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.


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.


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!

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.


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.

The Universal Reformer: A Tutorial on the Side Splits

The Universal Reformer: A Tutorial on the Side Splits

For Corrie

Full disclosure: Side Splits on the Reformer has never been a favorite.

While not as formidable as exercises like Snake Twist and the Neck Pull, Side Splits has always felt a bit scary and precarious for me.

And I think I know why…

I've just completed the bulk of my Reformer workout. I'm wrung out. Sure I've been lying down for a bit. Thanks to Joe Pilates' order of exercises, I've used Running and Pelvic lift to bring myself back to center.

What a great time to stand up on the Reformer???!


The Series of 3

Side Splits is the first exercise in a series of 3 splits. Stay tuned for future tutorials on Front Splits and Russian Splits (If I am truly feeling generous – and brave – I'll upload a video on the 4th split exercise we have, the Big Splits also called the Grand Écarté).

But I'm getting ahead of myself…

Side Splits on the Reformer

At first glance this exercise comes out of nowhere. It's an exercise that makes me think “Hmmm, how is this exercise like all the others?”

Lest we forget our mantra:

The Universal Reformer: A Tutorial on the Side Splits

Upon closer inspection, the Side Splits is a full-on powerhouse power move.

Now into the standing portion of our hour-long workout, soon we'll need to walk out of the studio and into our daily life. Thanks, Joe Pilates for an amazing send off!

Let's not get distracted by the split maneuver. Remember our primary objective is to close the springs with control.

And the action of the Side Splits makes us have to  – literally – pull ourselves together.

Side Splits Step-by-Step

Use 2 springs if Side Splits is a new exercise for you. Ultimately you'll do the exercise on 1 spring.

  • Step up onto the carriage 1 foot at a time.
  • Place 1 foot onto the frame of the Reformer.
  • Keeping the carriage closed, work your foot on the carriage (heel-toe) across to be in front of the shoulder rest and directly in line with your foot on the frame.
  • Press your feet into the Reformer and lift in and up in your center.
  • Press the carriage out and hold 3 counts.
  • Bring the carriage in completely and hold for 3 counts.
  • Repeat 3 times.
  • Bring the foot on the frame onto the carriage and turn toward the springs to get to the other side.
  • Repeat on the other side.

What's this about an embellishment?

  • On the 3rd repetition hold the carriage open as you lower your body over your legs.
  • Roll back up to standing.
  • Close the carriage.
  • Repeat the embellishment with the carriage closed and then proceed to the other side.
  • On the other side you'll do a standing version of the Saw in the same manner: with the carriage open and then with the carriage closed.
  • More deets about these embellishments in the video…

Update: The Small Barrel Project

Today I am 15 days into my self-imposed posture intervention, the Small Barrel Project.

Wowza. Halfway there!

What amazing fabulousness has happened in week 2?

  • I've gathered more intel about the little twist in my body and how it's all tied into strengthening my weak side. Not new information but a new tangible experience of it.

Ah now I understand…

  • I've gained a new understanding of just how much work the center must do to effectively work the seat and open the hips. This will give me plenty to work on in the remainder of this challenge…
  • My neck is now happiest during my exercises. My neck is often annoyed that I am not perfectly postured in every waking moment. Well, at least I'm on the case.
  • I've found a delicious and unexpected Arm Chair moment on the Small Barrel: our old friend the Hug. I'm thoroughly enjoying the open-arms-out-to-the-side position: maintaining a strong anchored-into-the-barrel position with the barrel as a template for my upper back.
  • Most importantly I've noticed the Small Barrel exercises are a microcosm of the skills I work on in my Reformer workout: shoulder blades anchoring into the back, effective use of my seat, connecting to and stretching the sides of my body to my arms and hands, stretching the fronts of my thighs, working my weak side. Perfect your skills here and take them all around the studio. Again not a surprise, just a refreshing reminder.


Enjoy this short video.

Thanks for watching!

Wanna experience the blog live and in person? 

Here’s where to find me in 2017

The Pilates Spine Corrector: A Tutorial on the Teaser

The Pilates Spine Corrector: A Tutorial on the Teaser

For Luz

Let's give ourselves an extra dose of Teaser Tuesday this week. I invite you to reap the benefits of daily Spine Corrector and Small Barrel exercises.

More on this – plus an invitation to my Small Barrel Project! –  later in this post.

I think the Spine Corrector is the most multitasking of the Pilates barrels.

It's good for everything.

In the video below you'll see a few versions of the Teaser done on the Spine Corrector:

  • Basic Teaser position: You'll get support from the Spine Corrector to strengthen your position in the exercise.
  • Teaser 1: Legs stay in position as the body reaches up and over the Spine Corrector.
  • Teaser 3: Legs reach away as the body opens up over the Spine Corrector for our ultimate Teaser 3.
  • Teaser 2: Now facing the hump of the corrector, the legs have support to work on the lower lift of Teaser 2.
  • The Teaser Dismount: Challenge yourself to control and balance yourself atop Mt. Spine Corrector.

Maybe you learned lots of exercises on the Spine Corrector. But how do these exercises fit into the greater Pilates system? Who should you bring to the Spine Corrector and why?

The Teaser done on the Spine Corrector has a lot going for it. It's got all the charm of our Arm Series exercises here and more. Does this look familiar?


The Pilates Spine Corrector: A Tutorial on the Teaser

Which brings me to my latest focus obsession…

The Small Barrel Project


The Pilates Spine Corrector: A Tutorial on the Teaser

My neck posture has never been the greatest. We have a bit of the slumpy gene in my family.

Ye olde head forward.

I bend over all day at work and put in major time on my laptop.

My upper back and neck need an intervention.

The neck and upper back are major factors in our posture. And our mothers were right: we should stand up straight.

All of our bodily systems as well as our minds are enlivened by proper upright posture. Organs have space to function optimally, we present a positive persona to the world and we lessen wear and tear on our joints.

Not to mention the need for our daily quota of power positions to feel vigorous and vibrant.

I've been a longtime believer of the curative power of the Spine Corrector/Small Barrel exercises so I decided to do a few exercises on the Small Barrel each day for a month and see what happens.

Best case scenario I make it to 5'4″ (When you fight gravity, it's win-win).

My second thought was that 30 days in a row of anything will be a challenge for me.

So now I come to you, dear readers, with an invitation.

Won't you join me in this project?

It's easy and here's how you can play along:

You'll need a Spine Corrector and/or Small Barrel. Either one will work, I'll be using the Small Barrel.

Choose just 3 exercises from each of the following 2 barrel series to do each day at least once.

If you can do your exercises 2-3x/day even better.

So far I've been working these exercises once in the morning before work and once at the end of my day. If my day is very long I'll squeeze in another #posturein10 after lunch.

It won't take more than 10 minutes each time you do your exercises.

1. Arm Series

The Pilates Spine Corrector: A Tutorial on the Teaser

In this position choose to do CirclesOne Arm Up/Down, Hug, and Breathing.

Use this video if you're unfamiliar with these exercises.

2. Leg Series

The Pilates Spine Corrector: A Tutorial on the Teaser

You can choose Circles, Scissors, Bicycle, Shoulder Bridge, Helicopter. Lots of options here. Be sure to finish with the rolling of the back and the rest position. Use this video for help with this series.

Okay, the plan again:

  • Choose at least 3 Spine Corrector/Small Barrel exercises in each category.
  • You can do more if you have time.
  • Do your exercises every day at least once.
  • Do your exercises 2-3x/day if when you can.
  • Leave a comment below with questions, observations and moments of epiphany…

Enjoy this tutorial on the Teaser.

Hey, another option for our project if you've got the time. And for Tuesdays 🙂

Thanks for watching!

Hey Southern California…

Saturday March 4, 2017 Studio Flo Pilates, San Diego, CA

Join me for an awesome Pilates Mat class. Clients and instructors are welcome. Register here.

Saturday March 18, 2017 California Pilates Center, Oceanside, CA

Join me for a day of guest teaching. Just a few spots open for private lessons –  use this link to snag one for yourself! Register for my 10am Mat class here.

Saturday March 25, 2017 Studio S Pilates, Temecula, CA

Join me for a brand new workshop on Transitions in the Pilates Method. What are they, who should do them and why. If you're a fan of my Transition posts here on the blog you won't want to miss this blog-post-comes-to-life moment. Come for the whole day and experience my teacher, the fabulous Karen Frischmann in her workshop on Connections. Register today.

Saturday April 15, 2017 Studio Flo Pilates, San Diego, CA

I hope you’ll join me for a workshop based on my most popular post,  On the Order of the Reformer Exercises presented for the first time in San Diego! Register here or contact Jennie Groom for more information.

Saturday May 6, 2017 California Pilates Center, Oceanside, CA

Join me for a day of guest teaching. Just a few spots open for private lessons –  use this link to snag one for yourself! Register for my 10am Mat class here.

Experience the blog live and in person this year!

Thursday – Sunday May 11-14, 2017 Equinox, London UK

Contact Jayne O’Brien for more info and to register.

Friday – Sunday September 22-24, 2017 Pilates Mödling, Mödling, Vienna 

Join me in Mödling just 20 minutes from the capital city of Vienna. This event is jam packed and not to be missed! I’ll be offering lessons, mat classes and workshops. Workshops include: The Teaser: The Truth will PrevailOn the Order of the Pilates Mat Exercises and 3 Chairs + 3 Barrels = 2-way Stretch and On the Order of the Pilates Reformer Exercises.

Contact Andrea Seipel for more info and to register.

Saturday + Sunday October 7-8 2017 Everybody Pilates, Portsmouth UK

Contact Amy Kellow for more information.