For the past 6 years I have been on a steady course to build my body – and my voice – within the Pilates method.
Serendipitously Seth Godin, my favorite marketing-and-more guru, popped this gem into my inbox:
People talk about bike riding when they want to remind us that some things, once learned, are not forgotten.
What they don't mention is how we learned. No one learns to ride a bike from a book, or even a video.
You learn by doing it.
Actually, by not doing it. You learn by doing it wrong, by falling off, by getting back on, by doing it again.
PS this approach works for lots of things, not just bikes. Most things, in fact.
Learn by doing. YES.
And learn by doing it wrong – YEEEEESSSSSS!
Using repetition to improve your skill, over and over.
It's a must for the Pilates method.
Joe Pilates has similar advice in his brochure, Pilates' Universal Method, Balance of Body and Mind:
You cannot make yourself strong, healthy, and attractive or magnetic by reading all the books in the world on this subject – or using all the electrical mechanic apparatuses…
No man or machine can correct or create vitality, power or health for you; everything comes from within, you have to unfold it.
Joe didn't call his book Let me Return you to Life.
Joe Pilates' manifesto is called Return to Life Through Contrology.
Notice the imperative tense and the understood subject which is YOU.
[YOU] Return to Life!
Our Pilates mentors and teachers cannot do it for us. For that matter, our teachers are not even here to tell us what to do. Think of them more as a guide through the Pilates Method.
YOU will return yourself to life. Here's some exercises to help out.
So in the spirit of treat yourself like your favorite client – I've got a few suggestions to implement in this week's workout(s).
1. Be Mercenary.
I cannot stress this enough.
As longterm practitioners of our beloved Pilates method we must walk the walk. My own workout also gives me the tools I need to be an effective and compassionate teacher.
Mine the method for your own gain. Look at the method from a selfish POV:
What does my body need and where can I get it?
A big question, I agree.
I rely on my private lessons to help me especially with the first part of this question. Through our training programs we learn the countless tendencies our bodies use to cheat and evade the crux of the exercises.
- What are some common corrections you heard in your training?
- What corrections do you hear repeatedly in your lessons?
- If you've photographed yourself doing Pilates – or even better filmed yourself – what does your teacher's eye reveal to you about your own body?
- Maybe you have a nagging body issue which is alleviated by exercises x, y or z. This is good information to use on your quest!
I encourage you to think like a sculptor.
Take a look around the Pilates studio for help.
Joe Pilates designed a specific order of exercises to take you seamlessly through your workout. The body warms up, works hard and cools down within our order of the Reformer exercises and our order of the Mat exercises.
That being said, some prefer to preface the bulk of their hard sweaty Reformer workout with a few ‘warm up” exercises. For years I did not see the value of this prelude.
I mean, I've got the Hundred, right? What more do I need?
And then I fell in love with the Small Barrel.
2. Effective Skill-Building in your Pilates Workout
If you're searching for the magic pill to Pilates happiness, I've found a few series of exercises to efficiently address my weak points and prime my body for success in my workout.
Joe Pilates reputedly built his method on his own body. The least I can do is work to understand the depth of his method on my own body.
What I discover for myself assists me to understand the needs of my clients.
For example, the better I learn to connect my upper body into the center, the more I can help others understand and implement this concept.
Place your own oxygen mask on first…
Connecting the lower body into the center
Okay this one is a biggie for me. It's a skill I desperately need to find lift and length in my tight low back. If this sounds like you or your clients, read on!
When working to find your 2-way stretch, it's easy to get excited about the back connection – connecting the upper body into the center.
Only 2-way stretch right? Just 1 more to go!
Um, not so fast.
The lower body is the lion's share of the body…and the pitfalls of broken connection at the hips, knees, ankles, feet are a challenge. You also need to figure out how to use your seat – gosh, so much goes on.
Enter the Foot Corrector.
You may be tired of me saying this, but pay attention to the apparatus with the word ‘corrector' in the name. Joe Pilates wasn't kidding.
Use the Foot Corrector frequently – daily – and see what happens to your feet, of course, but also to your center and your seat. Every time you place your feet onto the Reformer, the Foot Corrector will inform your body and serve you well.
Just do it.
I require more correcting, please…
Enter the Spine Corrector (or Small Barrel)
I use all the exercises in this post daily.
Packed into just 9 fundamental exercises – Arm Circles, Up/Down, Hug, Breathing, Leg Circles, Scissors, Bicycle, Hip Twist and Helicopter – there's a boatload of crucial Pilates skills:
- connecting the arms into the back
- lifting the waist and low back
- anchoring the body into the apparatus
- finding support in extension exercises
- learning how to do a backbend with length
- opening the chest and shoulders
- perfecting the Frog a fundamental building block exercise
- finding the seat to lengthen the low back
- stretching the thighs to open up the front of the hips
- working one side of the body at a time while keeping the symmetry in the back
Does this all sound familiar? Soon you'll be mid-Reformer workout seeking identical skills.
“Oh it's just like that other exercise!”
What are the go-to exercises for YOUR body?
Share your secrets in a comment below.