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.

Learn. To do. The Roll Up. and other Pilates Mantras…

Joe doing the Roll Up on the Mat

Welcome new subscribers!

Thanks for joining me on this amazing journey that is our beloved Pilates Method.

I've been thinking about you and as always, I've got the Pilates exercises at the forefront of my mind.

Where'd you go, Bernadette?!

Thank you so much for all of your sweet emails and comments expressing your love for the blog and your concern that you've not been receiving my once-weekly emails.

There's nothing wrong with your subscription or your inbox.

The short answer is that my surf lessons have absorbed the time in which I would write my weekly posts…

But that's not the whole truth… and as of yet, I've not become a surfing expert…

The real story is I've been experiencing a huge learning curve in my workout and therefore in my teaching as well. I dearly wanted to share this with you but I wasn't sure how best to go about it.

To be frank, my body used to LOVE the Pilates exercises. Every last one of them was a total. Feel. GOOD. Experience.

Since my most recent post in May '18, I've found that my body has grown intolerant of my movement patterns and pointed me with a neon red sign toward my imbalances and compensations.

“So what are you going to do about THAT??!” my body cries.

Don't blame the exercise!

This is an important point at this juncture: there's nothing wrong with the Pilates exercises or my body. After careful thought, movement and consideration, my body is pointing me in the direction of my weakest points and demanding I address them.

And you know how change is not comfortable? I felt reluctant to testify about Pilates with you. The blogposts got started but alas, were never completed…

So thank you, dear readers, for your patience, support, and love. I'm back – I hope a little bit wiser – and completely humbled by our magnificent Method.

Meanwhile…back at the Roll Up

Jay Grimes is straightforward in his direction.

Here's one of my favorites:

Learn.

To do.

The Roll Up.

Pretty simple right?

This. Means.

YOU.

It was a big day in my mat class when I did my first successful Roll Up.

In my first class, I could NOT roll up.

Nope.

I should have stopped right there as my One Leg Circle was not much better…

Fast Forward 18 Years (not a typo)

Now I've done the Roll Up for decades so I am golden. I'm all ready to move beyond the humble Roll Up and onto more exciting stuff…

…like the Neck Pull

Good times.

This is where the journey gets uncomfortable interesting…

With more proficiency comes greater responsibility, my friends!

Don't just get it done… was that a heave-ho in there?

It's called the Roll Up

not the Throw Up.

(also Jay Grimes)

What would it take to REALLY do the Roll Up?

These things take time…

In my very first Pilates Mat class all those years ago at Excel Pilates, I could NOT roll up.

Today the Roll Up is one of my favorites. Now it's time to peel more delicious leaves off the artichoke.

Hard-won exercises can take us to the next level of proficiency over time.

Lately, I've been working hard to perfect a couple of the Roll Up‘s kissing cousins on the Cadillac.

Can you guess?

I know, we're always rolling up or down from somewhere, right?

Rolling Back on the Cadillac

Andrea doing Rolling Back on the Cadillac

Early on in my physical life, I found it “helpful” to compensate for my swayback posture by essentially tucking my pelvis all the time… you can kind of see it in the above photo from January 2018.

And boy do old habits die hard…

Now I know my tucked pelvis was a quick fix for not using my stomach effectively in my Pilates workout.

Rolling Back has helped me to keep lifting everything that sits up on top of the Short Box while my deep scooped belly starts the rolling back part. Rolling Back is even an exercise I like!

I don't have to tell you my Roll Up has gotten so much better (insert mindblown sound effect here)!

Which brings me to my second fantastic exercise on the Cadillac: Push Thru Front. 

Andrea doing Push Thru Front on the Cadillac

This one I have never liked…

I've spent many years not practicing the exercises I don't like. But now at least there's LIFT!

The photo above was taken last month (October 2019).

Here the Cadillac apparatus gives my body parameters which increase the difficulty. Push Thru Front is even more truth serum for my body.

The deep scoop of my belly must take me into that sharp turn of the exercise (right in my weakest spot!) and continue as I push the bar forward. Remember there's no crying in Pilates!

So how's that Roll Up going?

Working to initiate Rolling Back in my low low center has helped my Roll Up become much stronger.

And longer!

These 2 Cadilac exercises have helped me locate that deep-scooped-belly connection in so many of my other exercises. It's no joke how learning to properly roll up and down can strengthen our Pilates workouts.

Since I have been “learning to do the Roll Up” I've increased my proficiency in MANY other exercises:

I have built strength in my Roll Over, Rolling Like a Ball, Open Leg Rocker, Corkscrew, Jackknife, The Short Box, Tree, Short Spine Massage, Swan, Neck Pull, and the list goes on…

When one exercise gets better, they all get better: we only have one exercise!

Thanks so much for reading!

If you like what you read here, join my list below. If you've been a longtime subscriber and you're excited there's a new blog post, lay some love on me in the comments 🙂

Now let's workout! You know you want to…

Don’t Blame the Exercise: The Roll Up Edition

Don't Blame the Exercise: The Roll Up Edition

I continually aspire to contribute valuable and accurate Pilates content to the information superhighway.

For this reason – fasten your seat belts – this post may be a bit of a rant.

But it's a rant of LOVE ♥

The Gift that is the Pilates Method

The Pilates Exercises are wonderfully therapeutic, but Pilates is not Physical Therapy.

Pilates keeps you in tip-top physical condition, but forget everything you thought you knew about fitness.

Pilates is different.

The Pilates Method can be successfully applied to each and every individual.

And while Pilates is ultimately wonderful for the body, there may be exercises/positions that are not suitable for a particular individual right now or ever.

Although I never say never…

Sadly, what is necessarily altered for one person is often blanketed over an entire population.

Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet?

I've noticed various words used to describe movement and the position of the body.

Some words can be controversial in the Pilates industry as I mentioned in my recent post on the Short Box.

The Reach is a name of an exercise and no one seems to mind. Call it ‘Flat Back' and whoa mama you've jumped into a swirling maelstrom of dissension.

What's a gal to do?

The Fear of Flexion

For the record, ‘flexion' is not a Pilates word. Can you imagine Joe Pilates saying it?

However I do believe he said “Long the Back!”

Hmmm… our old friend Length again…

flex·ion

ˈflekSHən
noun
  1. the action of bending or the condition of being bent, especially the bending of a limb or joint.
    Origin
    early 17th century: from Latin flexio(n-), from flectere ‘to bend.’

I often hear the word ‘flexion' used to describe the effect of the body bending forward.

In Pilates, although we have many exercises that have a round shape, we are not simply allowing our bodies to bend forward willy nilly. There is no Pilates inherent in the pedestrian act of flexing the spine.

We are not teaching people – or even allowing them – to slump.

True, we do spend considerable time as humans reaching and bending forward.

Let's learn a few skills to do it properly.

The Lift that Keeps on Lifting

Remember we're defying gravity and to do this we must lift LIFT LIFT like there's no tomorrow.

That's why it works!

Pilates is decompressive to the spine and joints.

Which brings me to the much maligned Pilates Mat exercise: the Roll Up.

Poor Roll Up… I never liked you very much at the beginning, but now you're one of my besties! Sad for you to be saddled with society's slouchiness.

The Roll Up is not flexion – it is the lifting up of the entire trunk of the body and moving it forward.

The Roll Up is a movement governed by the informed mind, the alerted intelligence to create an action of lift and guide the body through this specific maneuver.

flexion = the gross movement of the body bending forward

lift = the mind and body working together

The Essence of the Roll Up

What's really going on here?

The Pilates exercises are exaggerated versions of our everyday movements.

In the Roll Up we learn the valuable skill of sitting up from a lying down position using our muscles.

#lookmanohands

We use this skill each and every morning when we sit up to get out of bed.

To learn this skill we must maximize the lift in the waistline which is the essence of the Roll Up.

Broken down to the smallest atom of movement, a very first baby version of the Roll Up could look like this:

Don't Blame the Exercise: The Roll Up Edition

Do you see the beginnings of the Half Roll Down?

Next you would want to keep your lift in there, defy gravity and control your descent to the Mat.

Don't Blame the Exercise: The Roll Up Edition

To get back up, the same lift will pick you up from the Mat. Trying to bend will only weigh you down…but Pilates within that bending position will pick you up!

Take from sinky-low-back little ol' me…nothing feels more delicious than the Roll Up.

It's our first shot at lengthening the back and the first big lifting stretch of our Pilates Mat workout.

What if we named it the Lift-your-head-up-lift-yourself up?

Got Roll Up probs?

Leave me a comment and let's chat it up!

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