5 Hot Tips to Ignite your Hip Twist and Swimming Exercises

The Hip Twist on the MatHey there –

It's been a rough couple of days on the Mat, my friend!

At the time of this writing, March MATness lands us on everyone's fave, the Hip Twist or Hip Circles.

Tomorrow brings another doozy, Swimming.

You're in luck!

I've got some hot tips on these nasty little exercises. Make them favorites-in-training!

The Hip Twist is a perfect way to meet people.

Way back in 2011 I met one of my favorite Pilates peeps and #marchMATness founder, Benjamin Degenhardt at a Pilates event hosted by another Pilates bestie, the Pilates Nerd Queen herself!

Little did I know this meeting would teach me about green screens and get my Hip Twist ready for its closeup.

Yup, that's me doing my best Benjamin-doing-Hip-Twist impression – needs work I know.

1. Consider the Hip Twist as an elaborate Teaser 2.

The best way to pull yourself off the ceiling about the Hip Twist is to take your mind to a happy(er) place.

The Teaser 2, which you've completed just moments before it's time to Hip-Circle-it-up has many of the same elements as the dreaded Hip Twist.

Keep the lift in the trunk of your body and change your lower-lift to a modest circle at first.

Remember all the lift in the body that's required to move the carriage for Frog+Circles on the Reformer? Well, now is when you need it.

Oh, Gravity! (shakes fist at the heavens)

2. How are those hands back there helping me??

Use your hands on the Mat behind you for the Hip Twist to your best advantage. You're spot on to look for the assistance this position can give you.

Oh Stomach Massage Series, where are you now? Keeping your lift when the hands hit the Mat can be problematic.

Try this: Reach back and don't touch.

Now you'll discover what should hold you up and how your arms placement can assist you.

3. Don't let your body get dragged away by a pair of circling legs.

You've all seen this exercise done with huge circles at the expense of everything else.

Try out my rule of balancing out your forces: the part of the body that's just (in this case) sitting there doing nothing, should be doing all the work.

Use your circles to challenge how lifted and above-it-all (and Joe-Pilates-arrogant) your body can be.

How did I adjust my bad attitude toward Swimming?

Swimming on the Mat

Why, by making a T-Shirt of course!

Nothing motivates my Swimming more than being in a Mat class. Every teacher will make me swim for much longer than I ever do myself LOL

So at home I have Jaws for my inspo.

I created this image for March MATness 2017 when I simply hated this exercise.

Now in 2021, it's not great, but I don't really hate it. I view it as a project to work on.

Yup, add it to the list, right?

And remember, it's gonna be a great workout. Do the nasty exercises and then move on. We have other exercises.

4. The premise of the Pilates method is THE best Swimming hack I've found.

Whoa, don't get all crazy and whip out the premise of the method right here in the middle of the Mat!

Yes.

Joe Pilates literally has your back on this one. At the beginning of many a Pilates workout, you begin lying down.

The Mat especially gives luxurious support to all of the back of you.

Use the previous exercises (Teaser and the Hip Twist) well.

These 2 exercises lie you down on the Mat, “ironing” out the backline of you along the Mat over and over again.

Not to mention you've done it earlier in the workout: Hundred, Roll Up, Roll Over, One Leg Circle, etc…

Take a moment to use the Mat behind you.

Use your muscles, your opposing forces to elongate the back of you.

This is the challenge of Swimming, right? To keep the back long in an extended position. Not easy to do.

Once you feel you've memorized the feeling of elongating your back against the template of the Mat, turn over onto your stomach and prepare for your Swimming.

Be the Mat…and then flip over.

Now without the Mat behind you, find the same elongation, as much as you can.

Start slowly, trying to duplicate and then maintain the length of the back of you as you start to swim.

See how you do.

5. Watch beautiful movers to better your own execution.

My acting school was holding auditions for the role of the Bawd in Shakespeare's Pericles. I was in the midst of reading and my teacher plucked the script from my hands:

“Whore isn't quite at your fingertips, Andrea.”

Yup, instead I was cast as Marina, Pericles' daughter who gets kidnapped by Pirates and sold to a brothel.

Much more my speed…

And it's no secret, Swimming is not in my wheelhouse either. It's okay.

I feel the same way about Swan Dive, actually – hmmm… coincidence?

It's helpful to find another body to watch – a body that understands and coordinates well in the exercise. That often helps my body to get the idea of what I'm after.

Meet Christina, my Swimming inspiration:

This video shows a Swimming that is streamlined like a jet. I do not feel like a jet when I do this exercise.

So I watch, I do my exercises and I try again.

Oh, reeeeeeeeaaachhhhh… yes that feels better.

Try these hot tips and share your success in a comment below.

“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.

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