Revisiting my Pilates Past

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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.


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.


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?

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  1. Lovely Andrea,
    Love your blog!
    My gems was trying to get a real hundred! ???? took me years and after so many years still learning from my own body; I am feeling my powerhouse and relaxing my shoulders. Learning from Jay, And follows your journey are helping me to get there over and over! Every time look better ????

    • Hello lovely Luz!! Thank you so much for the blog love 😉 Yes – isn’t it super satisfying to really excel at the Hundred? I am liking it more and more myself. I really like having that long exercise at the top of the workout to really take the time to lengthen my back along the mat. Don’t you feel like you’ve really started to love an exercise that most people hate – ha ha I love when that happens!
      Keep up the good work – you have gotten so strong since I have known you! I hope we can see each other very soon. xox

  2. Angel Davis says

    What a great Blog post! I remember my first experience was a dvd. I ordered advanced. In the late 90s all Pilates followed the original order. I was mystified why I couldn’t get past the second exercise. I took my first mat class (all I could afford then) and watched women in their 60s doing teaser while I just seemed stuck in an awkward fold on my mat. My competitive nature took over and I couldn’t resist the challenge of improving. My daily mat practice began then. Yep, I tried to hit the pose to having no clue it was a skill then. Your blog post today reminded me how far we all come, and why we love this method so much!

    • Hi there! So lovely to see your comment pop up here – how have you been, my friend? Joe and I started with a Jennifer Kries VHS back in the day – it was Intermediate Mat and we were 20-somethings so we thought – no problem! We couldn’t do the 2nd exercise either LOL…I think I stuck with Pilates for the same reasons you state – I am competitive and I am stubborn.. and I thought “Why can’t I…?” And sometimes it’s nice to look back and realize we actually have gotten better at the exercises… SOME exercises ha ha … I hope you are well and that our Pilates paths will cross again very soon. Duran Duran 4 ever. xox

  3. Great post Andrea! This takes me back to my first Pilates lesson which was on the reformer! My teacher was a Physical Mind teacher—she was great but she taught the breath with every exercise. So I mainly remember feeling like such a klutz because I couldn’t breathe and do footwork at the same time! Should I press out and breathe in or press out and breathe out? Wait! What? Years later I’m afraid I did the same thing to my clients because I also used to teach the breath with every single exercise. Fast forward and now I just let them breathe and teach the breath with a handful of exercises. So glad we met. Hugs to you my friend.

    • Awww… hugs to you too – I am so glad we met as well! I remember after months of Mat classes I got on the Reformer for the first time and was super annoyed by all the straps and handles business – and I thought – why do people like this? Clearly I have gotten over that as I now love the Reformer… it is definitely great to see how far we’ve come in our practice 🙂 Have a lovely holiday my friend and I hope our paths cross again and again xox

  4. I recall thinking I understood the exercises and their essences – only to find out after years of practicing, that I was totally mistaken about what I THOUGHT I knew. I approach each exercise like it is the first time I’m doing it. Using my inner gaze and being in wonderment at the genius of JP.
    Love your blog. keep it up, please!

    • Thanks so much, Linda for your kind words on the blog 🙂 I feel the same way – the mind understands intellectually and then it’s a whole different kind of understanding when the body gets it. Each time you visit an exercise you may be a whole new body, right? It’s a wonderful journey of discovery, this method. I am always thinking Gosh how did JP come up with all of this? Like the Semi Circle on the Reformer… oh to have been a fly on the wall during the creation of that thing LOL! Keep up the good work. xox

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