The 7th Principle of Pilates: MOVE!

Jumping on the Stomach on the Ladder BarrelThis week's post is an oldie but its topic has even more resonance today than when it appeared on in 2012. Read Pilatesology's original post even if you're not a member. Wanna join? Use my code Andrea30 and extend their free trial to 30 days.

My Pilates Confession for this week…

Remember your least favorite Pilates exercises we used for our little Repetition test?

Are you bored or are you better?

My few Ladder Barrel exercises have added a 4th friend: The Standing Stretches – also known to Romana's Pilates peeps as the Ballet Stretches.

And I am proud to admit I'm a bit better at them… and what about my 3 other exercises?

I'm sure I am a bit better…but it's too early to tell for sure… more repetition for me!

How did you do?

What are the ‘Principles of Pilates'?

Most all Pilates training programs – mine included – spend the first hour of the first training weekend imparting some basic information about Joe Pilates and his method.

On my first page of notes: Pilates is… (in 3 words) Stretch with Strength and Control.

Okay, cool.

Next my notes tell me what most if not all Pilates instructors also learn very early on:

The 6 Principles of Pilates:





Flowing movement


True, these 6 principles do accurately describe what differentiates Pilates from other forms of exercise.

They do not, however, come from Joe Pilates.


It's true.

Jay weighs in…

Jay Grimes points out that Joe Pilates did not come down from the mountain one day with stone tablets proclaiming the 6 Principles of Pilates.

I always laugh when he says this because I think of Mel Brooks as Moses in History of the World Part 1. Moses comes down from the mountain to announce his 15 Commandments, accidentally drops one stone tablet and quickly changes the number to “…10…! 10 Commandments!”

But Joe Pilates would have had the stone tablets, the tiny white shorts, and a cigar I think, yes?

I know, getting a little off-topic.

So if not from Joe, from whom do we get these 6 lovely principles?

Enter Romana…

The 6 Principles first appeared in The Pilates Method of Physical and Mental Conditioning by Philip Friedman and Gail Eisen, two students of Romana Kryzanowska.

Originally published in 1980 (more than a decade after Joe Pilates died, yo.).  It “was the first book of its kind – bringing Pilates out of the elite studios and into the lives of millions of Americans.”

The Pilates Method of Physical and Mental Conditioning

Jogging and running had exploded in the late 1970s. By 1980 a fitness craze was sweeping the country and an obsession with health, beauty, and youthfulness was having profound effects on American culture.

Students Gail and Philip met with Romana seeking specific ways to differentiate the Pilates Method from other forms of exercise.

What made Pilates special?

Certainly, the 6 principles they created are inherent in the Pilates system.

But another more important principle is missing.

Let’s call it the 7th Principle of Pilates: Move!

Who knows, maybe if Joe dropped his stone tablet other precious gems were lost as well:

“Thou Shalt Not Bang the Carriage.”

“Quiet the Clips.”

“What you don’t like, you do twice.”

Try it for yourself.

Let's follow the 7th Principle of Pilates. Move!

All those other 6 principles will happen automatically when you commit to simply move.

Concentration: You'll remember the exercises and focus on what you are doing. As you continue to move you'll have to think faster from one exercise to the next. Moving requires engagement.

Control: You'll move in a safe and effective fashion. The continual movement will challenge your control.

Centering: You’ll be toast without your stomach.

Precision: You'll maintain your form. The continual movement will challenge your precision.

Breathing: You'll most certainly have to breathe… The movement will require you to breathe more deeply and fully. I love it when this happens!

Flowing movement: OMG yes! You are moving!

All this involves TRUST of course.

Trust yourself AND the Work

Trust in Joe's work.

Trust that it is getting the job done without you micromanaging and getting all up in its grill.

Trust to let the body lead you without your mind working overtime, or over-indulging in the breathing.

Perhaps…you know who you are…


Let go.

Let go and Let Joe…awww… #pilatespunsarethebest

What's your experience when you commit to move in your workout?

I'd love to know. Share your successes in a comment below.

Thanks Order of the Pilates Exercises: Transitions on the Mat!

Thanks Order of the Pilates Exercises: Transitions on the Mat!

Thanks for all the love and comments on my Transitions! Transitions! series which featured the Reformer exercises.

Bring on the MATness!

In celebration of March MATness 2016 this post will begin a 10 part video series on how to tighten up your transitions between Mat exercises.

So you'll be all set to whip your little selves into a Mat frenzy come March.

Most of you are aware of my deeeeeeeep devotion to the Pilates Mat exercises.

Connecting each exercise to the next creates an efficient and continuous chain of movement. Perfecting my Mat workout in this manner is a pet project of mine.

Working steadily and at a brisk pace, these effective transitions on the mat will allow you to finish all 38 exercises in about 25 minutes.

Now that's what I call efficient.

Who hasn't got 25 minutes to Return to Life?

A word about the Pilates High Mat

Of course you can do your Mat exercises anywhere, anytime.

However, I can't say enough about my Pilates High mat with the strap and handles. It is a studio quality piece of apparatus that I find indispensable. Mine is made by Gratz, which is one option.

Another option is to stretch those DIY muscles: find a handy spouse or client and use this post via Pilatesology.

And here's why your body, your clients, every body! needs one of these babies…

It's a common misperception that the strap is only for beginners – to help new students achieve the Roll Up and the Neck Pull, for example.

In reality, as the student becomes more and more proficient in their Pilates workout, they can benefit more from the strap. The strap gives a vital assist to open the back more efficiently and consistently than is possible without it.

Everybody Pilates in Portsmouth, UK has a handy client who built 12 high mats for the studio's busy Mat Class schedule. I have seen with my own eyes the strength that has been created in all the bodies that only come to Mat classes.


Students that have never touched the apparatus were accomplishing all the 38 Mat exercises (yes – High Scissors and High Bicycle too) and looking super strong doing them.

Creating 10 or so DIY studio-quality mats is an investment for a Pilates studio, but in the process you'll set yourself apart from every other Mat class in town.

With apparatus quality mats, clients will see results more quickly and bodies will change.


And now for some transitions!

Enjoy this short vlog that begins standing and continues through Rolling Like a Ball.

And now for the Show Notes!

Descending to the Mat

Each Pilates Mat workout will start and finish in a standing position.

  • Stand at the front of the mat.
  • Cross 1 foot over the other and cross the arms in front of you.
  • Use your lift and control to grow taller as you lower down to a seated position.
  • Lie down on the mat as efficiently as possible and center yourself top to bottom as well as side to side.

The Hundred

You can begin the Hundred with the legs long on the mat or with legs bent into the chest just like Frog.

  • In one motion bring everything up into position.
  • Choose how you will begin the exercise and finish in the same manner.

The Roll Up

This first sequence of exercises is quite strap-heavy. If you're using the strap there will be a lot of getting up to put it on and lying back down into position.

It's really by design. Your workout is preparing you for the sitting up, lying down, getting up challenges of life, so use your stomach and do it with gusto!

Also we've just started the workout. Your mat is coddling you now. How nice to get to lie on your back with lovely support for your whole body. Joe Pilates is so thoughtful…

The body is warming up, stretching out, limbering and it's nice to have a great support from the mat apparatus at the onset of your workout.

Just you wait.

Later you'll reflect fondly on the time you spent with your feet in the strap…

Strap version:

  • Sit up and put the strap on your ankles.
  • Lie back and tighten the strap.
  • Take a pole if you've got one.

No strap?

  • Lie with legs long on the mat.
  • Reach heels forward, gently pressing them into the mat.
  • Take a pole if you've got one.

The Roll Over

Strap version:

  • Finish your Roll Up and lose the pole.
  • Use your handles with straight arms if possible.
  • Take your feet out of the strap and begin.

No strap?

  • Finish your Roll Up and lose the pole.
  • Reach your arms long beside you on the mat.
  • Begin your Roll Over.

Single Leg Circles

Strap version:

  • Finish your Roll Over, lowering the legs to your level.
  • Sit up and put the strap on your left foot.
  • Lie back and reach for the handles, making the strap tight on your foot if possible.
  • Reach your right leg to the sky and begin your Single Leg Circles.
  • Finish the right leg and put that foot under the strap.
  • Reach your left leg to the sky and begin your Single Leg Circles.

No strap?

  • Finish your Roll Over, lowering the legs to your level.
  • Reach your right leg to the sky and begin your Single Leg Circles.
  • Finish the right leg and scissor the legs bringing the left leg up and the right leg down to the mat.
  • Reach your left leg to the sky and begin your Single Leg Circles.

Rolling like a Ball

Whether you've got a strap or not:

  • Use your stomach.
  • In one swift maneuver come to up to balance in your Rolling Like a Ball position.
  • Roll on friends!


More episodes:

Questions? You know how much I love comments!!

The Pilates Home Practice Project: Bill, 82

The Pilates Home Practice Project: Bill, 82

Reputedly, Joe Pilates was an evangelist of his method.

As an avid practitioner (nerd) of the Pilates Method we cannot help sharing our passion for the work we do. Oh if only our loved ones could embrace the method and reap its benefits as we do…

Recently over the Christmas holiday, we celebrated in Texas with Joe's family.

Joe's father Bill turned 82 on December 23rd.

Bill, at 6ft tall, has a sturdy and solid physique. He's no push-over and I'm often surprised by his firm pat on the back. It nearly knocks me over.


Bill has been having some balance issues when he stands up after sitting for a while. He would take a few careening steps to steady himself upon rising. He knows when I visit I regularly do my Mat exercises and this year he had a question for me.

“Are there any exercises that would help to improve my balance?”

Imagine my surprise at such a loaded question. He has no idea that I've got over 500 exercises for just that.


I could spare a few for him.

The Pilates Home Practice Project

We would be visiting for about 7 days. I told him we would do 5 Mat exercises plus 2 extra standing ones.

I decided we would start with just 1 exercise and then add an additional one each day. This would help him remember the exercises and also build stamina slowly, a little bit each day, because he hadn't done a physical workout in a couple decades.

In 5 days he'd have 5 exercises plus 2 extra exercises I planned to sneak in on the last days of our visit.

Okay, to get started he would need a mat to use.

Amazon Prime took care of that and the next day I had a mat to use for my workout as well.

Now how did he feel about getting on the floor?

“Not a problem,” he assured me.

Case History

Bill Knight, my father-in-law, is a man of action. We marvel at the speed with which he can send us a package via US Mail. We joke that while on the phone telling us he's sent a package, the doorbell rings and there it is.

We decided his name deserved the honor of being made into a verb.

“Could you Bill Knight that to me please?” Meaning you need it in a hurry.

He was Superintendent of Schools in Mineola, TX for 23 years.

The youngest of 7 of a family of tenant farmers (think Steinbeck), upon his retirement Bill created numerous projects for himself including self-publishing a book about his 3 older brothers that were war heroes. Read more about his book, My Brother Jack here.

So I'm pretty sure the 5 Pilates Mat exercises will not take him down.

He tells me he's had no injuries or issues, he's just stiff. Okay, that sounds great.

And amazing.

Getting onto the floor is not a problem, he says, although it may take him a while. Fine too.

I can see that his low back is tight and he has a bit of a belly.

I want to keep my instructions clear and simple: it's his first time with these exercises and he needs to remember what to do. I promise to write down instructions for what we do.

The plan in action

1. The “Wake up your Muscles” Exercise

The Pilates Home Practice Project: Bill, 82

I chose just 1 pre-Pilates exercise for Bill.

Well, it's kind of a 2-in-1 exercise.

In the photo above is part 1. Scroll down for a video excerpt of part 2.

It's a wonderful first exercise for those that have not worked out in a while. I never did hear a name for this exercise, uhm, bridges and curls?

Regardless, it's a great one to wake up your muscles and find out what they can do.

I love it because it is simple and it really pinpoints what muscles we will cultivate and use in all the Pilates exercises. Especially in a program that does not include work on the apparatus (yet?), these 2 skills are illuminating for the student because they can feel the muscles they should be using.

For the teacher, it is a great assessment tool. You can see the body, the back as it is moving and all kinds of stuff will show up in just a few moments. And it's safe and simple.

For the record, this post will include photos of me doing the exercises I chose for Bill.

It is my fervent hope to include photos of Bill doing the exercises as this project continues. However, I didn't want to get all up in his grill on day 1 of Pilates to feed the blog.

I hope you'll understand.

Here's part 2, the curl into the upper stomach from Pilatesology.

2. Bill's first Hundred

The Pilates Home Practice Project: Bill, 82

I noticed after watching Bill do the previous exercise that to curl up into the upper stomach was a challenge. As I taught him the Hundred I discovered that keeping his head up did not cause strain in his neck. He said it hurt his stomach and was tiring, but his neck was fine.

For now, he will do the upper body portion of the exercise, but his lower body will remain the same: knees bent and feet on the floor. This will also keep things simple at first.

Note: On the first day I used a pillow between the knees to keep his lower body supported. I made only one correction so far after 2 exercises. His right side is stronger and as he lifted up his hips he would really lean over to the right side and barely be on the left at all. So I decided to tell him. 

The next day he didn't need the pillow anymore and he worked much more symmetrically. 

He also told me he has grit.


3. The One Leg Circle

The Pilates Home Practice Project: Bill, 82

For the One Leg Circle I decided to keep my theme of the ‘base position' as I will call it. The position stays the same just with one leg up to the ceiling. He is catching on already.

“When I move my leg I want to keep this still (points to the trunk of his body). Right?

Yes. He also remembered the 1st two exercises we did on the previous days.

Should I order the Pilates Nerd T-shirt now?

4. Single Leg Pull

The Pilates Home Practice Project: Bill, 82

We did this one in 2 steps: (1) I had him just do the lower body part. Pull one leg in with the proper hand position and then put it down. Then the other leg. Head down and whatever happened happened. It was not perfect, but he was moving safely and today, sweating.

So far, Bill has been wearing jeans and a button down shirt for his exercises.

The next day he put on a T-shirt to workout. And (2) he did the Single Leg Pull with his head up and his stomach in.

Extra exercise: standing up without using your hands

On Day 4 I added one of the extra exercises I chose for him. It is simply getting up out of a chair without the use of your hands. This is a crucial skill as we age. I started him in a firm chair that sits rather high up.

It's helpful to feel like you push the floor away when standing. That way you'll use the stomach, seat and legs to get you up.

This is vital lower body strength we must cultivate at every age.

To be honest, this exercise I knew he could do easily.

And he did. I believe it's his intention to learn his exercises and then to help his wife to do them too.

This exercise is really for her.

Meanwhile, he can work on standing up without his hands from a lower more challenging chair.

5. Double Leg Pull

The Pilates Home Practice Project: Bill, 82The Pilates Home Practice Project: Bill, 82

On day 5 I introduced what I suspected would be the most challenging of the exercises: Double Leg Pull.

You know how I feel about this exercise. It's my mantra!

We did 3. Slowly…

Although he got himself into the most lovely starting position, this exercise was hard for him.

He was really curled up into a ball. We did about 3, and the work of this exercise was exhausting. He fell out after being curled up. I told him to be judicious and only do as many as he could. 1 was great. If you can eventually work up to 3, that's perfect. When 3 feels easy, then do 5.

I preached frequency, not duration.

Extra exercise: The Wall

The Pilates Home Practice Project: Bill, 82The Pilates Home Practice Project: Bill, 82The Pilates Home Practice Project: Bill, 82

I wanted to include the Wall into his routine as it is the perfect exercise for a home practice. Everyone has a wall they can use to finish their workout.

I included 3 exercises at the wall: Circles, Roll Down and Squats (Skiing).

He knew right away they were for his posture.

Stay tuned for more on Bill's Pilates Home Project. 

Share your experience in a comment below.

A Word about the Pilates Standing Arm Springs

The Standing Arm Spring series consists of many MANY exercise variations.

The name says it all really.

You're standing. You are using the Arm Springs, usually a medium weight spring. You'll be either at the Cadillac, Wall Unit (like in the class in the video) or Guillotine.

Choosing just a few of these exercises can make an invigorating and challenging ending series. Especially for men. Whoever you are, the Standing Arm Spring exercises make you feel big and strong, what can I say?

Powerhouse required.

Yes, don't leave home without it.  Even the more basic variations of the Standing Arm Springs can be challenging.

Oh yes, and there are some real killers. A little something for nearly everyone.

The Pilates Method is a full body workout.

Based on what you know about the Pilates Method, you've probably guessed that the Standing Arm Spring Series is not about the arms.

Leg circles about the legs? Nope! Standing Arm Spring Series: same story.

Yes, you'll need everything you've got to succeed in these exercises. You must ground your body into the floor and use the buttocks and the back.

Be out-standing!

Another traditional ending to your Pilates workout is the Standing Arm Weights Series. Clearly about more than your arms and the small weights in your hands, the Standing Arm Weights Series targets the strength of your standing position.


Your Pilates workout gone vertical so you can succeed for life.

The Standing Arm Springs are no different. Use those springs to your best advantage and work your whole body.

Wanna learn more about the Cadillac and the building blocks for the Standing Arm Spring Series?

Save the date!

On Saturday, June 13 you can join me via Skype, private video link or live and in person at Studio S Pilates in Temecula, California.

Register for this workshop  (plus an awesome Mat workshop)!

On the 16th Day of March MATness Joe Pilates gave to me…

On the 16th Day of Match MATness Joe Pilates gave to me...

The High Scissors and High Bicycle!






fasten down the rib

be your own Spine Corrector

open up the back

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