guided classes may be in-person as well as online. Contact the studios for more information on their specific protocols.

“If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire the A-Team.”

“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.

Revisiting my Pilates Past

Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting and shoes

Do you ever wish you could travel back in time to visit your former Pilates self?

What was it like to learn your Pilates exercises for the first time? What were your struggles back in the day?

It's easy to get out of touch with what it's like to be a new student. However, I find with regular workouts, you can strengthen your empathy and get a good dose of Pilates karma.

(Who else gets busted in your own lessons for stuff you tell people all day long?)

Your clients imagine you're a Pilates superhero: you can do ALL the exercises, ALL the time, perfectly and without breaking a sweat.

I won't tell if you won't…

A Blast from the Past

I took my first Pilates mat class in the fall of 2000. My local studio was Excel Pilates. Anyone in the Washington, DC area, please check them out! They are an amazing group of women who will kick your butt and empower your soul in just under an hour.

#truepilatesrockstars

In mid-2001, I was browsing through my local bookstore (remember those?) and came across a little book from Mari Winsor, The Pilates Workout Journal: An Exercise Diary And Conditioning Guide.

Although I documented my lessons and classes for only a brief shining moment, my notes reveal early insights that make me smile.

My observations range from the obvious –

 

The Teaser: position and strength continue to challenge.

 

–  to the ridiculous –

 

I'm really starting to love the Swan Dive. 

 

Awww…how sweet. Who knew I ever loved that thing?

In a recent post, I shared my #1 Pilates mantra: Learn. To do. The Roll Up.

In my first Pilates classes, I could not Roll Up without my legs flying up in the air and heaving myself forward. The Roll Up is an exercise I dearly love now and thanks to my former Pilates self I had a good plan in place –

 

I just need to do the Roll Up all the time. Any spare moment… just relentlessly practicing it.

 

Repetition anyone?

OMG – Love for exercises I don't like??

Excel Pilates' brand image is an illustration of the Sidebend exercise:

I thought it was a just cool abstract drawing…

Then one day it showed up as an exercise in my Mat class.

Clearly I felt empowered to achieve the exercise that inspired their logo –

 

We learned Sidebend: this is a beautiful and fabulous exercise! It felt great to finally do the Excel logo pose.

 

– albeit my cringe-worthy use of the word ‘pose' for a Pilates exercise.

#rookiemistake

And I'm gonna bet Swimming inspired this comment –

 

Still a bit flaily… but getting better.

 

My early notes also reveal compelling evidence of the Pilates Method as the skill-based movement discipline it is.

The value of the exercises in your very first lesson continues to deliver. And even early on I realize what all this strap and springs business is really about:

 

I need to imagine the resistance of the straps and mentally use this image. This is very powerful to correctly do the exercises.

 

What luck! There's even a blog post on this exact topic many years later.

And perhaps the most heart-warming of all comments I didn't anticipate at all:

I really like all the people I have met doing Pilates.

Awww… I couldn't have said it better myself!

Thanks so much for hanging out with me this week!

What gems from your Pilates past do you remember?

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.

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