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.

The Power of Incremental Change: Open Leg Rocker Edition

Open Leg Rocker 2010: Christmas Edition

Open Leg Rocker 2010

Hey there!

Happy 136th Birthday Joe Pilates! I think of you (mostly fondly) every single day.

Welcome to my new series: The Power of Incremental Change.

As the new year approaches, 'tis the season for Pilates resolutions. What are your workout goals?

Maybe you already know which exercises you'd like to wrangle in 2020?

Will it be a year of the Snake?

What are my 2020 Pilates Goals?

I am just starting to find more lift in my center and bottom and it is exciting. You're always rolling up and down from somewhere, right? It happens in ALL of the exercises.

Gradually my meat and potatoes exercises have expanded into more of my “normal workout.” I pulled myself back from the Headstands and Backbends and Flying Squirrels to get more of my powerhouse in order.

Yes, sometimes you need to use your stomach.

The powerhouse needs shoring up!

In 2020 I want to get back to all of the exercises I have on my Reformer poster.

Yeeesh.

2019 was really the first year I willingly subjected myself to all of my one-sided and side-bending exercises that I have hated hated hated and never would do.

Double yeesh. The ego is delicate…

2020 will be the year of all things Side Kick Series! A scissor is a scissor is a scissor I always say.

And in every Pilates workout, one of them is just an exercise away!

I'll be looking for you to hold me accountable here on the blog: Side Kick Series 2020: You heard it here first.

The Years in Review

Even before I wrote my first blog post in 2012, I had the chance to view a few photos of my Pilates workout. Back in the day, you didn't have a camera/video recorder with you 24/7.

Now you and I can document our workouts more prolifically than even Joe Pilates himself.

Joe Pilates would have loved Instagram!

Back in my performing days – BTW I'm more ‘actor-who-moves-well' than ‘professional dancer' – I would often see photos of myself from dance numbers.

Sometimes what I thought I was doing in my head would match the picture.

Sometimes…

More often what I thought I was doing and the image in the photo was not the same thing at. all.

And wouldn't you know it's the same in my Pilates workout?

In your lessons, if you ever doubt your instructor's eye there's nothing like a video of the Long Stretch Series to help you realize, “Oh…that's what they're talking about…”

You study with teachers whose knowledge and eyes you envy trust.

In your lesson recording, you can literally see what your instructor sees – perhaps for the very first time – and see if you were able to make the correction in your body.

This is vital to your longterm Pilates education.

I thought it'd be fun to check out photos of the same exercise from different years to see (hopefully) steady progress. Use your own photos and social media accounts and play along with me!

This first episode of the series will begin with my favorite Mat exercise, the Open Leg Rocker.

I thought I'd start with a fave and then work up to looking at photos and videos of exercises I hate.

Sound good?

You're always welcome to stampede straight to your nasty exercises…

Open Leg Rocker

I'll start with a few criteria for the exercise:

  1. Open Leg Rocker is a wonderful opening/stretch of the entire back.
  2. You are in the very same position as the Teaser with regard to both the balance point and the back shape which is round.
  3. Your scoop is deep and your arms reach all the way up to hold the ankles.

First up – the Naughty Auties:

2008

Open Leg Rocker on Rocks

What do you see?

I see the shape of my back that is not really round and almost has a wee archy spot – you guessed it – right in the rib/middle back area.

I also see a lack of spaciousness in the hip and thigh area – that leg is all bunched up in there and close to my stomach…

I could also unfurrow my brow, but perhaps it's sunny…

You must start somewhere. Maybe if I weren't perched high up on a rock in this photo my exercise would look a bit different… Maybe not cause check out the OLR from 2010 at the top of the post…

Fast forward:

2015

Open Leg Rocker 2015

Aha! This looks better after just (!) 7 years of the Open Leg Rocker

And all those OTHER Pilates exercises…

#babysteps

What do you see?

I spy a Round(er) shape for sure… still the vestiges of the short middle back/rib area but getting much better.

And look at all that space between my scooped stomach (who could tell in 2008?) and my thighs!

Now to be picky I could look at how my head is plopped onto my body… a bit forward which shortens up the back of my neck as I look up. Keep an eye on this…

Now to drop into the present day:

2019

Open Leg Rocker 2019

What do you see?

I finally see a more rounded and open space in the middle back/rib area! Now the continuous line of the back goes all the way up to the base of the neck.

There is more to be done to continue the length into the neck and head position. Duly noted.

Is that the final frontier in your Pilates practice? Figuring out where your head should sit on top of your body?

I also see even more spaciousness in the scoop of the belly. The upper leg is starting to look more developed on the backside (the bottom) than on the front quadricep side. The bottom has more presence in the exercise.

Oh goody!

My 3 photos from 2008, 2015 and 2019 respectively show that 11 years of Pilates practice have been incrementally perfecting my Open Leg Rocker.

And while it's not perfect, it's is better.

And that's awesome.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

One day at Vintage Pilates we were discussing the usual “clickbait” titles of Pilates videos and online content.

5 Minutes to Sexy Abs!

Long Lean Legs in 10 Minutes a Day!

Have Better Sex with 3 Simple Pilates Moves!

You've seen them.

Maybe you've even believed them.

A longtime client of Jay's – let's call him Adam – deftly weighed in with a zinger. Adam is in his 30s? 40s? and originally came to Jay with a back problem. Today he does an amazing advanced Reformer workout and you'd never suspect he'd had any back problems at all.

His Around-the-World on the Short Box is damn near swoon-worthy…

No one would click on the truth, Jay:

15 years to a Better Back!

Peals of laughter in the Pilates studio.

Roll the tape!

You can harness the power of the technology literally at your fingertips to better your Pilates practice.

At first, it might be tough to watch yourself workout. So much to get over even before you can look at the exercises. Maybe you're not happy with your shape, your hair, or even you in general.

I feel you.

In 2008 I was a brunette. In 2019 I'm nearly an arctic blonde. Persevere. A lot of living goes on in 11 years.

But it's all okay. You're always you to everyone you know and hold dear. In 20 years you'll take a look back and be amazed at how cute you were all along!

And there's power in reviewing photos and videos of your own workouts. And self-love.

And learning for God's sake! You'll use your teacher's eye to better your own. I love a good scroll on IG to work on my skill of looking at the body. Maybe you do too?

There's always lots to see.

I eagerly await the email from my online lesson to review the recording. Grab a cup of coffee or if necessary, a glass of wine. Do what you need to do. What I hear from my teacher during my lessons has to get filtered through my concentration so I welcome the opportunity to hear it all again when I review the recording. I listen much better.

Try it out for yourself.

If you're not taking online lessons currently and you're curious, use this link to book in and give it a go.

You'll get a great workout plus a recording of your lesson. It's a whole extra hour of Pilates education!

Win – Win!

What exercises will you visit from your Pilates past?

What are your 2020 Pilates Goals?

I'd love to know.

The Pilates System: Make Boomerang your Secret Weapon

The Pilates System: Make Boomerang your Secret Weapon

In the order of the Pilates Mat exercisesBoomerang sets us off on a rolling spree: Boomerang, Seal and Crab.

Extra points for that.

Most importantly it puts an end to the Leg-Pull-One-Side-Kick-ness section of the workout.

Good news all around.

Finding the 2-way Stretch

The 2-way stretch is an amazing lens through which to view your workout.

With lots of body parts to keep track of, the 2-way stretch creates a streamlined and singular theme for your workout.

Many exercises offer the 2-way stretch in a straightforward manner. Consider our quintessential guide to all things oppositional, the Double Leg Pull.

The Pilates System: Make Boomerang your Secret Weapon

Conversely, there are numerous exercises which turn us literally upside down and backwards. The body position of the exercise can challenge our ability to effectively connect our upper and especially our lower body into the center.

The Pilates System: Make Boomerang your Secret Weapon

The Tendon Stretch pictured above, can be a challenge to connect and use the lower body efficiently. Our arms and upper body may want to take over the exercise and the support for our feet is not stable.

How to connect?

Another challenging position for me is when I am seated. Finding the lower body connection sitting on my butt seems problematic.

The Pilates System: Make Boomerang your Secret Weapon

The Rowing Series 1+2 presents a similar position to our Tendon Stretch but with a different set of Pilates problems. Here we are seated with nothing to reach our feet into and once again at the mercy of our overworking arms.

The Reverse Push Thru on the Cadillac is an exercise presenting a similar body shape.

The Pilates System: Make Boomerang your Secret Weapon

All three of the exercises in this post, the Reverse Push Thru especially, have caused me to ask the question:

“How are these exercises, the Tendon Stretch, Rowing 1+2 and the Reverse Push Thru, like all the other exercises in the Pilates system?”

Where is the 2-way stretch?

Enter the Boomerang

The Pilates System: Make Boomerang your Secret Weapon

Notice the similarity of position here in the Boomerang to our Tendon Stretch, Rowing 1+2 and the Reverse Push Thru.

At last!

A good rolling exercise is brilliant tool to illuminate our 2-way stretch.

The interplay of our dynamic opposition is imperative for success in rolling exercises. Lose connection to half of your body and the rolling suffers at best, and at worst it clunks to a stop.

Reach your lower body in the same manner as in our rolling exercise and see how much can come alive in our seated position exercises. It's a game changer.

All you have to do is say the magic word: Boomerang!

Related Mat posts:

And here's where to find me in 2017

March MATness Day 20: Side Kick Series

March MATness Day 20: Side Kick Series

The Side Kick Series and our exercise for March 23, Swimming, deserve to be together in an Another One Bites the Dust post.

March MATness Day 20: Side Kick Series

Well here we are.

Achieving greater proficiency in a difficult exercise can be a game changer methodwide.

Read about a few of mine here and here.

Another One Bites the Dust

March MATness Day 20: Side Kick Series

Side Kick Series shares the same fate as our very-most-favorite leggy exercise, the One Leg Circle. Lots of flashy leg moves distract us from the main event.

Our center. The Powerhouse. All we've cared about in our Mat workout thus far.

Aw, but look: my leg…

The Side Kicks literally turn our One Leg Circle on it's side. Our unsupported backs must remember back to a time when we got to lie down. A simpler time indeed.

Now you must:

  • Keep your back lifted and tall.
  • Will your center to remain steadfast.
  • Don't be content to recline and lounge on your arm.

Side Kicks Series Foreshadowed

Side Kicks Series follows a crackerjack pair of helper exercises: Spine Twist and Jackknife.

March MATness Day 20: Side Kick Series

Remember the lift in our center we seek?

Spine Twist threatens to twist it out of us.

March MATness Day 20: Side Kick Series

Next the Jackknife brilliantly connects our lower body into our center – which is awesome – while we control and lift ourselves upside down.

Holy harder than lifting up in a seated position!

Jackknife gets our seat into tip-top shape to wrangle our hips in today's exercise the Side Kicks.

Joe Pilates provides us with all the tools we need.

How nice.

Swimming 2017: Livin' the Dream

March MATness Day 20: Side Kick Series

In 2013 I wrote my most recent post on Swimming. From flail to fantastic, right?

It's all in The System.

All around the studio when we begin our Pilates lessons we have sturdy support for our backs.

Lying down for Footwork on the Reformer, sitting up on the High Chair and lying on the Cadillac for Arm Springs and Leg Springs are all foundational exercises. All offer full support of at least our backs if not even more of our body.

The major tenet of the Pilates Method is to create length and decompression in the back. Joe gives us the support of the apparatus as a template to find exactly that: a long and lifted back position.

Joe Pilates recommends us to

“lie down and try to make the whole length of the spine touch the floor, likewise the shoulders and arms, stretched above the head.

You can't do it, but trying is what counts.”

This neat little trick proves a great help to repeat this skill in exercises done on the stomach like Swan and Swimming.

Try it:

  • Lie down as you would before the Hundred or Teaser.
  • Pull your belly button in and up to the nape of your neck.
  • Use your muscles to make you the same shape as the Mat.

(It's impossible. But Joe gives us big points for trying)

  • Now remember what you did and turn onto your stomach for Swimming.
  • Now on your stomach, create the same shape of the mat as when you were lying on your back.
  • Slowly start the exercise without disturbing what you've set up in your center.
  • If you've got it then swim faster like Jaws is chasing you.

The MATness Continues

Now over halfway through the MATness I hope your daily Mat habit is in full swing.

Joe Pilates gifts us The Mat exercises to maintain our bodies. I'm not surprised they are included in a book called Return to Life.

The Mat is the perfect antidote to life's daily onslaught. The exercises here and all around the studio allow us to live – famously – with zest and pleasure.

All exercise photos in this post are featured on my Mat poster. Jaws not included.

And here's where to find me in 2017

Our Beloved Pilates Mat Exercises: The Poster Edition

Our Beloved Pilates Mat Exercises: The Poster Edition

Welcome new subscribers! Thanks so much for reading and sharing your positive vibes for our beloved Pilates Method.

ANOTHER BIG THANK YOU goes out to you, dear readers for making On the Order of the Pilates Mat Exercises, one of my most-viewed and most popular posts.

Many of you purchased my Reformer poster and asked “What about a poster of the Mat exercises?”

You can purchase a Mat poster here.

I can't thank you enough for your support. I appreciate you and I look forward to continuing our adventures on the Pilates path.

Stay awesome, my friends!

March MATness Day 6: One Leg Stretch

Our Beloved Pilates Mat Exercises: The Poster Edition

The One Leg Stretch has many names. We also know it as Single Leg Stretch and Single Leg Pull.

From Return to Life Through Contrology:

  1. Lie flat with entire body resting on mat or floor.
  2. Bend head forward until
    • Chin touches chest, then INHALING SLOWLY
    • Clasp hands and
    • “Pull” right leg as far as possible toward chest
    • Keep left leg stretched forward (knee locked)
    • Stretch toes (pointed) forward and downward with
    • Heel raised (about 2″)
  3. While EXHALING SLOWLY
    • Clasp hands and
    • “Pull” left leg as far as possible toward chest
    • Keep right leg stretched forward (knees locked)
    • Stretch toes (pointed) forward and downward with
    • Heel raised (about 2″)
  4. Repeat the foregoing exercise five (5) times with each leg. (Later on the number of repetitions may be gradually and progressively safely increased to twelve (12) times with each leg.)

Joe Pilates heralded his method as a full body cleansing system. Prescribed movements get the blood pumping for our daily “bodily house-cleaning.”

A prime example of cleansing is right here in Joe's very first Mat exercises. The One Leg Stretch and the Double Leg Stretch stimulate our organs and digestive system and are wind-relieving.

Joe is very specific. Right leg first. Then the left.

As we breathe steadily first our right leg gives a massage of the ascending colon followed by a massage of the descending colon when we pull in the left leg.

Our studied movements act upon our all our vital internal systems. The deep squats of the Double Leg Stretch (following the One Leg Stretch) encourage us to reach and open as much as possible and then fold the body to be impossibly small.

Footwork and Stomach Massage Series on the Reformer, the Roll Up and the Roll Over on the Mat act exactly in the same manner on our organs.

Joe Pilates doesn't call just anything a ‘massage.'

Stomach Massage Series gets a bit of laughs for its name. However, I urge you: persevere and reap deep juicy stretches from your guts and back. Good stuff in there.

Whadaya know, another squat and I managed to use the word ‘urge.'

Meanwhile on the Small Barrel

Our Beloved Pilates Mat Exercises: The Poster Edition

My 30-Day Small Barrel Project began as a self-imposed posture intervention.

It's really the nicest thing I've done for myself for a while in years. The exercise in the photo – Breathing – has a huge impact on my back and how I stand.

I couldn't stop after 30 days of course.

It was too exciting. I have to know how it all turns out.

Skills on the Small Barrel are beginning to infiltrate elsewhere in the system.

The apparatus are our teachers too.

And while we're on the subject…

There's another One Leg Stretch in a helpful little series of ‘wake up exercises' you do before you get out of bed in the morning.

Especially if you are a bit stiff, these few simple moves will feel refreshing necessary. Perhaps even more than your cup of coffee. Maybe 🙂

  • Lie on your back
  • Gently roll your legs from side to side.
  • Alternate lifting your knees up an inch or so as though you were doing the Running exercise on the Reformer. Gently, like you're shrugging the legs (Can you shrug a leg?).
  • Pull one leg into the chest at a time – a few sets – slowly and gently. OMG One Leg Stretch.

Can you guess what comes next?

  • Pull both legs into the chest and then lie them back down. OMG Double Leg Stretch.

These morning moves may also be wind-relieving…

More Mat Posts:

Here's where you can find me in 2017

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