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.


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.


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:


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:


Open Leg Rocker 2015

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

And all those OTHER Pilates exercises…


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:


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.

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  1. (me) “…As the founder of “Tortoise Pilates….”…LOL!! I love these comparisons! Seeing your body change is inspiring to all Pilates nerds. And agreed, the videos of our lessons…although SO cringe worthy for me to watch (cue: martini please!) are indeed very helpful. I find them especially helpful a few months down the road when you are struggling or investigating a certain body “thing.” And it is soooo true “more often what I thought I was doing … was not the same thing at. all.” … but that’s what keeps us coming back right? The drive for “better.” Perfection; that’s not possible but getting the roll a little smoother, the gut pulled in a little more, the butt engaging somewhat, now that’s possible…and seeing that then transpire into “other” real life things…The Method IS incredible.

    It’s kind of like gardening…every year, you see a plant, a tree, a something come back bigger, stronger…it doesn’t happen in one growing season, sometimes not even two or three…but then you look back at a photo and go WOW look how full the echinacea is or how big the apple tree has grown! True story, this year my honey crisp tree bestowed us 150 apples (4xs previous yield), it must have done alot of Pilates. 🙂

    I also find motivation in choosing that ONE “fancy” exercise to work on. For me, this year, that’s a handstand back onto the Ladder Barrel (says woman who is too scared to do a handstand). This probably won’t happen but it gives me that “big” challenge. Just bettering the foundational exercises is my everyday pledge; and that’s what really keeps me going. Remember in early 2017 I said “I want to do the Snake/Twist” by my birthday (which was, I think 5 months away)…It’s nearly 2020 and I’m still not “there” yet. But, it’s the repetition, the nourishment this goal gives brain and body which keeps us all obsessed and drinking the kool-aid.

    Now, about the Side Kick Series…

    • Corrie! Thank you so much for reading and for weighing in on this week’s post!
      I LOVE your gardening comparison – it is so perfect – Jay often says that if you plant an apple tree seed you can’t go pick an Apple the next day – these things take time.

      I haven’t decided on a particular fancy exercise for 2020 but I think I should nominate Tower done on the Guillotine which is fancy enough for my side to side challenge. Okay let’s up it to One Leg Tower to make it all the more interesting… and that fits well into my scissor/side kicks theme…YES!

      You also bring up an even more important point of the power of incremental change seeping into our daily life and finding changes there! Of course… sometimes it’s hard to see the real life through all those Teasers and Rockers LOL

      Thank you so much for sharing these insights – and am I to take it that you are not on board for Side Kick Series 2020 ha ha ?
      let’s talk soon

  2. What a lovely post, Andrea! So honest, refreshing and upbeat and so inspiring! I love your “Side Kick Series 2020” and the idea of not only holding ourselves to account, but putting ourselves out there to be held to account: “The ego is delicate” yay! I’ll be here for every one of your insightful posts, Andrea!

    For my part, I’m starting 2020 of on the first of January with #pilatesforlife2020. Everyday there’s a new exercise (not traditional order) building up onto each other to create a full 31 exercise workout! I’ll be posting evidence of my own work and asking others too as well… Just like March Matness but instead on the first of January to coincide with all our New Years Resolutions!

    • Miguel! Great idea! Let us know the link; we’d love to see your evidence!

      • Alessandra Niccolai says

        Side kick series def not my favourite… but maybe with my new found powerhouse..???? I might start to like them ????????‍♀️.. now, where’s that Kool Aid again ????????????????

        • Yeah I definitely need a brand new powerhouse for the Side Kick Series – still working out one little clunk in there that needs sorting out ha ha… But I’ve got all year! xox

    • Miguel,

      Thank you so much for your kind words on this post! Yes, we’ll see how it goes with my Side Kicks goal… stay tuned 🙂 I think your January Mat resolution sounds awesome – please keep us posted on your progress. And keep up the good work! xox

  3. Alessandra Niccolai says

    Love this Andrea! I definitely need to ‘get my powerhouse in order’ ???? I think at least the first few (six?) months of 2020 will be spent mining those fundamental exercises… maybe consolidation is a better word for my practice goals…???? … recently I’ve been finding new connections in my body – could this be my powerhouse finally getting its act together ????, so to speak? ????????‍♀️ So am going to get this new power to help me with exercises where I take my hips up and over.. rollover, jack knife, corkscrew, overhead, long spine, airplane…. all those beauties that I’m sure feel fabulous once mastered…????????????.. now..pass me the Kool Aid and I shall get started????????

  4. I love the open leg rocker flash back. 12 years after I’m still working on mine. Thank you for sharing 🙂

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