The Universal Reformer: A Brief Tutorial on the Up Stretch

The Universal Reformer: A Brief Tutorial on the Up StretchThe Universal Reformer: A Brief Tutorial on the Up Stretch

For Jayne

Hello and welcome to a brief tutorial on my new nemesis exercise: the Up Stretch.

With all Pilates exercises, the more our body changes so does our experience of the exercises. Now with newfound control we can tackle deeper nuances of an exercise and peel away at the artichoke.

Recently, in a tutorial on the Backstroke, we looked at moving beyond the choreography of the exercise to examine how the exercise will best benefit our bodies.

Let's take a look at this same theme, now in the Up Stretch.

What makes a successful Long Stretch Series?

The exercises of the Long Stretch Series encourage us to cultivate the lower body:

The Down Stretch exemplifies most clearly the “push-pull” aspect of the 2-way stretch. I find it to be a great help with all the other exercises in the series.

The Up Stretch is one of the more complex exercises in this series. Consequently the drive of the lower body feels much more tangible. It's almost an upside down Long Back Stretch.

Um…because it is…

Remember, the starting/ending positions of the Up Stretch are certainly helped by the Elephant.

Find an exercise in this series that speaks to you. Use it to perfect the others and see how you do.

And what about our old friend the Order of the Reformer Exercises? Help from Joe Pilates is always appreciated…

Be mercenary

To the casual observer, the choreography of the Up Stretch includes a moment when the carriage moves out and the hips lower toward the carriage.

Sometimes I wish I didn't have this idea in my head. Choreography has a way of hijacking the exercise, lessening its benefits.

What's really going on here?

Moreover, let's ask ourselves “What is this exercise doing for our body?”

Corrective exercise should serve our bodies well in LIFE – not just in the Up Stretch.

Enjoy this short video tutorial. 

Thanks so much for watching!

Wanna experience the blog live and in person?

Join me in December!

Upcoming Workshops

Thursday-Saturday December 1-3, 2016 Excel Pilates, Washington, DC

Join me for my post popular posts Live! and in person: On the Order of the Pilates Reformer Exercises (4 PMA CECs) and On the Order of the Pilates Mat Exercises (2 PMA CECs). I’ll be teaching my favorite Cadillac workshop: The Unsung Heroes and Progressions to Standing Arm Springs (3 PMA CECs) as well as a Mat class, private and semi-private lessons. Register today

Saturday December 17, 2016 LauraBPilates Studio, Raleigh, NC

In Raleigh we’ll have a full day of Pilates Continuing Education: private lessons and my favorite Cadillac workshop: The Unsung Heroes and progressions to Standing Arm Springs (3 PMA CECs)Register today

The Universal Reformer: Snake/Twist 2.0

The Universal Reformer: Snake/Twist 2.0

For Jacqueline

Hello and welcome to a short video tutorial on my former nemesis exercise: Snake/Twist.

Snake/Twist is truly a Pilates love story complete with drama, false steps, misunderstandings and hot makeup sex.

Three years ago I visited the Snake/Twist as a Pilates Project in one of my most popular posts. Clearly there are many of us who struggle with this bear of an exercise.

So if there's an exercise you just can't stomach right now, persevere!

What's going on here anyhow?

The Snake/Twist is a complex exercise. Joe Pilates threw a little bit of everything into this challenging exercise:

  • It's one-sided.
  • Your orientation on the Reformer is not straightforward. You'll need to find a diagonal line as you approach the carriage.
  • The basic iteration will move through 3 body shapes: Round, Arched and Twist. Later we'll add the one arm version and include a Side Bend as well. OMG, something for everyone.
  • Oh and it's a breathing exercise…

When Joe Pilates was making all the other exercises, he had a few things left over and thought, “Why not?”

In 10 Smart Tools to Master the Snake I mention the order of the Reformer exercises and how I use Corkscrew, the subsequent exercise, as a “Snake recovery system.”

I now realize in my execution of the Snake/Twist I couldn't really keep myself together. Body parts were falling out all over the place. Enter the Corkscrew to fix me all up again.

And that's fine.

I wasn't hurting myself. I just needed to put in my 10,000 hours of Snake/Twist.

Now 3+ years later I am learning how to keep myself together. And what do you know? I need the Snake/Twist so desperately.

Reunited at last!

I'm a bit twisted myself. No worries. Every Twist exercise I despise is just looking out for my best interests. Thanks, Joe.

What Smart Tools Do I Use Today?

Ultimately the best preparation for the Snake/Twist lies in all of your other exercises. Find what speaks to you that you do well and with confidence and you can't go wrong.

Remember your mantra:

The Universal Reformer: Snake/Twist 2.0

My favorite Snake/Twist helper exercises:

Up Stretch Combo

The Universal Reformer

This one is a must. Perhaps the most similar to the Snake yet done in a straightforward manner.

Woo hoo!

Make sure to include this one in your workout if you're planning to add the Snake/Twist.

Elephant

The Universal Reformer: Snake/Twist 2.0

If you want to return the carriage you'll need our trusty old friend to help. If you're adding the One-Leg Elephant as well, even better.

Swan

The Universal Reformer: Snake/Twist 2.0

I find the Swan helpful as I move into the arched position of Snake. It's easy to forget about connecting your feet into the center as you move away from them, opening the carriage.

Sigh…

Swan helps me find length instead of dumping into the low back.

Scissors on the Small Barrel

The Universal Reformer: Snake/Twist 2.0

This just in folks: you can open your body from the center instead of riding out too far with the carriage. What?? More on this skill in the video below.

Connection Prep

The Universal Reformer: Snake/Twist 2.0

Take support from the apparatus to connect all the limbs into your center. Use all 4 springs to hold the carriage in. Now you'll have time to perfect the crucial starting and ending position.

This is great prep. It's safe and effective and could really supplement the exercise for a while.

Step 1

The Universal Reformer: Snake/Twist 2.0

Getting up into the starting position without moving the carriage is an exercise itself. Part Pull Up on the Wunda Chair and part Elephant, you'll need this skill before you begin the full exercise.

More Snake/Twist, please!

If you're a Pilatesology member, view my Pilates Project on the Snake/Twist here.

If you'd like to become a Pilatesology member I hope you'll use my affiliate link to join. Just click on the Pilatesology banner in the sidebar on the right. Full transparency: please know I do receive a small commission if you sign up via my link.

Check out a free preview of the post via YouTube.

Enjoy this short video tutorial.

Thanks for watching! 

Wanna experience the blog live and in person?

Join me this fall!

Upcoming Fall Workshops

Sunday November 27, 2016 Studio B Pilates+Barre, Tyler TX

You’ll love this jam-packed day of Pilates Continuing Education: I’ll be offering private lessons, a Mat class plus 2 workshops: A Cadillac Refresher – the Unsung Heroes(3 PMA CECs) and Strategies and Exercises on the Wunda Chair (3 PMA CECs)Register today

Thursday-Saturday December 1-3, 2016 Excel Pilates, Washington, DC

Join me for my post popular posts Live! and in person: On the Order of the Pilates Reformer Exercises (4 PMA CECs) and On the Order of the Pilates Mat Exercises (2 PMA CECs). I’ll be teaching my favorite Cadillac workshop: The Unsung Heroes and Progressions to Standing Arm Springs (3 PMA CECs) as well as a Mat class, private and semi-private lessons. Register today

Saturday December 17, 2016 LauraBPilates Studio, Raleigh, NC

In Raleigh we’ll have a full day of Pilates Continuing Education: private lessons and my favorite Cadillac workshop: The Unsung Heroes and progressions to Standing Arm Springs (3 PMA CECs)Register today

3 Pilates Hacks to Explore in your Next Workout

3 Pilates Hacks to Explore in your Next Workout

Hey there all you Pilates cats and kittens 🙂 I hope you had a great week of oppositional reach from your strong center.

A hearty thanks for being awesome subscribers and sending your Pilates love. It totally makes my day. I'm so glad you find the posts and videos to be helpful to you on your Pilates path.

And I'm thrilled to learn my posts have now been translated into Portuguese, Spanish and Korean.

Thank you so much friends, hugs and kisses to you!

Current Pilates Obsessions

A lovely by-product of surrounding yourself with Pilates apparatus is the ability to dial deeply into each apparatus. Current obsessions include the Toe Corrector, Foot Corrector and the Ladder Barrel.

If you've been following my blog for a while you may recall I broke a bone in my foot earlier this year.

Along with some therapeutic massage, I've been putting my Foot Corrector to the test.

Just a few standard exercises are really making a difference. And my feet need maximum correction…

The exercises are essentially the Footwork exercises of Reformer fame:

  • Toes

3 Pilates Hacks to Explore in your Next Workout

  • Arches

3 Pilates Hacks to Explore in your Next Workout

  • Heels

3 Pilates Hacks to Explore in your Next Workout

  • Tendon Stretch (which I like to call The Massage – not sure it has an official name? And the socks help to move smoothly as you press.)

3 Pilates Hacks to Explore in your Next Workout

Actually I didn't know my foot felt stiff and owie until it felt amazing again.

Clearly Joe Pilates wasn't kidding: pay attention to apparatus promising ‘correction' right there in the name.

Now for the Hacks…

One of the challenges in my workout is the delicate balance between precision/working properly and pace. Our Pilates exercises should MOVE!

The magic is in the movement.

I've used the following hacks with great success. Essentially I pick one thing that strikes my fancy and apply it over every exercise I will do.

Literally. Try it on and see what happens in the exercise.

How does my one thing feel in this exercise? In the next? In the one I hate? Etc…

1. The Pilates Concept Hack

3 Pilates Hacks to Explore in your Next Workout

Initially Pilates trains our bodies with exercises fully supported by the apparatus which gives us vital feedback.

Think about all the lying down exercises done on the Reformer, Cadillac and Mat. Even the High Chair gives us a fully supported seated position.

The support and feedback of the apparatus teaches us how to find length in the back. I believe this to be the major tenet of Joe Pilates' work.

I desperately need the concept of ‘finding length in the back' in exercises where I am devoid of support or contact with the apparatus.

Can I remember what the apparatus has taught me repeatedly over all these years?

This is not a test. This is for the win!

Read more about this hack in a recent post: One Pilates Uber-Concept PLUS Introducing the Workout Quickie

2. The “It's just like that other exercise!” Hack

3 Pilates Hacks to Explore in your Next Workout

Got a favorite exercise that illuminates a challenging skill? Seize the day!

This hack is a favorite of mine. You know my fondness for The Long Back Stretch.

It's my favorite game of “Let's pretend.”

And it's really an offshoot of our signature hack: We Only have One Exercise.

Treat yourself to a workout in which you search for the Double Leg Pull in every exercise. It's a game-changer.

Check out these recent posts to see this hack in action:

3. The Apparatus Hack

3 Pilates Hacks to Explore in your Next Workout

Every day I become more enamored with the Spine Corrector.

Again, the word ‘corrector' in the name should be all the information we need. It can be one of our greatest teachers.

The Spine Corrector should be everyone's favorite hack.

Jay Grimes describes the Pilates Method as “all about opening.” The Spine Corrector fits brilliantly into this POV.

Perfectly positioned to open the back, the hips, the shoulders –  it's pretty much the place to open the body and enhance your execution of your Pilates exercises – the Spine Corrector is the Pilates equivalent of your best friend.

Other than moi…

Let's spend some quality time with our Spine Corrector this week:

Oh and then there's the Arm Chair:

Thanks for reading and have a great week.

3 Pilates Hacks to Explore in your Next Workout

Wanna experience the blog live and in person? Join me this fall!

Upcoming Fall Workshops

Sunday November 27, 2016 Studio B Pilates+Barre, Tyler TX

You’ll love this jam-packed day of Pilates Continuing Education: I’ll be offering private lessons, a Mat class plus 2 workshops: A Cadillac Refresher – the Unsung Heroes(3 PMA CECs) and Strategies and Exercises on the Wunda Chair (3 PMA CECs)Register today

Thursday-Saturday December 1-3, 2016 Excel Pilates, Washington, DC

Join me for my post popular posts Live! and in person: On the Order of the Pilates Reformer Exercises (4 PMA CECs) and On the Order of the Pilates Mat Exercises (2 PMA CECs). I’ll be teaching my favorite Cadillac workshop: The Unsung Heroes and Progressions to Standing Arm Springs (3 PMA CECs) as well as a Mat class, private and semi-private lessons. Register today

Saturday December 17, 2016 LauraBPilates Studio, Raleigh, NC

In Raleigh we’ll have a full day of Pilates Continuing Education: private lessons and my favorite Cadillac workshop: The Unsung Heroes and progressions to Standing Arm Springs (3 PMA CECs)Register today

The Universal Reformer: A Brief Tutorial on the Backstroke

The Universal Reformer: A Brief Tutorial on the Backstroke

Welcome new subscribers!

Today's post features a true workhorse exercise on the Reformer: the Backstroke.

Thank you for all your positive feedback on my recent video tutorials. Requests for exercises you'd like to see dissected in future tutorials have been rolling in…

Extra love to Jacqueline in Vancouver for suggesting Snake/Twist (my former nemesis) and to Jayne in London who requested the Up Stretch (current nemesis).

Duly noted and keep 'em coming!

Color me excited and scared…

1 Stellar Reason to Make Students Autonomous

To learn your workout is to move beyond “where do my legs go?” and dig deeply into the exercises to correct our bodies.

Watch out!

It's easy to be seduced by the choreography of an exercise without fully utilizing the exercise to serve our specific needs.

I like to ask myself:

“What has [insert exercise here] done for me lately?”

We learn the purpose of the Backstroke: to strengthen and prepare for Teaser, the subsequent exercise in our order of the Reformer exercises.

But how exactly does this happen?

The Backstroke proves to be an excellent exercise to find length in the back. Coincidentally (or is it?), lengthening the back is one of the things I seek in my own workouts.

Who couldn't use more of that?

Lately I've noticed a shift of focus in the way I approach my Pilates exercises. I have new control over my body which enables me to transcend the choreography of the exercises.

I know what to do, right? But what's it doing for me?

Moving beyond choreography, let's seize the exercise as our own. What can I do to make this exercise serve ME?

Right now in the Backstroke?

Where do I sit?

You'll place yourself at the very edge of the box. In this position you'll keep the straps taut and create a pressure on the handles. Sustain this pressing into the handles to work from the back and upper stomach.

Don't forget to wail on it during the moment of pause in this exercise. This pause is for a reason.

Make something happen. Get a little bit more lift and length in your back.

The Universal Reformer: A Brief Tutorial on the BackstrokeThe Universal Reformer: A Brief Tutorial on the Backstroke

Now make it move.

When we first learn the Backstroke it's helpful to use a marked, deliberate pace.

  • Pull your stomach in. Keep your head up. Look into your stomach.
  • Arms and legs reach straight up. Straps are taut and the carriage is still.
  • Open the arms and legs no wider than the Reformer.
  • Arms and legs pull forward and the legs come together.
  • Pause to deepen the center into the box as you reach fingers to toes.
  • Pull in the arms and legs while keeping the straps taut.
  • Repeat.

So that's all in place. Excellent.

Now remember one version of the name of this exercise is Backstroke Swimming. You'll make the first part of the exercise like a moving swimming stroke followed by a moment of “gliding through the water.”

OMG remember the Rowing Series? It seems just a moment ago we were there…

#yougotskills

Now let's make it move:

  • Assume the starting position.
  • Reach up and forward with arms and legs. Move through your positions smoothly (this is the swimming stroke).
  • Hold and reach toward the toes (now glide through the water).
  • Return and go again.

Finding the Length

Sandwiched between Pulling Straps/T Straps (um, length please!) and the Teaser (open, low back, open…) the Backstroke looks like a great place to long the back.

From a choreography POV, the legs will circle and reach out to a lower position.

Note the location of the legs is not arbitrary. The lower body should be connected into and serving the center.

Hook the lower body into the center and you'll find more work in the stomach and more length in the back.

And it might get hot.

Enjoy this short video tutorial.

Stay tuned for more exercises that face a similar choreographic fate…

And thanks for watching!

Wanna experience the blog live and in person? Join me this fall!

Upcoming Fall Workshops

Sunday November 27, 2016 Studio B Pilates+Barre, Tyler TX

You’ll love this jam-packed day of Pilates Continuing Education: I’ll be offering private lessons, a Mat class plus 2 workshops: A Cadillac Refresher – the Unsung Heroes(3 PMA CECs) and Strategies and Exercises on the Wunda Chair (3 PMA CECs)Register today

Thursday-Saturday December 1-3, 2016 Excel Pilates, Washington, DC

Join me for my post popular posts Live! and in person: On the Order of the Pilates Reformer Exercises (4 PMA CECs) and On the Order of the Pilates Mat Exercises (2 PMA CECs). I’ll be teaching my favorite Cadillac workshop: The Unsung Heroes and Progressions to Standing Arm Springs (3 PMA CECs) as well as a Mat class, private and semi-private lessons. Register today

Saturday December 17, 2016 LauraBPilates Studio, Raleigh, NC

In Raleigh we’ll have a full day of Pilates Continuing Education: private lessons and my favorite Cadillac workshop: The Unsung Heroes and progressions to Standing Arm Springs (3 PMA CECs)Register today

The Universal Reformer: A Brief Tutorial on the Stomach Massage Series

The Universal Reformer: A Brief Tutorial on the Stomach Massage Series

The Stomach Massage Series on the Reformer is just one example of the cumulative power of the Pilates method. Valuable skills reside in the 4 exercises found here. They will serve you well as you advance along your Pilates path.

I invoke the Stomach Massage Series countless times during my workday:

“Remember that moment in Stomach Massage 3? It's the same thing now (in this other exercise).”

Often I hear the Stomach Massage Series is disliked, misunderstood, maligned and/or cast aside.

Awww, frownie face…

It's my fervent hope you'll come to find as much value and juiciness in this series as I do.

Find out more about each of the 4 exercises in this fundamental Reformer series in a related post.

What's in a Name?

Nearly one year ago I published my first post on the Stomach Massage Series.

I utilize these exercises every single day in the studio so it was hard to believe it's been a year since I've devoted an entire post to the Stomach Massage Series.

True, no one is happy with the name of this series.

Waaaahhh…we want our massage!

Consider that in each and every moment of these exercises our stomach – our center – is leading the way.

This is one of the challenges: sustaining the depth of engagement of the stomach gives a deep internal massage (and shower!) to our organs and our backs.

Consider also the wind-relieving potential of these exercises. We're not talking about abs glistening in the sun here, we're talking about the health of our bodily systems.

In my future post post on Pilates and its myriad benefits to our digestive system (I promise), the the Stomach Massage Series will be at the top of the list. I tell you it goes deep!

And if you are stiff, persevere!  There awaits for you a wonderful global stretch of the back.

How does Stomach Massage fit into the Order of Exercises?

I have a deep love and respect for Joe Pilates' original order of the Reformer exercises. It's a wonderful puzzle to examine and explore. As a result we move still closer to Joe's vision for training our bodies.

Seated on the Reformer, the Stomach Massage Series echoes our first series on the Reformer, Footwork. Footwork coupled with the lift of the Rowing Series (which also precedes the Stomach Massage Series) progresses our workout from lying down to sitting up.

Also in this series a new element is revealed for the first time: rotation.

See? You don't want to miss the excitement!

How do I know where to sit?

Depending on our training and our body, we may have been asked to sit on the very edge of the carriage. This may indeed be an eventual goal of the exercise, but what if it's not today's goal?

Let's find a place to sit that will be advantageous. This placement will help to find success in the exercises.

You'll know you're in the right place if you can tangibly feel the lift in the low back and maintain it without leaning back as the carriage moves. Stiffer folks may need to sit back a bit further for a bit.

What about overworking hips?

You may find for yourself or students that hips and thighs want to take over in the Stomach Massage Series. Maybe this discomfort even causes you to dislike this series.

Don't blame the exercise.

What are you doing for this elsewhere in the system? If tight hips and thighs are taking over in this series, it's more than likely they're showing up in all the other exercises as well.

We all have muscle groups that are strong – very strong – and like to do everything for us.

Find places in the system to focus on opening hips and thighs and you'll strengthen the stomach and seat.

Some possibilities:

Strategies for a Tight Low Back: Getting to the Bottom of it

Got a Stiff Back? You need the Pilates Barrels!

Think Like a Sculptor: The Pervasiveness of the Thigh Stretch

Over time with your newfound skills you'll reap even more benefit in the Stomach Massage Series.

Um, how do I keep my pants on?

A little fringe benefit of getting out of the hips and legs will also keep your pants on!

Amazing 🙂

From Zen and the Art of the Stomach Massage Series:

Keep your pants on!

“So why do my pants come off?”

I have heard teachers answer this questions numerous times thusly:

“If you use your stomach, your pants will stay on.”

While I do believe this to be true, it’s not quite the whole story.

To work this exercise well (and avoid wardrobe mishaps) use this recipe for maintaining a well-fitting pant:

Press your feet firmly into the footbar.

  • Press your heels fiercely against one another.
  • Find your upper stomach and your seat. Use them to push into the footbar and move the carriage.
  • If you can work primarily in the powerhouse (stomach and seat) and less in the legs, you’ll have a great chance of keeping your pants on.
  • Give it a go!

Enjoy this short video tutorial.

Want to see videos like this on other exercises? Tell me all about it in a comment below.

Thanks for watching!

Wanna experience the blog live and in person? Join me this fall!

Upcoming Fall Workshops

Sunday November 27, 2016 Studio B Pilates+Barre, Tyler TX

You’ll love this jam-packed day of Pilates Continuing Education: I’ll be offering private lessons, a Mat class plus 2 workshops: A Cadillac Refresher – the Unsung Heroes(3 PMA CECs) and Strategies and Exercises on the Wunda Chair (3 PMA CECs)Register today

Thursday-Saturday December 1-3, 2016 Excel Pilates, Washington, DC

Join me for my post popular posts Live! and in person: On the Order of the Pilates Reformer Exercises (4 PMA CECs) and On the Order of the Pilates Mat Exercises (2 PMA CECs). I’ll be teaching my favorite Cadillac workshop: The Unsung Heroes and Progressions to Standing Arm Springs (3 PMA CECs) as well as a Mat class, private and semi-private lessons. Register today

Saturday December 17, 2016 LauraBPilates Studio, Raleigh, NC

In Raleigh we’ll have a full day of Pilates Continuing Education: private lessons and my favorite Cadillac workshop: The Unsung Heroes and progressions to Standing Arm Springs (3 PMA CECs)Register today