Happy Pilates Day! May 3, 2014

Happy Pilates Day! May 3, 2014A program initiated by the Pilates Method Alliance (PMA), Pilates Day “is an annual, international, community event celebrated on the first Saturday of May every year.

The Pilates Day mission is to foster the public's appreciation and awareness of the Pilates Method through a network of varied, innovative, and high quality grassroots Pilates events accessible and affordable for all.”

Although I am currently not a member of the PMA (yet! Stay tuned…) I believe that everyone who has a body should be aware of the wonderful rewards and enhanced quality of life that comes with the discipline of a Pilates practice.

Pilates Day 2013

Happy Pilates Day! May 3, 2014

Last year I had so much fun at a Pilates Day event that I simply had to write a post about it.

Benjamin Degenhardt

+ Prana Pilates

+ Pilates Day

= Pilates Nerdfest '13

I am not sure if it is required by the PMA, but any good Pilates Day includes cake.

So what's shakin' this Saturday? May 3, 2014

This annual conference presented by Dana Santi and Gratz Pilates is always jam-packed with information and guaranteed to fulfill all your Pilates Day desires and more. Diverse workshops from Jay Grimes as well as members of the Authentic Pilates Union will give you 3 full days to nerd out in style.

Read a review of last year's Chicago conference here.

Find a complete list of PMA Pilates Day events around the world here. Enjoy!

Celebratory Mat workout?


Wherever your Pilates Day takes you, celebrating formally at a local event or workshop or privately working out with some exercise favorites, why not do a few extra sets of an exercise you really don't like very much but that you dearly, dearly need.

I solemnly swear to do 5 sets of the Saw instead of 3 – and maybe an extra one to the right while I'm at it.

Argh…and the Swakate on the Arm Chair.

I know, I'm a party animal.

Followed by cake!

What despicable exercise will you celebrate with?

I'd love some company 🙂

Pilates Mat Exercise #2: The Roll Up

Pilates Mat Exercise #2: The Roll Up

The Roll Up

The Roll Up deserves full credit for my immersion in/obsession with the Pilates Method.

In my very first Mat class, it was the Roll Up – the second exercise, mind you – that absorbed my attention in an instant.

OMG, disaster. What is. Happening??!

How could I fail so miserably, so early in the hour? Am I not flexible and strong?

The Pilates Method reveals valuable information about our body. We learn volumes about our strengths and weaknesses. A stunning attribute, really.

However, at first we may not appreciate our new intel.

We're gonna Roll Up like it's 1999

Back in the day, I could only complete the exercise when I wore my heavy Dr. Martens boots. Sadly, I could not wear them to class, but I would sometimes put them on when I would practice at home. Then I could roll up and down no problem and my legs would stay on the mat. I think I found it soothing…

But I agree, not ideal.

Jennifer Kries' The Method Pilates Precision Toning series assured me that someday I would be able to complete the Roll Up, so I kept at it, the Roll Up, and my Pilates classes.

Fast (Up and) Forward

Today, of course in true Pilates fashion, the Roll Up is one of my very favorite exercises. Using the strap on my proper Pilates Mat has really opened up the tight spot in my back, allowing me to find success in the exercise even on a hotel room floor.

Up against the wall

So if you are working at home to perfect your Roll Up, bereft of a Pilates studio mat with strap and handles, what's to be done? Use a wall to get more out of this vital exercise than mere frustration.

  1. Lie down on your mat so that you can place your feet on a wall. Heels on the floor, feet and legs together.
  2. I like to keep my knees just a little bent. If your Roll Up is not perfect (and whose is) sometimes you may find yourself sliding away from the wall as you roll back down. The knees bent helps in this regard. It will help you to open the low back, potentially the culprit in this whole Roll Up debacle.
  3. Push your feet into the wall as you begin your Roll Up. If your back is tight, you may not get all the way up with your feet still pressing on the wall. This is okay. You will probably get a good stretch in your back and over time you'll roll up a little more.
  4. Continue to reach your feet, heels especially, pressing into the wall as you roll all the way down onto the mat. The reach through your heels will help you to find the seat and lengthen the lower back.

The wall is approximating the assist you get from the strap on the Mat, and as such is a bit unforgiving.

But I bet you're up to the challenge. Give it a go.

Pilates: what kills our ego, does indeed make us stronger.

On the Order of the Pilates Mat Exercises…

On the Order of the Pilates Mat Exercises...


Click here for a list of all the exercises in this post!

I find it hard to imagine the Pilates Mat exercises without Joe Pilates' structure. As someone who enjoys following a good rule or two, the structure and prescribed order of the exercises have always appealed to me.

Sans Joe's order my focus would wane as I deliberated on which exercise to do next. I would surely omit an exercise or two that I don't like, much to my own detriment. We need them all, really.

What we hear from Joe on the subject:

Study carefully. Do not sacrifice knowledge to speed in building your solid exercise regime on the foundation of Contrology. Follow instructions exactly as indicated down to the very smallest detail. There IS a reason!

Joe Pilates toiled his entire lifetime of 80+ years indefatigably tinkering with and perfecting his method.

Jay Grimes insists no detail was left to chance or done by accident in the entire body of Pilates' work.

Like an actor mining his script for clues to construct the heart and soul of a character I feel it's my job as a Pilates instructor to look closely at the evidence and investigate fully with body and mind.

Why the Corkscrew now?

Or in an especially challenging exercise that maybe I don't like, why must I slow my steady pace to the Teaser with the Side Kick Series?

It is my belief that by using Joe's set order of the exercises on both the Mat and the Reformer I can experience in 2013 the full genius of Joe Pilates who died in 1967.

So my workouts include a lot of asking questions – investigating internally what the previous exercise has provided as a help for the bear of an exercise I must now tackle – and on a good day, the occasional revelation.


If you learn one new thing every day you will be a genius.


Thanks Romana, I need a good workout that will make me – albeit briefly – a genius.

Romana Kryzanowska!

I should mention that the order I learned from Romana's Pilates differs somewhat from Joe's original order. Circa late 1990s I am told Romana moved a few things around and added the mermaid to the Mat. The Side Bend was taken out around then too. I can't speculate on why she felt these changes to be necessary, but she is, of course, Romana.

Now my study of the Pilates Method focuses exclusively on the order Joe lays out for us.

So I thought I would articulate why I think the Mat exercises are arranged in the order presented in JP's Return to Life Through Contrology.  It will be a good exercise to attempt this ‘out loud', shall we say, and hopefully I just might learn something.

Who doesn't want to be a genius?

Please note that this examination is solely about the order and the exercises themselves…not about who should be doing them or if one is ready to do them, etc… That's a subject for another post. I'll be lucky if I can finish this one 🙂

My experience of the Pilates exercises in my own body will of course differ from every other person. But Joe Pilates has a way of distilling us into the humanity that we are: the same body systems and parts that probably need a similar kind of maintenance.

Am I the only sway-backed, blogger with a weaker side out there?


The Hundred

No matter how much you dislike this exercise, you cannot dispute its effectiveness as a warmup. It gets the blood and the air moving. Boom. You have arrived.

The Roll Up, The Roll Over, Single Leg Circles

These 3 exercises I am grouping together as they are the first stretches of your entire system that you get in the Mat repertoire. The Roll Up gives you a top-to-toe stretch of the entire back of the body, The Roll Over gives the opposite – a toe-to-top stretch of the very same thing. The Single Leg Circles is my favorite ‘stomach exercise in disguise' exercise and I believe it is a stretch of the entire system again now one side at a time…in any case, it's not really about your leg. We are a human! Not just a leg.

After all these initial stretches of our system – and hang on, cause they're gonna happen for a while, we are only 4 exercises in and still climbing in our intensity – we get something nice:

Roll Like a Ball

A nice massage of all the stuff we just stretched out. Now back to work.

Single Leg Pull and Double Leg Pull

These are the 2 exercises in the famed “Series of 5” that come from Joe Pilates. Romana added the other 3 (to which Jay Grimes says: “Because they're good”) in my understanding because she saw too many poochy bellies and Romana did not like poochy bellies.

And they are good. They never disappoint.

Single Leg Pull and Double Leg Pull are in my opinion ‘wind-relieving' exercises to help to stimulate digestion and ultimately rid the body of toxins. They are a great strengthener of the entire trunk and the deep breaths of the Double Leg Pull again lead to a stretch and a wringing out of the entire system: stretch out and lengthen, and then fold up completely. Just what we need to be doing.


Spine Stretch Forward

We now return to the stretching out of the entire system in a seated position, lengthening in both a Rounded and Tall position. I know, don't forget about the Tall. It's not easy to sit up tall. We are preparing for another massage of the entire system which will come next and take Roll Like a Ball to a whole new level.

The Rocker with Open Legs

A more challenging massage – if you can get it – requiring even more length along the entire back of the body. Oh and some balance and control aspects upping the ante as well.

The Corkscrew and The Saw

These 2 exercises I combine as they are the same exercise for both the lower and upper body. Stretching the back of the body in a new way, along the sides and with rotation. In a sense I feel that every exercise up to and including the Saw is warming up, stretching out and preparing the back of the body for the next 3 extension exercises. Soon the back must fight to keep it's length and integrity while it's made to do some hard work.

The Swan Dive, Single Leg Kicks and Double Leg Kicks

Now we have arrived at the extension exercises – a lot of tough work for the back – but now it's all ready to go, thanks to the previous 11-14 exercises. The Swan Dive is a big full move to get the juices flowing, followed by the Single Leg Kicks and Double Leg Kicks which aid in the stretching of the front of the lower body – and furthermore strengthen the buttocks and hamstrings for the tasks ahead.

Thigh Stretch

This is the first ‘task ahead' for which you strengthened the buttocks and entire lower body in the previous 3 exercises. Thigh Stretch is a hard exercise to do well and the name pretty much says it all.

The Neck Pull

Now we return to where we started with the Roll Up, but some rules have changed: Legs apart and arms all tied up behind the head. I see the Neck Pull as a counter stretch after the extension exercises as well as a test of the stability of the lower body which was strengthened with the Single and Double Leg Kicks and Thigh Stretch.

High Scissors, High Bicycle and Shoulder Bridge

An advancement of the extension exercises, these 3 exercises build upon what was started with the Single and Double Leg Kicks. Now the front of the entire body gets a stretch, but it's gonna cost you. Try not to topple over. Aren't you glad you got in all that strengthening of the upper stomach earlier in the workout?

The use of the seat and the back of the lower body will also be a help in the exercises that follow.

Spine Twist and Jackknife

These 2 exercises prepare the sides of the body and the entire back line of the body for the challenge of the Side Kick Series. In the Spine Twist the back is striving to stay tall in a seated position, nearly as hard a feat as staying ‘tall' and not getting lounge-y when you lie on your side for the Side Kicks.


No sexy on the Beach!   Romana Kryzanowska


The Jackknife warms up the entire lower body system in a straightforward way before you get to do it one side at a time in the Side Kick Series. Can you connect your lower body into the trunk? Great!

Now can you do it one side at a time?

Side Kick Series

Time for some multitasking! You must control one side as an anchor while you control the other side as it moves in various patterns. So much to keep track of. Ready? Switch!

The Teaser and the Hip Twist (Hip Circles)

Lower Body? Check.

Remember way back at the top of the workout from the Roll up to the Spine Stretch and Rocker with Open Legs when we lengthened the Upper Body primarily? Good.

Let's put it together with the lower body skills you learned in all the exercises thus far.

It's the Teaser and it's most infamous variation, The Hip Twist (Hip Circles). Basically these 2 exercises are a lengthening and stretching of the entire system, including a challenging spin at the end. Another shot at multitasking and a concept prevalent (relentless) throughout the Pilates system: Something anchoring combined with something else moving.

Not the first or last time this is gonna cross our paths, why aren't we used to it by now?


And now we bend the other way…oh and let's do it one side at a time while we're at it, cause we've been here before, right?

Leg Pull and Leg Pull Front

We've done our stretches of the front of the body before we get to this exercise, but now there's a little more at stake. Gone is the luxury of lying down, and my God, we still have to work each side separately.

Joe Pilates, have you no mercy??!

Side Kicks Kneeling

Evidently the answer to our plea is a big fat NO in the form of the Side Kicks Kneeling.

JP could not be reached for comment. Frownie face…

So we had our fun lying down in the Side Kick Series for some sexy on the beach…well evidently there is more to be had now that we'll be doing the same work of the lower body AGAIN and we have to hold ourselves up while we do it. Gaaawwwwd, FINE!

The Side Bend

As much as I personally struggle with this exercise, it is a nice big stretch like a cat. Joe Pilates' version of a treat after all that precedes it. A big wringing out of the sides that you just trashed in the Side Kicks Kneeling. And some time to breathe and collect yourselves for the big finish.

Boomerang, Seal, Crab

Initially I did not learn these exercises in this order. So 3 rolling exercises in a row was news to me. But I have come to adore it and I'm gonna tell you why. Pilates builds integrity in motion and 3 rolling exercises in a row really puts that to the test. Each of the 3 has their own rhythm and shape to the body. In the midst of tackling these exercises you can clearly see when you are a rolling stone and when you're not. By the time you get to The Crab you can challenge yourself to be a solid rolling machine.

The Rocking

The ultimate in front-of-the-body stretching and why not take a cue from the previous rolling exercises and rock around on the front of you for a while? You'll need all that strength of the back and buttocks for the next exercises anyway.

Control Balance

Is it not the ultimate goal? Control. And what do you have when you are in control? Balance. I think of this exercise as an extremely challenging lower body exercise. You are working against gravity, your greatest foe in the workout, and odds are in its favor. Reminiscent of The Hundred, Double Leg Pull (of course) and the Jackknife amongst others, this exercise is clearly all those exercises put together and more.

The Push Ups

I am sure Joe Pilates did not invent the Push Up, but at the end of the workout it is a perfect example of stretch and strength and control. You must roll down and place your hands onto the mat in front of your feet, you must take 4 precise steps out with your hands to your push up position and you must lower and lift the entire weight of your body several times.

Oh, and then you've got to walk back in, hands to feet, roll yourself up and do it all over again.


You can say what Pilates is in 3 words: stretch with strength and control. And the control part is the most important because that makes you use your mind.   Romana Kryzanowska

Another zinger from JP:

On the Order of the Pilates Mat Exercises...

Love the order of the exercises? Share your thoughts in a comment below.

Not a fan of the order? I'd love to hear about that too.

Really prefer the Reformer? Check out this post.

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