A Pilates Field Trip: Revisiting the Basics

A Pilates Field Trip: Revisiting the Basics

You know me – I am a big fan of my Pilates workout. I never want to skip any of my exercises – if you skip them they don't get better right?

I love all the fun advanced tricky moves – they jazz me up!

However, my understanding and my Pilates practice have matured.

So let's take a little Pilates Field Trip back to where it all began.

The Basic System!

Great power resides in the fundamental exercises you've been doing for years decades. 

I've documented my progress in my Another One Bites the Dust series here and here.

The Another One Bites the Dust series takes a look at a few exercises I hated at first and I now adore. It includes some basics and a couple doozies. Despite our newfound love affair, Snake/Twist and the BreastStroke are NOT basic exercises.

Why bother with the Basics?

A client/colleague of mine suggests the basic exercises are actually the hardest to do well and that's why we learn them first. These things take time…

Kinda true.

Who really feels they excel at the Hundred?

Does anyone have a perfect Elephant?

The Pilates method is skill-based. Like any sport or movement discipline we learn fundamental skills to serve us throughout our Pilates career. Akin to a martial art, Pilates sets us on a path to mastery.

Oh and CONTROL (that old thing?).

Complete control of our body and mind.

Our modus operandi in all things Pilates. Who's in charge here anyway? You or the exercise?

Here's a little test: examine the exercises you find to be extremely difficult.

What fundamental exercises lie within? And how good are you at them? 

More questions to ask yourself:

In Snake/Twist on the Reformer, do you struggle to return the carriage with control?

More. Elephant.

Are you unable to lift your hips off the mat for Corkscrew, JackKnife and Overhead?

More. Roll Like a Ball.

Are you wobbly when you do the Mountain Climb on the Wunda Chair?

More. Kneeling Knee Stretches. More. 2×4 exercises.

Get Cozy with 3 Basics

In today's post we'll revisit 3 basic exercises on 3 different apparatus.

As we explore each of these basics keep in mind a few questions:

  • How does this exercise serve the body I am now?
  • What have I figured out? What is still a mystery?
  • How does perfecting one basic skill translate across the greater Pilates System?

If you enjoy this post and would like to see other basics featured in future posts, just leave me a comment below. I thank you already…

1. Pelvic Lift on the Reformer

A Pilates Field Trip: Revisiting the Basics

We learn Pelvic Lift on the Reformer in our very first lesson.

But what's really going on here?

Pelvic Lift brings our workout full circle. It echoes our Footwork series at the top of our Reformer workout with the added element of holding your hips up off the mat. At a certain point I learned (and perhaps you did too) to place my hands underneath my tailbone as a guide to keep the pelvis level.

Okay my pelvis is level but what am I doing?

First let's examine the order of the universe.

Pelvic Lift is our last exercise done lying down before our Control Push Up series and our Splits. Here we strive to have one more moment of length in the low back and low body before getting up onto the Reformer never to lie down again until we finish.

More complex versions of the Pelvic Lift – and where we'll need this skill – include Short Spine Massage, Long Spine Massage and Shoulder Bridge on the Mat. I could name a few more, but you see how this goes, we only have one exercise…blah-ty-blah-ty-blah-ty…

#lengthintheback

Think about the length we cultivate in the Short Spine Massage:

A Pilates Field Trip: Revisiting the Basics

The tailbone reaches long and away from our ribs as we make our way slowly – deliciously – to the carriage.

The Pelvic Lift is a tiny version of this same stretch.

Pelvic Lift has our rib cage/middle back anchored to the carriage as our belly scoops in and our tailbone reaches long and away toward the footbar.

Finding my Pelvic Lift skill was so satisfying. It's one I'd been doing for years of course, but yet it remained shrouded in mystery for a while.

2. Pull Up on the Wunda Chair

A Pilates Field Trip: Revisiting the Basics

The Pull Up is one of our basic exercises on the Wunda Chair. Every exercise on the Wunda is a challenge even the first ones we learn.

The Pull Up is pure powerhouse.

Find your lift deep in your center or the pedal is reluctant to move. Sure you can cheat and shift your weight off the pedal and onto your arms, but you'll only regret it later.

Where might your Pull Up skills come in handy?

A Pilates Field Trip: Revisiting the Basics

Yes the Kneeling Knee Stretch series is a basic exercise but perhaps the most complex and formidable of our fundamentals.

The Pull Up skill will help to address the shape of the back in the Knees Off which often suffers.

How about more advanced exercises served by the Pull Up?

A Pilates Field Trip: Revisiting the Basics

Tendon Stretch anyone?

Although a strong Elephant is also essential for success in the Tendon Stretch, your Pull Up skill will create the lift and rhythm for this exercise. Oh and that gorgeous back shape!

A Pilates Field Trip: Revisiting the Basics

When you first learn Snake/Twist on the Reformer, you may only learn the very first bit:

Getting up into the starting position with control and the carriage in.

Not easy.

This is a pure Pull Up/Powerhouse move. With a bit of Elephant thrown in for style!

And now our Pull Up is not straightforward – arms on different levels, one one leg, etc…

Oh dear…

3. One Leg Circle on the Mat

A Pilates Field Trip: Revisiting the Basics

Oh gosh, I've hated the One Leg Circle on the Mat for years…

In my first ever beginning mat class years ago I was just so thankful to have survived the Roll Up. The One Leg Circle was my exercise to rest up before Roll Like a Ball.

I've noticed a common theme with me and the Mat exercises. Ones in which my first thought was “What's so hard about this exercise?” have become my MOST challenging exercises to do properly. One Leg Circle, Single Leg Kick, Leg Pull – ooh I see a little theme here – I must beware the one-sided exercises!

If only I'd known…

One Leg Circle is the first exercise we learn that is one side at a time. And it's a nice one. We get to lie down. In the studio you may get a strap on your foot and some handles.

But what's really going on here?

The One Leg Circle is a shining example of choreographic distraction. Our circling leg is so flashy and right in front of us it's hard to focus on anything else right?

But you must focus on EVERYTHING else.

Pilates Mantra: The part of your body that is just lying/sitting there doing nothing should actually be doing all the work.

The One Leg Circle is about stability. One leg is “resting” on the mat? Imagine you are standing on that leg.

Yes. treat the One Leg Circle like you are standing on one leg with the other one reaching out in front of you. Wowza – how hard would that be? Stay tuned, if you're disciplined and consistent, it's bound to happen and soon.

Let's see where else we'll find our One Leg Circle skill:

A Pilates Field Trip: Revisiting the Basics

Not too long after learning your One Leg Circle you'll be introduced to its unstable cousin, the Side Kick Series. Another exercise I loathed for years…which I dearly love now. Unbelievable.

Now lying on your side, your support is minimal but your body must be controlled and strong as you move your leg not only in front of you but eventually LOTS of places.

In our Reformer workout, our beloved Tree will turn into not only the One Leg Circle (with a box underneath) but also our first taste of the High Bridge.

A Pilates Field Trip: Revisiting the Basics

Now you'll need your stomach and your stability of that standing leg!

Later in our Pilates career we'll confront our One Leg Circle in the Star with minimal support and a reaching leg that also eventually behaves very fancily…

A Pilates Field Trip: Revisiting the Basics

Note my “deer in the headlights” expression no less. Clearly I'm surprised to find myself in this position…

Thanks Joe Pilates! You never leave us unprepared.

Want to see your favorite Basic featured in this series? 

Let's have a look! Leave me a comment below.

 

 And here's where to find me in 2017.

Welcome to my 30-Day Wunda Chair Challenge!

Welcome to my 30-Day Wunda Chair Challenge!

Hey there lovely Pilates peeps!

I've got a short-kick-your-butt Wunda Chair workout for you.

Join me for Pilates Day on Saturday May 6 at California Pilates Center. Register for my 10am Mat class here. Book a private lesson here.

London and Portsmouth I'm super excited to see you very soon!

Wanna book a private lesson for yourself?

Leave me a comment below. I'd love to meet up with you in person.

A Wunda Chair Workout in 10 (13) Exercises

Welcome to my 30-Day Wunda Chair Challenge!

For the record, my self-imposed Wunda Chair challenge proves to be more daunting than my previous Small Barrel Project. With 12 days under my belt, my proficiency has improved a bit. By the end of the workout I am huffing and puffing.

My kingdom for a rolling exercise…

Filming this workout has given me a boatload of information. Oh there's nowhere to hide…

Today's video includes the following exercises:

  1. Footwork
  2. Pull Up
  3. Push Down
  4. Spine Stretch
  5. Teaser on the Floor
  6. Swan/One-arm Swan/Swan Dive
  7. Teaser on the Chair
  8. Mermaid Seated
  9. Flying Eagle
  10. SemiCircle
  11. Going Up Front
  12. Mountain Climb
  13. Star
  14. Optional 14th exercise: Twist

Learn the exercises and you'll be able to complete this workout in about 20 minutes. Be efficient, keep your control and move cleanly from one exercise to the next.

Today's video is a deliberate pace. I chat a little bit about strategies for some of the exercises.

Stay tuned for a future video with a brisk pace and another with extra variations of some exercises.

It's the Wunda Chair. I'd say it deserves more than just one video, yes?

My progress so far…

Welcome to my 30-Day Wunda Chair Challenge!

Well I've found my powerhouse. It's an essential element here on the Wunda Chair.

It's called LIFT! You'll need it every time you must lift the pedal.

Makes sense.

Starting with the very first Footwork exercises, the lift you find in the Tendon Stretch will serve you brilliantly in your Pull Up.

Later on in the workout your powerhouse must still work when the exercise demands your legs reach in opposite directions: Spine Stretch, Going Up Front, Mountain Climb and the Star.

Work your Footwork well, friends, and create a strong foundation for the rest of the workout.

Welcome to my 30-Day Wunda Chair Challenge!

Enjoy this short Wunda Chair workout.

Questions? Lay it on me in a comment below.

And here's where to find me in 2017!

The Pilates System: Russian Splits on the Reformer

The Pilates System: Russian Splits on the Reformer

Hey there all you awesome Pilates people,

I hope you've had a good week of dynamic opposition in your workouts. Thank you so much for the emails, comments and good cheer you've been sending my way. It's lovely to hear from you!

London and Portsmouth I will be comin' atcha very shortly. Private and semi-private lessons are filling up – please send me a message if you'd like to snag one for yourself.

I would so enjoy meeting you.

Can't get to see me in person?

Check out my YouTube channel for workouts, exercise tutorials and Pilates inspiration.

Schedule an Internet Lesson and have a full-on private lesson with me wherever you are in the world.

All Hail the Russian Splits

The Russian Splits in our order of the Reformer exercises is potentially the very last exercise of your Advanced Reformer workout.

Now we'll work into the full split for which our Front Split exercise has deftly prepared us.

Like our Side Splits and Front Splits, the Russian Split is 3-exercises-in-1.

For security in this exercise, place a pad on the headpiece of the Reformer and also, if necessary, on the footbar for your back foot.

  • Facing the back of the Reformer, stand on the carriage with both hands on the shoulder blocks.
  • Place your back leg into position on the footbar first.
  • Support yourself with your hands on the shoulder blocks and step your front foot into position halfway onto the headpiece.
  • Keep the back leg straight. Bend your front leg into a deep lunge position.
  • Holding onto the shoulder blocks, extend your front leg forward 3x. Be careful not to lock out your knees.
  • Now repeat the same thing but with no hands: arms cross in front or place hands behind the head.
  • Bring your hands back to the shoulder blocks, straighten both legs and close the carriage.
  • Now for that split: without locking the knees, power the exercise with the back leg and center, reaching the carriage out for a full split 3x.
  • Despite the seductive split, work to close the springs with control. Find your Elephant for efficient carriage-closing goodness!
  • To exit the exercise, bring the front foot onto the carriage first and then bring the back leg down.
  • Repeat on the other side.

What could go wrong?

For years I struggled to keep my back leg even remotely straight.

Tight hips and a sluggish butt make this split exercise a challenge. The next day you may wonder “Why does my butt hurt so much? What have I done? Oh yes… the Russian Split…”

Giving your heel a firm placement on the footbar will assist you as you reach through the back leg.

I like to imagine I am working my back leg (although it remains stationary) in tandem with the movement of the front leg.

I smell 2-way stretch!

Work to find your center to power the action of your front leg. Pull your leg into center more than pushing out the carriage.

Finding your seat will help to marginalize the thighs and hips which may try to take over…

Balancing in this deep squat position can be a challenge. Work this exercise well with your hands on the shoulder blocks before you take your hands away.

30 Day Wunda Chair Challenge: UPDATE!

Today is Day 6 for me.

Even with only a few days into the challenge I feel a new strength in my standing positions. And I mean in life – standing at work all day long and feeling my center instead of in my hips and legs.

Hmmm…

Day 1 got my hopes up for the Star. I felt very strong and successful in the exercise.

Alas, on Day 2, my Star skills were nowhere to be found. Oh well, 28 more days to go.

To soothe my ego after the Star debacle, I added the Twist for myself as a yummy stretch and a feel-good ending.

Find more information on the Twist here.

Lest we forget our trusty companion the Small Barrel…

For the record, I continue to work my Small Barrel exercises before hopping onto the Wunda.

We need our skills of Frog and Scissors wherever we go in the Pilates studio.

On the Wunda Chair we have a wham-bam series of 3 exercises at the end: Going Up Front, Mountain Climb and Star. The Small Barrel skills remind us the center is king!

I am amazed at the ease one can find in the strength of the center. We must resist! the tendency to make the Mountain Climb a max-out-your-legs exercise.

Thanks to the Small Barrel – and of course Karen Frischmann – I was surprised and delighted to have greater stamina, balance and control despite being perched high on top of Mt. Wunda.

Although some #pilatesproblemsolving will be necessary for the Star… stay tuned!

Enjoy this short tutorial.

Stay tuned for more tutorials on the Wunda Chair exercises. Leave your requests in a comment below.

And here's where to find me in 2017!

The Pilates System: Teaser on the Wunda Chair

The Pilates System: Teaser on the Wunda Chair

For Andrea

A big thank you to Studio Flo Pilates for hosting me this past weekend.

It was a pleasure to be in your studio and get to know your teachers. I love connecting with fellow Pilates nerds! Thanks for stimulating such a wonderful conversation on the order of the Reformer exercises. I look forward to future collaborations with your bustling studio!

It was a fun 2 months of focus on the Reformer. Thanks also to Studio S Pilates for hosting my Transitions workshop in the month of March. You guys are always a good time 🙂

If you're like me, maybe you too can't get enough of the Reformer?

Meanwhile, on the other side of the studio…

The Pilates System: Teaser on the Wunda Chair

Our beloved Pilates method: so many exercises, so little time…in our workout hour.

Many of you participated in my recent Small Barrel Project.

I was thrilled to learn you found the Barrel exercises to be as helpful jaw-droppingly informative as I did. The Spine Corrector packs quite the Pilates connection wallop.

Reformer? Check.

Small Barrel and Spine Corrector? Check, check.

Wunda Chair?

The Pilates System: Teaser on the Wunda Chair

Anyone??

I find myself so wrapped up in my Reformer and Mat workouts, that the Wunda Chair in my studio literally gets dusty.

Oh dear.

The Mat exercises function as a barometer for “How's it going?” – are all our exercises on the Reformer and around the studio truly making our skills better and therefore our Mat exercises better?

Given this POV I propose the Wunda Chair exercises challenge our skill building in the same way. Now the playing field is tiny, mostly above ground level and fierce!

The exercises done on the Wunda Chair are sometimes familiar: Swan, Teaser, Horseback, Spine Stretch, Star. However our Mat surface here on the Chair is minimal.

No lying down and not much room to sit or kneel.

Our Wunda Chair exercises put a different spin on our fundamentals:

  • The Roll Up on the Mat and the Elephant on the Reformer become the Push Down.
  • The Knee Stretch Series on the Reformer morphs into the Mountain Climb.
  • The Wunda Chair closes up the parameters for our Spine Stretch.
  • The Frog shows up everywhere: Arm Frog, Frog Facing Away and Frog Facing Chair.
  • Swan Dive is similar minus the support for our prone body position.

With our beloved Pilates method we're always in familiar territory and yet NOT.

I plan to implement a Dust Off Your Wunda Chair Challenge for myself.

30 days.

13 Exercises:

  1. Footwork
  2. Pull Up
  3. Push Down
  4. Spine Stretch
  5. Teaser Stretch
  6. Swan/One-arm/Dive
  7. Teaser on the Chair (video tutorial at the bottom of  this post!)
  8. Mermaid Seated
  9. Flying Eagle
  10. SemiCircle
  11. Going Up Front
  12. Mountain Climb
  13. Star

Wanna play along?

Let me know in a comment below if there are exercises in my 13 that are unfamiliar to you.

I'll film a video of this full Wunda 13 Workout and also highlight unfamiliar exercises in a tutorial of their own.

Let me know what you'd like to see next!

A few of the exercises are daunting, and please know I feel the same way.

And if you've got a favorite to stick in there, feel free. There are sooooo many good ones.

13 exercises?!

Yes. My list began with 10 only to grow to 13 as I couldn't part with a few faves.

Teaser on the Chair

The Pilates System: Teaser on the Wunda Chair

Today's exercise will start us off with a bang. I find it particularly hair-raising, but with further exploration and connection I am gaining more control.

Sweet, sweet control.

In the video at the end of this post you'll find tips to refine your Teaser on the Chair:

  • Teaser on the Floor is a strengthener of our Round shape and of our Teasers all around the studio.
  • Teaser 1: legs remain in the air
  • Optional pumping the pedal: remember our priority of closing the pedal with control.
  • Teaser 2: legs lower and extend the hip.
  • Teaser 3: Everything down, everything up. Jay Grimes described this version to me as “just like rock-a-bye baby…” as I was sweating buckets of course.

Enjoy this short tutorial. 

Share your successes in a comment below.

Related Posts:

Be Mercenary: Turbo-Charge the Method for your own Gain

Be Mercenary: Turbo-Charge the Method for your own Gain

For the past 6 years I have been on a steady course to build my body – and my voice – within the Pilates method.

Serendipitously Seth Godin, my favorite marketing-and-more guru, popped this gem into my inbox:

Like riding a bike

People talk about bike riding when they want to remind us that some things, once learned, are not forgotten.

What they don't mention is how we learned. No one learns to ride a bike from a book, or even a video.

You learn by doing it. 

Actually, by not doing it. You learn by doing it wrong, by falling off, by getting back on, by doing it again. 

PS this approach works for lots of things, not just bikes. Most things, in fact.

Learn by doing. YES.

And learn by doing it wrong – YEEEEESSSSSS!

Using repetition to improve your skill, over and over.

It's a must for the Pilates method.

Joe Pilates has similar advice in his brochure, Pilates' Universal Method, Balance of Body and Mind:

You cannot make yourself strong, healthy, and attractive or magnetic by reading all the books in the world on this subject – or using all the electrical mechanic apparatuses…

No man or machine can correct or create vitality, power or health for you; everything comes from within, you have to unfold it.

Joe didn't call his book Let me Return you to Life.

Joe Pilates' manifesto is called Return to Life Through Contrology.

Notice the imperative tense and the understood subject which is YOU.

[YOU] Return to Life!

Our Pilates mentors and teachers cannot do it for us. For that matter, our teachers are not even here to tell us what to do. Think of them more as a guide through the Pilates Method.

YOU will return yourself to life. Here's some exercises to help out.

So in the spirit of treat yourself like your favorite client – I've got a few suggestions to implement in this week's workout(s).

1. Be Mercenary.

Be Mercenary: Turbo-Charge the Method for your own Gain

I cannot stress this enough.

As longterm practitioners of our beloved Pilates method we must walk the walk. My own workout also gives me the tools I need to be an effective and compassionate teacher.

Mine the method for your own gain. Look at the method from a selfish POV:

What does my body need and where can I get it?

A big question, I agree.

I rely on my private lessons to help me especially with the first part of this question. Through our training programs we learn the countless tendencies our bodies use to cheat and evade the crux of the exercises.

  • What are some common corrections you heard in your training?
  • What corrections do you hear repeatedly in your lessons?
  • If you've photographed yourself doing Pilates – or even better filmed yourself – what does your teacher's eye reveal to you about your own body?
  • Maybe you have a nagging body issue which is alleviated by exercises x, y or z. This is good information to use on your quest!

I encourage you to think like a sculptor.

Take a look around the Pilates studio for help.

Full disclosure:

Joe Pilates designed a specific order of exercises to take you seamlessly through your workout. The body warms up, works hard and cools down within our order of the Reformer exercises and our order of the Mat exercises.

That being said, some prefer to preface the bulk of their hard sweaty Reformer workout with a few ‘warm up” exercises. For years I did not see the value of this prelude.

I mean, I've got the Hundred, right? What more do I need?

And then I fell in love with the Small Barrel.

2. Effective Skill-Building in your Pilates Workout

Be Mercenary: Turbo-Charge the Method for your own Gain

If you're searching for the magic pill to Pilates happiness, I've found a few series of exercises to efficiently address my weak points and prime my body for success in my workout.

Joe Pilates reputedly built his method on his own body. The least I can do is work to understand the depth of his method on my own body.

What I discover for myself assists me to understand the needs of my clients.

For example, the better I learn to connect my upper body into the center, the more I can help others understand and implement this concept.

Place your own oxygen mask on first…

Connecting the lower body into the center

Okay this one is a biggie for me. It's a skill I desperately need to find lift and length in my tight low back. If this sounds like you or your clients, read on!

When working to find your 2-way stretch, it's easy to get excited about the back connection – connecting the upper body into the center.

Boom.

Only 2-way stretch right? Just 1 more to go!

Um, not so fast.

The lower body is the lion's share of the body…and the pitfalls of broken connection at the hips, knees, ankles, feet are a challenge. You also need to figure out how to use your seat – gosh, so much goes on.

Enter the Foot Corrector.

Be Mercenary: Turbo-Charge the Method for your own Gain

You may be tired of me saying this, but pay attention to the apparatus with the word ‘corrector' in the name. Joe Pilates wasn't kidding.

Use the Foot Corrector frequently – daily – and see what happens to your feet, of course, but also to your center and your seat. Every time you place your feet onto the Reformer, the Foot Corrector will inform your body and serve you well.

Just do it.

Read more about my Foot Corrector exercises here and here.

I require more correcting, please…

Enter the Spine Corrector (or Small Barrel)

Be Mercenary: Turbo-Charge the Method for your own Gain

I use all the exercises in this post daily.

Packed into just 9 fundamental exercises – Arm Circles, Up/Down, Hug, Breathing, Leg Circles, Scissors, Bicycle, Hip Twist and Helicopter – there's a boatload of crucial Pilates skills:

  1. connecting the arms into the back
  2. lifting the waist and low back
  3. anchoring the body into the apparatus
  4. finding support in extension exercises
  5. learning how to do a backbend with length
  6. opening the chest and shoulders
  7. perfecting the Frog a fundamental building block exercise
  8. finding the seat to lengthen the low back
  9. stretching the thighs to open up the front of the hips
  10. working one side of the body at a time while keeping the symmetry in the back

Does this all sound familiar? Soon you'll be mid-Reformer workout seeking identical skills.

“Oh it's just like that other exercise!” 

What are the go-to exercises for YOUR body?

Share your secrets in a comment below.

And here's where to find me in 2017.

Be Mercenary: Turbo-Charge the Method for your own Gain

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