Exercise Relationships to Build Proficiency: Reformer Edition

Control Push Ups on the Reformer

Hey there!

I've been thinking about you. Thanks for sharing your time with me and for becoming a subscriber.

Did you get a chance to read my bonus blog post How to Fall in Love with Exercises you HATE?

I hope so.

Click here to subscribe if you missed out on this little gem…

The more you know…

Tree on the Short Box

Speaking of exercises you hate… it's time for another footnote to last week's post.

Oh the Pilates Method… so many opportunities for learning.

Lost in a sea of traditional order options it's easy to get muddled.

And that's what Pilates friends are for! A big shout out to Samantha Walley of Vital Balance Pilates for remembering all the things from our time with Jay Grimes that I have forgotten.

Last week I considered relocating the Short Box Series to later in the order when adding the 2nd Long Box.

Well that, friends, is one option I learned from Romana.

It is Romana that allowed for just keeping the box with you after the 1st or 2nd Long Box, then turning it to be the Short Box. I make a case for this option in an older post that you've all showered with love: On the Order of the Pilates Reformer Exercises.

Done in this manner you are saved one trip to get the box: You'll go get it for 1st Long Box (1), and get it again for the 2nd Long Box (2), finally keeping it for the subsequent Short Box Series.

Jay Grimes, however, doesn't care how many trips you make to get that box. You'll fetch it thrice (1st Long box, 2nd Long Box, Short Box), enjoying a welcome passeggiata each time you need it.

You've got all these options available to you within the structure of the order of exercises.

There is no wrong, only better and better choices to be made depending on any given scenario. And your Pilates education and experience will help you to choose wisely.

And in any event, there's always another Reformer workout on the horizon for you to begin. Again.

Exercise Relationships

Joe Pilates never leaves us unprepared.

How many times can I tell you why I love the Pilates Method?

Reason #196 is that your path is well-thought-out. Follow the path with “patience and persistence” and you'll always arrive at a complex exercise with confidence.

Joe Pilates is a master of taking a familiar skill and turning it (literally) on its head.

To progress your workout, it's helpful to revisit the basics to see where the seeds of a complex Reformer exercise first begin to germinate.

Oh boy, the plant metaphors… just one peril of being a plant parent!

Headstand 2

Headstands 2 on the Reformer

I've been working on The Headstands on the Reformer for probably decades. They are not great, but you don't get better at exercises by leaving them out. For the past few years, I've been toiling in the fundamentals building my proficiency and whittling away at a bad movement habit.

So now they're back. They're already better than they've ever been.

“When one exercise gets better, they all get better.”

The Pilates fundamentals do their magic. But how do you arrive ready and (sort of) willing to do the Headstand 2?

Ladies and Gentlemen… the Tendon Stretch!

Ever notice we have many exercises all called the Tendon Stretch?

And a bunch more exercises that include an element reminiscent of the Tendon Stretch?


Tendon Stretch: Footwork Edition

Tendon Stretch in the Footwork Series

Yes. It all begins with the Footwork. Never thought I would be that person.

The lift you cultivate here, all “comfy” and supported from head to toes will serve you well once you've upended yourself into the Headstand 2.

Stomach Massage Series

Stomach Massage Series on the Reformer

Essentially the sitting-up-now version of Footwork, the Stomach Massage Series sets you well on your way to the Headstand 2. This series, like Footwork, also goes on for a long while, building (beating) the skill into you.

Just sayin'. Again probably not an accident.

Full-On Tendon Stretch

Tendon Stretch on the Reformer

Looks can be deceiving but this iteration of the Tendon Stretch has all the components of its lying down Footwork relative: you must stand on your feet and use your crazy lift to survive the exercise instead of riding the carriage like you're at Disneyland.


SemiCircles on the Reformer

Finally back in the ballpark of the Headstand 2, the SemiCircles force you to keep your lift or forever be squashed into the gaping maw of the Reformer.

And now upside-down and backward, you arrive at Headstand 2.

Now it's all making sense, right? Your Pilates teacher has been harping at you to lift since the workout began and boy, do you need it now.

Gravity's a bitch. But it's also very communicative.

The Complex Reformer Project

Control Push Ups on the Reformer

Tracing the roots of the Headstand 2 back to nearly the very beginning of your Reformer workout is just one example of Exercise Relationships.

If this sounds like your kind of fun, join me in the month of February for a new online workshop, The Complex Reformer Project.

In a total of 8 workshop hours, you'll tweak the Pilates Project POV to look for skill sets in the fundamentals for all those fancy exercises just like the Headstand 2.

Overhead I hear you cry?

Snake/Twist and High Bridge?

Star even?

Oh yes.

Space is limited. Reserve your spot today.

And stay tuned for my March workshop where you'll link it all together with transitions!

The Cadillac of Apparatus

Swan on the Cadillac

Welcome new subscribers!

Thanks for joining me on the wonderful journey that is the Pilates Method of Exercise.

The reinvigorating of my personal Pilates workout – fewer distractions and more time for daily workouts – has been a true silver lining of this year at home.

And my new plant friends.

The green healing color, as well as learning about their care and feeding, has helped me to stay calm and roll on…while I Roll Up and Roll Over.

Our current stay-at-home orders in California also give me plenty of time to commune with my Cadillac.

And it's just a couple of weeks before the start of my January workshop: The Cadillac Project!!

There are just a couple of spots left (Don't worry you can still snag your spot here).

And if you thought The Wunda Chair Project was fun…

Oh, the places we'll go!

I've been sprucing up my outline and reviewing the myriad of exercises Joe created for one of his most impressive apparatus, the Cadillac.

What a sh** ton of exercises!!

Also lots of moments when I think hmmm… that is interesting. It's made me look at the apparatus itself with new eyes.

Over the next 2-ish weeks I'll be sharing a few tidbits to tide you over until January.

Exercise Relationships

By now you've surely heard someone (or me) say “Pilates is a system” or even “Trust the Work.”

And your quest, should you choose to accept it, is to apply the Pilates System – the body of work that is the Pilates Method – to yourself and/or the body in front of you.

No prob.

It's so easy to say, right?

For this reason, it's helpful to notice and seek out the relationships between exercises.

We've only got one exercise and countless variations. Often you find yourself in a familiar place or position only to “suddenly” discover that you've been here before…

Pilates Confession #296

Shoulder Roll Down on the Cadillac

For the last few years, I've been working diligently to rid myself of a bad movement habit.

My habit really shows up in a particular group of exercises that requires the same skill despite having a different level of support, a different relationship to gravity, and/or a different apparatus.

Here's my exercise relationship du jour:

  • Reformer: Long Back Stretch, Short Spine Massage, Semi Circle, High Frog
  • Mat: High Scissors and High Bicycle
  • Cadillac: Airplane, Leg Springs in the Air, Tower, Shoulder Roll Down (Sari)

And I'll probably find a whole lot more of them.

Lifting up the entire back of the body with integrity is one label we could use for this skill.

I also think sometimes it's hard as humans to imagine that the lower body begins somewhere higher up than our hips and legs…

What other similarities do you see in my list?

Pop a comment down below and add to my list, I'd love to know.

Up on the YouTube!

Thank you so much for your kind words and great feedback on my YouTube channel.

I've just surpassed 6K subscribers and I can't thank you enough for watching!

More videos will be coming your way soon. Please let me know if you've got Pilates topics or Pilates exercise requests. I love them!

Recently, I thank you for bringing to my attention all the mid-roll ads you ran into while trying to work out with my videos. I've since taken care of the problem. You should no longer be pelted with ads in the middle of my videos – you will still see advertisements at the beginning and the end of the videos.

Thanks for your patience – and thanks for subscribing 🙂

Recent videos you may have missed:

  • If you're a twisted sister too, check out my “Scissors workouts” here, and here for a ton of 1-sided fun.
  • And here's a fun Wunda Workout where I try to never get off the Wunda Chair until the end!
  • Also check out this Cadillac workout for a preview of my January Workshop: The Cadillac Project.

Join me in January for The Cadillac Project.

Reserve your spot today.

Happy Holidays!

Dry Brushing the Body and the Philosophy of Joe Pilates

Dry Brushing the Body and the Philosophy of Joe Pilates

Without veering too far afield from the subject of our beloved Pilates method, I would like to confess my dirty clean little secret.

I adore dry brushing.

I've been dry brushing my skin for years.

If you're new to Joe Pilates' philosophy on the proper way to bathe, you don't know what you're missing.

It feels good and it's good for you!

It makes my skin feel so soft and smooth.

Wait there's more…

Dry brushing has become mainstream in recent years.

However, most articles and images you'll find on the subject suggest a brush with a handle so all parts of the body are “easily accessible.”

Joe Pilates ups the ante for us here with even more benefit. Can you imagine him making anything “easily accessible?”

Joe observed that “only a minority [of individuals] really achieve thorough cleanliness.”

From Return to Life:

The correct technique to use in accomplishing this highly desirable result is to use only a good stiff brush (no handle) since this type of brush forces us to twist, squirm and contort ourselves in every conceivable way in our attempts to reach every portion of our body which are otherwise comparatively easy to reach with a handle brush.

Of course he wants us to “twist, squirm and contort.”

Joe Pilates insists on a brush without a handle – no easy feat – giving us all a flexibility goal.

How flexible do we need to be?

We must be sufficiently flexible for our daily living: therefore we must be able to reach and clean every part of our bodies with the no handle brush.

Swoon…So demanding 🙂

Benefits of dry brushing

From Return to Life:

The use of a good stiff brush as described stimulates circulation, thoroughly cleans OUT the pores of the skin, and removes dead skin too. The pores of your skin must “breathe” – they cannot do so unless they are kept open and freed from clogging.

Dry brushing the skin benefits our health as well as our appearance. Regular practice of a thorough brushing leads to:

  • improved skin appearance and texture, minimizes the appearance of cellulite by distributing fat deposits more evenly
  • improved circulation and lymph flow
  • an invigorating experience for your skin!
  • relief of stress
  • exfoliation of the skin
  • improved digestion and kidney function (Yesssssss!)
  • improved flexibility when using a no handle brush

It's good to have goals…

I once observed an Olympic-caliber volleyball player apply sunblock to the center of her upper back.

The center. Of her upper back.

I am not blessed with the long arms of a volleyball player. But I wasn't even sure arms could do that.

My upper back and shoulders have a tightness that I work very diligently to alleviate. (Repetition est mater studiorum.)

When I saw the volleyball player apply her sunblock I had a new goal:

I shall work to reach the center of my upper back with my ‘good stiff brush.'

What I wouldn't do for a good stiff…BRUSH.

For a while I couldn't find a stiff brush without a handle.

So I had a handle at first. I got a Japanese Body Brush.

Dry Brushing the Body and the Philosophy of Joe Pilates

And it was okay. Well I thought it was perfect until I knew better… as you can see I pretty much destroyed it.

Why do I still have it to photograph?

Tangent Time!

Soon it must go.

I've just read an amazing book that is taking my belongings to task. If you're a fellow control freak (and if you're reading this post I suspect you are) check it out:

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

End of tangent…

Finding Perfection

This is the best no-handle brush I have found.

Dry Brushing the Body and the Philosophy of Joe Pilates

I found mine at a beauty supply store and at CVS for $6.49.

Dry Brushing the Body and the Philosophy of Joe Pilates

There are many options, but I do suggest you try it out to see if it is to your liking.

I tried one brush that had no handle, but it had VERY soft bristles. Too soft for my taste.

Oh I like a good scratching…


Just building up the courage to write a post on Pilates and digestion…which may never see the light of day.

Dry Brushing Technique

I am told Joe Pilates would interrupt a client's post-workout shower to instruct them in the proper techniques of cleaning themselves.

Although I make a point of staying out of my clients' showering experience, I have a few tips to share with you:

  • Use your ‘good, stiff brush' on dry skin before entering the shower.
  • Begin at the extremities and use long strokes that brush toward the heart.
  • Be gentle on delicate areas of the skin: the face, genitals or any areas with irritations or abrasions.
  • I usually brush for 5-10 minutes. Until my skin feels invigorated and alive.
  • I also have a bristle hair brush that feels good on my scalp – so as not to skip anywhere.

Since I've got my goal of reaching the center of my upper back – this is really the only place it's hard for me to brush thoroughly – I spend some time passing the brush from one hand to the other behind my back.

The internal shower + an external one: It's addictive!!

Joe Pilates promoted his method of exercise as an ‘internal shower' for the body.

From Return to Life:

Your blood will flow with renewed vigor as the direct result of your faithfully performing the Contrology [Pilates] exercises.

This is the equivalent of an ‘internal shower.’

[Pilates] exercises drive pure, fresh blood to every muscle fiber of our bodies…

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.

It's truly a remarkable aspect of his system: the stimulation of the center, the organs, the viscera.

It's a Stomach Massage Series for the whole body keeping your insides in tip-top working order and ready for optimum performance.

My Pilates workout plus the health and hygiene encouraged by Joe's dry brushing philosophy work together beautifully: the workout keeps me in great condition and all my twisting, contorting and squirming as I dry brush lets me know how I'm doing.

Has my body found more balance? How is the center of my upper back doing?

Smooth skin and a supple body: priceless! Thanks JP.

From Return to Life:

Your skin will soon respond most gratifyingly to this perhaps seemingly “Spartan-like” treatment and acquire in the process a new, fresh, glowing appearance, and develop a texture smooth and soft to the touch.

So brush away merrily, and heartily too!

More Kool-Aid please 🙂

Big fans of of Joe's dry brushing techniques?

Share your experience in a comment below.

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