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

March MATness Day 13: The One Leg Kick

March MATness Day 13: The One Leg Kick

At first blush some Pilates exercises are no big deal.

Right…

Enter the One Leg Kick.

What's going on here anyway?

Although it was hard to keep my legs tightly together, what's so hard about bending your legs and kicking your bottom a few times?

Okay, pull my stomach in.

So?

Let's. Look. Closer.

The Order of the Universe: It's Swantastic!

March MATness Day 13: The One Leg Kick

The One Leg Kick is our 2nd exercise since – in a radical turn of events – we've landed on our bellies. 

Here in the Land of Swan we're still expected to scoop our middles off the floor and yet somehow lift our chests??

Swan, One Leg Kick and [spoiler alert] Double Leg Kick place our limbs in various configurations.

Don't be distracted: it's still Swan. Our body shape is an elongated evenly arched back position.

No dumping in the lower back please. 

Now where did I put my 2-way stretch?

I'm sure it's here somewhere.

One Leg Kick presented a puzzle to me: how is this exercise like all the others?

How do I find our quintessential Pilates exercise the Double Leg Pull

If you, like me, are also bereft of your Double Leg Pull in the One Leg Kick here's a few tips I've found to be helpful:

  • Reach your toes away with your legs straight before starting the kicks. Not only will you increase the opening in the hips and thighs but you may even pinpoint a teensy bit more of your seat. Huzzah!
  • As you replace each leg into the floor reach away in both directions augmenting and elongating your Swan shape and your lift with each switch of the legs.
  • Use your forearms to firmly press into the Mat creating greater lift in he upper body.
  • Squeeze the legs together more than you think possible. Then do it some more.

Help to be Found in the Greater Pilates System

My helper exercise isn't an easy one but it helps to find your center in the One Leg Kick (always the first thing to go).

Hamstring Stretch on the Reformer

March MATness Day 13: The One Leg Kick

You may encounter this exercise in a few forms: Rocking, Hamstring Curl and Mushy Tushie.

I originally learned a version of this exercise on 2 springs but Hamstring Stretch is done on 1 spring. Use both legs if you're new to the exercise before working the one leg version. 

It's a familiar position yes? 3 sets is plenty here on the Long Box.

Do 5 sets of One Leg Kick on the Mat

Enjoy the MATness!

Use my Mat workout playlist on my YouTube channel for your daily Mat exercises. Even if you've only got 5 minutes, there's a workout for you.

Check out my new poster which features all the exercises in Joe Pilates' manifesto Return to Life plus a few more.

Related Mat Posts:

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

The Pilates System: 2 More Mad Skills from your First Lesson

The Pilates System: 2 More Mad Skills from your First Lesson

Last year I weighed in on a few crucial skills we learn in our very first Pilates lesson.

Turns out our first lesson is jam-packed with key intel to serve us on our Pilates journey.

As I progress toward Day 30 of my Small Barrel Project (today is Day 28!) I can add 2 more fundamental exercises to our skill set.

Pilates is straightforward and simple in many respects. Even in our first few lessons Joe Pilates introduces us to all the tools we'll need as an advanced practitioner.

The first of today's fundamental exercises is one I've had to refine and relearn repeatedly in my workout. Perhaps I've finally got it this time…

1. Frog

The Pilates System: 2 More Mad Skills from your First Lesson

With a lazy bum and overworking legs the Frog is a continual challenge for me.

We learn Frog early on in our Pilates life. It's the first and foremost way we extend our lower body away from our center for a while.

Beginning the Hundred, the Leg Circles and Double Leg Pull would be impossible for some without Frog.

I dare you to go through your Reformer or your Mat workout to see just how many times you find yourself needing some Frog skills.

The Pilates System: 2 More Mad Skills from your First Lesson

Why here's our very first Footwork position.

The Pilates System: 2 More Mad Skills from your First Lesson

Coordination follows shortly after our Frogs and Circles. What you have learned to do with straps and support, now you must repeat without them.

The Pilates System: 2 More Mad Skills from your First Lesson

In the Stomach Massage Series you'll take what you've learned to do lying down and now do it sitting up.

The Pilates System: 2 More Mad Skills from your First Lesson

All the gloriousness of Short Spine Massage begins with our simple Frog.

The Pilates System: 2 More Mad Skills from your First Lesson

And for those that like a challenge we've got a nice High Frog up in the air upside down! Yes, Frog has some thrills in store for us as well.

The Pilates System: 2 More Mad Skills from your First Lesson

OMG Double Leg Pull!

2. Scissors

The Pilates System: 2 More Mad Skills from your First Lesson

Scissors – which granted you may not learn in your first Pilates lesson – repeats itself in countless exercises where we are multitasking: one side and then the other.

Our first incarnation of the Scissors is probably not on a barrel, but oh that's a good one.

We'll probably encounter it first on the Mat. You may know this exercise by another name: Single Straight Leg Stretch.

The Pilates System: 2 More Mad Skills from your First Lesson

How do we keep the center in control as our limbs alternate?

Better learn quickly because Joe Pilates is just getting started.

Do these Scissors look familiar?

The Pilates System: 2 More Mad Skills from your First Lesson
Yes, the Tree. We've talked about this Scissors extravaganza before.

The Pilates System: 2 More Mad Skills from your First Lesson

Here we go again in the Tendon Stretch.

The Pilates System: 2 More Mad Skills from your First Lesson

Here's a little nicer one in the One Leg Elephant.

Now for a couple more doozies…

The Pilates System: 2 More Mad Skills from your First Lesson

Sure, I'll see your High Frog and raise you a High Scissors. Why not?

The Pilates System: 2 More Mad Skills from your First Lesson

And perhaps the ultimate upside down scissor, Control Balance.

Small Barrel Project Recap

All of which brings me to my Small Barrel Project update:

Today is day 28 on my 30-day Posture Intervention on the Small Barrel.

Wow. Only 2 days to go!

I now know I can never stop doing these 10-15 minutes of exercises.

My Small Barrel has become one of my teachers.

What I find with ease to be possible on the Small Barrel enhances and primes me for my Reformer or Mat workout.

Brilliant!

Thanks Joe, it's all in there.

What's going on here anyhow?

The Frog and Scissors are game changing exercises in the Pilates Method, the foundation of so many of our other exercises and well worth exploring.

What are these exercises teaching us?  

Frog and Scissors are some of our first examples of the lower body reaching away from the center. In Pilates we begin by strengthening the center and gradually we increase the challenge by reaching further away from our strong center.

Frog refines our engagement of the seat to elongate the low back and support the lower body in the air.

Scissors increases the difficulty and we reach our lower body away from the center one side at a time.

The center must remain steadfast! We do this many times in the Pilates Method ALL. AROUND. THE STUDIO.

It's not too late to join my Small Barrel Project.

Check out the exercises. Use a Small Barrel, a Spine Corrector or even just your Mat. Play along in just 10 minutes each day and see what magic happens…

Been working on your exercises? Leave me a comment and let me know how you're doing!

And here's where you can find me in 2017.

Skill Building with the Pilates Barrels

Skill Building with the Pilates Barrels

Over the last 2 1/2 weeks I've been obsessed with focused on my Pilates apparatus du jour, the Small Barrel.

It's amazing the discoveries to be had with just these few exercises done daily.

True to form I was surprised (not really) by how my Small Barrel Project has infiltrated my Reformer and Mat workouts.

When one exercise gets better, they all get better, right?

Not news – exactly – but a new experience.

In last week's post I declared the Small Barrel exercises to be a microcosm of our entire method of 500+ exercises.

True, but how do we apply this to our teaching?

Back in the day…

I vividly remember when I knew lots of exercises on the Small Barrel, Spine Corrector and Ladder Barrel, but had no idea what do do with them as a teacher.

When and why would I take someone to the Barrels to better their skills on the Reformer and Mat?

Maybe I didn't even know to ask this question…

How do our Pilates barrels fit into the greater Pilates system?

The Premise of the Pilates Apparatus

Even without springs, the Barrel apparatus offers us all the benefits of support and assistance to better our Pilates skill set.

Remember that's why we're here on our Barrels… to take a fresh look at an all-too-familiar skill we need to improve.

Small Barrel Project Recap

Today is day 21 on my 30-day Posture Intervention on the Small Barrel.

Wow. Only 9 days to go.

Although I may never stop doing these 10-15 minutes of exercises.

Observations from this last week:

  • My back feels fantastic all the time.
  • Weak side and tight hip have come to an understanding with the Barrel's feedback.
  • My head is now completely in contact with the barrel in the Arm Series.
  • I've got a more complete connection along each side of my body from toes to fingertips.
  • My lower body connection is stronger.
  • I've found my seat in exercises in which I didn't even know I needed it: Hip Twist and Helicopter.

Moreover I've furthered the following skills (just to name a few) that I can take to the Reformer and the Mat:

  1. Connecting the upper body (shoulder girdle and arms) into the center
  2. Finding the seat creating length in the low back and extending the hip
  3. Balancing the body side to side to untwist myself

Those are some biggies…

Let's take a closer look.

1. Connect the upper body (shoulder girdle and arms) into the center

Here we are on the Small Barrel:

Skill Building with the Pilates Barrels

On the Reformer we'll use the connection here, the waistline reaching all the way to the hands into the apparatus (the pole in this case) to sharpen our Rowing Series.

Skill Building with the Pilates Barrels

And our Short Box Series

Skill Building with the Pilates Barrels

And our Hundred

Skill Building with the Pilates Barrels

You see how this goes.

2. Finding the seat to create length in the low back and to extend the hip

Our Small Barrel exercise(s):

Skill Building with the Pilates Barrels

The lower body exercises done on the Small Barrel emphasize the strength of the center driving the action of the lower extremities.

Guess what?

We'll see this scenario everywhere…

Skill Building with the Pilates Barrels

SemiCircle utilizes the stomach and seat to lengthen the back and extend the hip.

Skill Building with the Pilates Barrels

And the same thing in the Snake/Twist but – whoopsie – upside down.

Skill Building with the Pilates Barrels

And upside down again for our old favorite Knee Stretches Knees Off.

3. Balancing the body side to side to untwist myself

I've often been told that no one is entirely symmetrical. Strength imbalances from sports, old injuries, surgeries and the like can create one side that likes to bully the other.

Sometimes there may even be a little twist in there to wrangle.

Well we've got an app(aratus) for that.

The Small Barrel exercise:

Skill Building with the Pilates Barrels

In this simple exercise, the Scissors, which shows up every 5 seconds in our Pilates workout in one incarnation or another, we've got an opportunity to see how one side of the center affects the other.

What happens in the center when one leg reaches away? The Small Barrel can give us wonderful information on imbalances in the back and hips.

Where will we use this skill again?

Skill Building with the Pilates Barrels

Oh Tree, is there anything you can't do? Use the feedback from the Barrel to inform your center here where you don't get the luxury of support from the apparatus.

Skill Building with the Pilates Barrels

OMG look familiar? Again, in the Side Kicks Series you must figure out what's going on in your center sans support and feedback.

So jump on those Reformers and dust off your Mats.

Flaunt your new skills in your next workout!

Wanna experience the blog live and in person? 

Here’s where to find me in 2017