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???!

#not

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.

#weonlyhaveoneexercise

Enjoy this short video.

Thanks for watching!

Wanna experience the blog live and in person? 

Here’s where to find me in 2017

The Small Barrel Project: One week in!

The Small Barrel Project: One week in!

In last week's post I threw down the gauntlet.

I've given myself a 30-day posture intervention on the Small Barrel.

Today makes 7 days in.

23 more to go…

What I've been doing…

Today's video workout features my 30-day Small Barrel workout. I do my exercises at least 2x each day. I like to do 1 time in the early morning before I start my day and another time later in the evening after work.

I've done my exercises as late as directly before bed.

That's nice too.

What I've noticed so far…

  • I now feel back muscles that run up and down the center of my back. It feels like I've convinced them to work to hold me up better.
  • My back feels fantastic.
  • I've become hyper-aware of how I hold myself in daily activities: when I look into the mirror to apply makeup I have particularly bad head-forward-crunchy-neck-posture…how NOT beautiful.
  • I curl my body up when I sleep. These exercises done first thing in the morning feel amazingly invigorating: such wonderful wake-up exercises!
  • In this video my shoulders are more flexible overhead than I have ever seen in photos of myself. Interested to see how this develops over the next 23 days.

Observations from others…

Body awareness during everyday tasks has been a big eye opener for other Small Barrel Project participants.

How we use our bodies during our daily lives is a big part of our day, right?

And generally we do these slumpy things to ourselves. How nice to have our round apparatus to help us stay upright. Thanks Joe!

Exercises in this video…

Circles (with 1lb. weights)

The Small Barrel Project: One week in!

Up/Down

The Small Barrel Project: One week in!

Hug

The Small Barrel Project: One week in!

Breathing (with bar)

The Small Barrel Project: One week in!

Change position on Barrel

Circles

The Small Barrel Project: One Week in!

Scissors

The Small Barrel Project: One week in!

Bicycle

The Small Barrel Project: One week in!

Hip Twist

The Small Barrel Project: One week in!

Helicopter

The Small Barrel Project: One week in!

Rolling/Rest

The Small Barrel Project: One week in!The Small Barrel Project: One week in!

Enjoy this short workout. 

Join me for 30 days and let's see what happens 🙂

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?

#onehumptwoways

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.

Breathing and the Pilates Method: The Power of the Exhale

Breathing and the Pilates Method: The Power of the Exhale

Thanks for the great response to my first installation, Footwork on the Reformer, part 1.

Many of you asked about breathing and how it relates to both the Footwork Series on the Reformer and also the greater Pilates method. Thanks for entrusting me with this huge topic and I hope you'll find my perspective to be helpful.

What does Joe Pilates say about all this?

We're all familiar with an iconic quote from Joe himself:

“…above all, learn to breathe correctly.”

That sounds important. But how do we do this exactly?

Oh good, he goes on:

Squeeze every atom of air from your lungs until they are almost as free of air as a vacuum. Notice how your lungs automatically completely refill themselves with fresh air.

Indeed. The power of the exhale shall set us free.

In my Pilates education as well as my experience of the Pilates workout in my body I believe our focus should be mainly on a thorough exhalation.

I'm looking at a key word here from Joe: automatically. Do your workout and you can't help but experience a deeper fuller breath. The exertion required in our exercises, the ever-changing position of the body and our commitment to moving get the job done for us.

A teacher once said to me “I can't teach you how to breathe any more than I can teach your heart to beat.”

We're pretty good at breathing. We've been doing it for a while now.

With the introduction of exertion, our body knows what to do.

We. Need. More. Air.

The Power of the Exhale

The bulk of our 500+ Pilates exercises will find us breathing simply as we would while walking down the street. In through the nose and out through the nose if possible, silently and without any undue noise or tension.

Tense and noisy breathing translates directly into unwanted tension in the body, not unlike the locking of our joints. Tension is diverted away from our center in both cases. We want all the exertion in our center, not in our extremities and not in our throats.

However.

Within our beloved Pilates method we do have a handful of exercises specifically designed to increase our lung capacity: our Breathing exercises. Yay!

With the help of these specialized exercises we'll exhale fully, enabling our bodies to “automatically fill up more deeply with fresh air. ” 

We are on the case, Joe.

Some common exercises to give your lungs (and your body) a workout:

The Hundred

Breathing and the Pilates Method: The Power of the Exhale

Right out of the gate no less… our prescribed breathing in this exercise serves to increase our lung capacity as we focus on our long steady exhale. Variations on the inhale/exhale count of this exercise for special populations like opera singers and athletes further challenge breath control.

Double Leg Pull

Breathing and the Pilates Method: The Power of the Exhale

Our signature move in the Pilates method. And boy is it a good one. Soon our lengthened out position here will fold up into a tight ball to force all the air out of the body.

Down Stretch

Breathing and the Pilates Method: The Power of the Exhale

The Down Stretch, I must say, is an exemplary breathing exercise. Perhaps it's my favorite…

The Twisting Exercises

From the Stomach Massage Series to the Short Box Series to Snake/Twist on the Reformer and Wunda Chair. All of our Pilates twisting exercises are designed to wring out the air from our lungs.

Ok actually these guys are my favorites…

Breathing and the Pilates Method: The Power of the Exhale

Our Twist in the Stomach Massage Series is the first rotation of our workout.

Breathing and the Pilates Method: The Power of the Exhale

Next we'll take our Twist onto the Short Box and add a new element to our twisting, the Reach.

Breathing and the Pilates Method: The Power of the Exhale

Our Twist position gets more complex as we proceed further into our workout.

Breathing and the Pilates Method: The Power of the Exhale

And even a nice Twist on the Mat, where we've also got the Saw, Criss Cross and the Corkscrew.

Enjoy this short tutorial.

Thanks for watching!

Hey Southern California…

Saturday January 21, 2017 California Pilates Center, Oceanside, CA

Join me for a day of guest teaching. Just one spot open for a private lesson, they filled up fast –  use this link to snag it for yourself! Register for my 10am Mat class here.

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 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.

Wanna experience the blog live and in person?

Here’s a bit of what’s cooking for 2017:

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.

Neck Pull REDUX: Desperately Seeking Hip Extension

Neck Pull REDUX: Desperately Seeking Hip Extension

Recently I spoke about my initial encounter with the Neck Pull.

The key to unlock this exercise for my body was a crucial skill not yet under my control: Hip Extension.

Oooh that sounds important.

Hip extension is a vital life skill.

It powers our locomotion and is a chief element of our posture.

Hip extension stands us up from a seated position.

And I don't have to tell you how important that maneuver is on a daily basis.

Check out this short article celebrating our favorite muscle to extend the hip as the “single most important muscle for movement and locomotion.”

The Neck Pull's Dirty Little Secret

Within our beloved Pilates method, we have countless exercises to extend the hip.

Hip Extension comes in myriad variations and many our of standard Pilates exercises are shining and straightforward ways to open up the front of the body.

You're sure to recognize these favorites:

Neck Pull REDUX: Desperately Seeking Hip Extension

The Knee Stretches with Knees Off: Full on gallop, human style.

Neck Pull REDUX: Desperately Seeking Hip Extension

Down Stretch is moments away from lifting you up and into a backbend, the ultimate in hip extension.

Neck Pull REDUX: Desperately Seeking Hip Extension

Make the Side Kick Series into a delicious opening of the hips and you'll want to do your Mat exercises all day long…

Neck Pull REDUX: Desperately Seeking Hip Extension

I've made my case about the Tree: Holy backbend, Friends!

Neck Pull REDUX: Desperately Seeking Hip Extension

Nothing can kick your ass open up your hips better than Going Up Front.

But this direct approach is not the Neck Pull‘s way, dear readers.

The Neck Pull, she works in stealthy, covert ways. She hangs at the fringes of our mental Pilates checklist. Having a strong center and a supple back ranked high on my to-do list as my legs inexplicably flew up into the air.

Sigh.

“Secret” Hip Extension in the Pilates Method

Friends don't let friends miss any juicy hip stretches (or back stretches) in their Pilates workout.

Let's discuss a few awesome hip extension moments you may have missed. For example, armed with only your own inner conflict  you'll be amazed by how much hip opening can be had whenever we bend to the side.

No one loves those Mermaid sisters without a damn good reason.

Keep your eyes open for our “secret” hip stretch moments:

Neck Pull REDUX: Desperately Seeking Hip Extension

Of course, the Neck Pull: you had to see this one coming.

Neck Pull REDUX: Desperately Seeking Hip Extension

And the Neck Pull's underboss, the Roll Up.

Neck Pull REDUX: Desperately Seeking Hip Extension

The Long Stretch is a a sneaky one. Work your muscles just as for Down Stretch here and see what you think.

What?? Yes. Remember what goes up must come down.

Enjoy this short tutorial.

View the corresponding blog post here.

Thanks for watching!

Hey Southern California…

Saturday January 21, 2017 California Pilates Center, Oceanside, CA

Join me for a day of guest teaching in Michele Tandy's beautiful studio. Just a couple spots available for private lessons, contact Michele to book. Register for the 10am Mat class here.

Wanna experience the blog live and in person?

Here’s a bit of what’s cooking for 2017:

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 Austria 

Join me in Mödling, Austria just 20 minutes from the capital city of Vienna. This is an event 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 more.

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.