Love, Hearts and the Pilates Method

Love, Hearts and the Pilates Method

The original version of today's post was my very first blog post ever on Pilatesology, so I thought today I would shine it up a little and share some love, circulation and Pilates on this, our sweetest of all days.


  • Valentine's Day
  • Hearts!
  • Chocolates
  • The Hundred

Ah but I digress…

Pilates does wonderful things for your heart muscle.

There are also many individuals who express an extreme devotion and LOVE for the Pilates Method… including moi of course!

Love, Hearts and the Pilates Method

The heart is equated with:

COURAGE “You gotta have heart!”

ENTHUSIASM “Put your whole heart into it.”



All of these are helpful in approaching your Pilates workout.

Deep in the heart of your Pilates workout:

See? Another one… the vital part or essence of something…

The Hundred

Love, Hearts and the Pilates Method


Perhaps one of our most “memorable” Pilates exercises is the Hundred (100).

On of the first exercises one learns as a Pilates student, the Hundred is ever-present, lengthy and challenging to do well.

The Hundred uses vigorous pumping of the arms from your strong center and deep, full breathing to warm up the body. You'll get the blood circulating (heart!) and squeeze all the stale toxic air out of the lungs.

Bodily House Keeping with Blood Circulation

or What's not to love about quality house keeping?

Love, Hearts and the Pilates Method

I like to refer to my workouts as an ‘internal shower' followed by an external one:

This is the equivalent of an ‘internal shower.' Your blood will flow with renewed vigor as the direct result of your faithfully performing the Contrology [Pilates] exercises.

Translation: Just do it and trust the exercises are working. Remember that Rome was not built in a day…

These exercises induce the heart to pump strong and steadily.

You are moving and hopefully sweating. Remember it is a workout!

As a result, the bloodstream carries and discharges from your system more of the accumulated debris created by fatigue. [Pilates] exercises drive pure, fresh blood to every muscle fiber of our bodies, particularly to the very important capillaries which ordinarily are rarely ever fully stimulated once we reach adulthood.

Capillaries fully stimulated… check!

As a heavy rainstorm freshens the water of a sluggish or stagnant stream and whips it into immediate action, [Pilates] exercises purify the bloodstream and whip it into instant action.

Feelin' like a stagnant stream? Then let's see some action! Move, move, MOVE…

The result is that the organs of the body, including the important sweat glands, receive the benefit of clean fresh blood carried to them by this rejuvenated bloodstream.

This is like porn for vampires…

In addition…note that all the exercises are performed in a sitting or reclining position. This is done to relieve your heart from undue strain as well as to take advantage of the more normal, original position of the visceral organs of your body when in such positions.

Pilates is NOT a heartbreaker. 🙂

All quotes can be found in Joe Pilates' book Return to Life Through Contrology.

Contrology is Joe's original name for his method.

BONUS!! Check out this NYT article for a play-by-play at the cellular level! 

BONUS #2!!  more deets on our heart-friendly Hundred from one of my Pilates besties, Benjamin Degenhardt.

And here's where to find me in 2018.

Get a Fantastic Workout on your Busiest Day

Get a Fantastic Workout on your Busiest Day

I dearly love my Pilates workout. Last week I was on a family vacation and I got in an invigorating Pilates Mat workout each morning in the lovely hotel fitness center.

I've got ample time for my Pilates workout when I am away from my studio. Sure I miss the Reformer, but daily Pilates is luxurious.

How can I aspire to a daily workout at the top of a busy workday? This is my conundrum.

“I can't do anything in less than an hour!”

Yes. I can. And you can too.

My beef for years was how to get in the full-on hour workout – a big Reformer workout – during a super-packed busy day. My morale runs high in the morning, dips around lunch time and at the end of my day I've really got my sights on dinner and not the Hundred.


My Go-To Pilates Workout for Busy Days

Today I'd like to share with you my new plan to workout little by little throughout your day.

And you'll still feel fabulous!

At the end of my day I'm also more inclined to want closure for the workout I started earlier. Usually it feels too daunting to begin my workout at 7pm.

And I'm hungry.

3 Cheers for the Small Apparatus!

In today's video I share the apparatus and exercises I use daily. I will change up the major apparatus, whether I'll be doing Mat, Reformer, Cadillac or Chair. But the small apparatus ritual at the top of my workout remains the same.

For now.

If I've got more time I will do all of my small apparatus exercises, and if I am running late in my morning it only takes about 5 minutes to do a pared down version.

A couple scenarios…

No time to workout? There's an exercise for that.

Busy Day #1


Small Barrel: Arm Series (Circles, Up/Down, Hug, Breathing) and Leg Series (Circles, Walks, Beats, Scissors, Bicycle, Hip Twist).

You'll finish in about 4 minutes.


Foot Corrector: all the exercises included in the video

Mat: Hundred, Roll Up, Roll Over, One Leg Circle, Roll Like a Ball, Single Leg Pull, Double Leg Pull, Scissors, Lower Lift, Criss Cross, Spine Stretch, Open Leg Rocker, CorkScrew, Saw, Swan, Single Leg Kick, Double Leg Kick, Thigh Stretch, Neck Pull

In about 20 minutes you've done all your Foot Corrector and jumpstarted your Mat exercises.


Mat: High Scissors, High Bicycle, Shoulder Bridge, Spine Twist, JackKnife, Side Kick Series, Teaser, Seal

Yes, you could finish up all your Mat exercises at this point at the end of the day, but dinner is often a real concern…

Or maybe you'll workout on the Reformer:

Busy Day #2


Foot Corrector – all the exercises included in the video

Small Barrel: Arm Series (Circles, Up/Down, Hug, Breathing) and Leg Series (Circles, Walks, Beats, Scissors, Bicycle, Hip Twist).

Reformer: Footwork, Hundred, Overhead, Coordination

In just 15 minutes you've visited 2 small apparatus. You've also gotten the ball rolling with your Reformer.


Reformer: Long Box (Pull Straps, T, Backstroke, Teaser), Long Stretch, Down Stretch, Up Stretch, Elephant, Long Back Stretch, Stomach Massage Series

In about 20 minutes post-lunch you can complete Long Box 1 Series, Long Stretch Series and the Stomach Massage Series. Maybe you can get it done in 15?

Not too shabby.


Reformer: Short Box Series, Short Spine Massage, SemiCircle, Knee Stretch Series, Running, Pelvic Lift, Side Splits, Front Splits

Mat: Roll Like a Ball, Open Leg Rocker, Seal

At the end of the day you'll finish off the major exercises in what you may know as an Intermediate Reformer workout followed by an invigorating rolling ending.

Well done!

Give it a try and see how you do. Share your tips and successes in a comment below 🙂

I hope you'll enjoy this workout as much as I do.

Thanks for watching! 

Oh and about this video…

My body generally avoids the Shoulder Bridge on the Small Barrel. It's always my intent to include this exercise after the Bicycle but alas, as I edit this post I realize my body has gotten the best of me AGAIN and I “forgot” to include Shoulder Bridge in the video.

Bad Pilates Teacher!

You should still do it (and so should I).

Let's help each other…

Classes, Private Lessons and Much Much MORE!

October 5-8, 2017 I'll be in Portsmouth UK at Everybody Pilates. Private lessons are filling up! Reserve your spot by using the link below:

Everybody Pilates Mind Body Online

I look forward to seeing you there.

And here's where to find me this Fall.

Random Acts of Pilates: The ONE Thing

Refining your Pilates Journey: The ONE Thing

How often have we heard our clients say this?

Take note.

Are you looking for perfection? Every part of your body exactly where you believe it should be in an ideal Pilates world?

Or are you looking for a glimmer of yesterday's efforts creating a workout today that shows steady incremental progress?

Examine the way you approach your own Pilates workout as well as your teaching.

Where is this ideal Pilates world anyway? Would I even enjoy visiting?!

Refining our Pilates journey: The ONE Thing

As an avid reader, I happily devour books of all genres. The marketing and business books I enjoy are often ostensibly about improving your productivity, study or career.

But it's especially nice when I stumble upon a Random Act of Pilates.

Recently my favorite online business guru Pat Flynn advocated strongly for The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller with Jay Papasan.

(Have a peek at another book recommended by Pat that made the blog last year.)

I'm an ardent fan of simple, clearing the clutter, developing focus, etc…, and I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Because it's really about Pilates.


The premise of the book is to take a look at your business and discover the answer to this question:

“What is the ONE thing you can do,” – one choice to be made on a daily basis – “such that by doing your ONE thing everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”

The book urges you to think about this question like the lead domino. Topple the first domino and all the rest will fall into place sequentially.

What a useful Pilates question!

It's right up there with “Think like a sculptor.”

What's the ONE thing you'll focus on – ONE – for your workout? For your client today?

Yup. Just ONE. Tricky business, right?

As you go about de-prioritizing this-and-that in dogged pursuit of today's ONE thing it's easy to feel like a lazy teacher.

Am I going to just ignore their foot position that is really not what I'd like to see? What about all the tension in their arms? I'm going to let that happen? I'm okay with that?

Oh yes, obstacles do arise in our pursuit of ONE thing.

  • Everything is important (It's not.)
  • It's possible to fix everything all at once. (It's not.)

“Multitasking is merely the opportunity to screw up more than one thing at a time.”

Pilates Prioritizing

For teachers, applying the ONE thing approach speaks to prioritizing what you'll address with your student today.

Random Acts of Pilates: The ONE Thing

Jay Grimes encourages us to “Think like a sculptor.” He furthers his point with “Don't start with the eyelashes.”

What's the most important thing you'll focus on?

Generally what's going on (or not going on) in the center will take precedence. Strengthening the center can often alleviate tension or overactivity in the extremities.

What's your lead domino for today?

Remember you'll be watching the workout and making plans for what you will address later on in their session.

It's all about the Short Box

Years ago I was having a lesson with Jay and we were working on my now favorite series, the Short Box on the Reformer. Alas, way-back-when the Short Box was decidedly NOT my favorite.

I've spent literally years preoccupied with my shoulders and how much they want to do everything. Yet Jay worked to get more movement and strength in the sides of my back as we worked on that old chestnut Side-to-Side.

He was very patient in his explanation that we needed to get my back and center working and stronger first. Then the upper body “would just take care of itself.”


How exactly is that gonna happen? Slowly, of course, it did.

I had no idea what he was talking about. Clearly he didn't want to waste his time telling my shoulders what NOT to do. Instead he offered guidance on what needed to work more to find success in the exercise.

What a positive choice.

That's Pilates right?

It's positive. It's up and forward.

Joe and Romana

Joe Pilates believed that 10-12 minutes of work on the Cadillac in the latter part of the session was plenty of time for the “this is for you” section of the workout.

ONE thing, remember? In those 10-12 minutes you could hit just a few exercises – maybe even ONE – and hone in on your theme for the day. Too many themes crammed into 10-12 minutes? No bueno.

Romana also believed that in a given day, ONE thing to focus on is all anyone needs. Give away just ONE pearl, not the whole necklace!

ONE thing in your workout

Picking ONE focus for your own workout can create a vigorous movement experience. ONE focus prevents me from micromanaging my workout.

I like to choose a new skill I've found in my lesson that I am working to cultivate further. My workout will help to get the feeling more deeply in my body. More tangible. More repeatable.

Or perhaps there is one (ONE) exercise in which I feel particularly connected that I will use as a touchstone exercise to work on finding connection in all the other exercises I will do that day.

Other focus ideas:

  • ONE skill you will address in every exercise. For example: to find length in the low back.
  • ONE exercise that serves you that you'll look for in every other exercise. Example: Double Leg Pull
  • ONE exercise you'll visit on each and every apparatus. How are they similar? how are they different? What can you learn from each one?

Be your own BFF

The singular focus that is required to address our ONE thing now that we have pinpointed it: what's that like?

How many of us have finally carved out time for our own workouts only to have a million to-do lists in our head that scream to be heard over the Hundred?

“Not now,” you must tell the manic, insistent to-do lists, “it's time for a brain dump and I will deal with you all later.”

The philosophy of ONE thing also challenges us to put ourselves first. In the book, the doing of our ONE thing that's meant to make every other aspect of our businesses take care of itself must be cherished and nurtured. We are encouraged to do our ONE thing first thing every day, so it remains top-of-mind and it gets done.

The Pilates message for me was to remember to make time for the ONE thing that always always ALWAYS makes us better teachers.


Maintaining our own workout. Consistently. Our experience of the exercises in our own bodies is our most important teaching tool.

And I cannot express the virtuousness that I feel when I get my own workout in early in the day. I feel amazing!

It enlivens me. I am all jazzed up to get down to business with my clients. I've had my own dose of empathy. These exercises are no joke.

Often I think I'll work out at the end of my day and some days I almost believe it. But inevitably later in the day I am more interested in dinner or a nice bath…and the workout doesn't happen. Quel suprise…

Make your own workout your ONE thing and put yourself first!

In the repeated doing of our ONE thing we create a habit.


There's a domino effect for ya.

Random Acts of Pilates: The ONE Thing

Courage, friends!

Had success with the ONE thing? Share your insights below:)

The Pilates System: It’s in there.

The Pilates System: It's in there.

When I began my lessons at Excel Pilates, one of the studio offerings was “Solo Pilates sessions.”

This option was inexpensive. My budget was slim.

One had to be approved to go solo, of course. There was a teacher in the room, but you were essentially on your own.

With this newfound independence came responsibility, for yourself and for the apparatus. You needed to know the exercises, how many to do, springs, straps, safety concerns, etc… Quite a lofty aspiration having had only a few sessions on the Reformer at that point.

Eventually I had enough experience to gain approval and I scheduled my first solo session.

I received a sheet of paper containing the rules  – sorry, guidelines – I was to follow.

Top of the list?

Do not eliminate exercises that you do not like.


“They're on to me,” I thought.

“The magic's in the system.” (Thanks Paleolates!)

Years ago, Jay Grimes would quote an iconic Prego spaghetti sauce commercial to tout the extensiveness of the Pilates Method.

“It's in there.”

Whatever you are seeking in an exercise system, whatever your body issue, whatever the plane of movement that challenges you, the Pilates System has an exercise – perhaps even an entire apparatus – for just that.

From the rank beginner to the elite teacher-of-teachers Pilates Informationista, the Pilates System has something for everyone.

Before High Bridge you've got the Arm Circles over the Small Barrel.

Before Snake/Twist you've got the Elephant – which will keep you busy for a good long while.

What happens on the Mat must be duly noted!

What's to be done with Mr. Xtreme-Cyclist who cannot sit up straight for Spine Stretch on the Mat without his hips grabbing and his legs bent?

Or the 60-something former ballerina with the tight-ass back? How will she reap the benefits of the Roll Over if she cannot lift her hips off the Mat?

“Oh, we have ways,” says the Pilates System.

The Big Picture

Investing care and thought into our examination of the major pieces of apparatus can be a blueprint to mining the most out of the Pilates System. The Order of the Pilates Reformer Exercises and the Order of the Pilates Mat Exercises provide us with the scope of movement opportunities possible and necessary to our well-being.

Now how best to deliver all these goodies to the masses?

“Via the Pilates System!” I hear you roar.

Let's ask “What is possible?” 

Tight-ass-back Ballerina is lifting her hips off the Mat currently in Rolling Like a Ball and in assisted exercises on the apparatus: Short Spine Massage, Tower, Rolling Stomach Massage.

These exercises must infiltrate first. They are gatekeepers of the Roll Over on the Mat.

As for Mr. X, he needs lift and length to find success in Spine Stretch on the Mat.

Aaargh, don't we all?

Lucky for us, we've got oodles of places to do just that.

Thanks Joe. All roads lead to lift!

Let's have Mr. X leave the Mat for refining exercises on the Cadillac, Wunda Chair and Barrels. In time, he'll return to the Mat better than ever!

Patience, my darlings. Don't think you have to solve the world's problems in an hour. Just pick one thing to focus on today.

ONE thing.

Time + Repetition + Consistency = a better Spine Stretch Forward for Mr. X.

Don't sweat it. Whose workout is this anyway?

What you don't like you do twice

So what's the harm – really – in leaving out a detested exercise?

  1. It will never get better.
  2. You miss the gift of information you would have received had you done said detested exercise.

The Pilates System: It's in there.

Oh yeah, there's that.

3. When you remove parts of the system, the system as a whole suffers.

Pilates is the original “muscle confusion” exercise. Remember we've got a strong center and a 2-way stretch in every exercise. Now do all that upside-down, on one leg, with a backbend or a twist…etc…etc…

Can you do it?

Long Live the Pilates System.

Take a Pilates Class: You just might surprise yourself!

Take a Pilates Class: You just might surprise yourself!

Sure, I can workout by myself.

I'm quite good at kicking my own ass.


But it's still just me.

I am beholden to myself only.

Oh yeah, Mat classes and private lessons…

Private lessons and Pilates classes taught by OTHER TEACHERS are fantastic in so many ways:

  1. Focus and planning are required: you have to make an appointment or consult a schedule.
  2. You are held accountable: there are consequences ($$$) if you bail at the last minute.
  3. You will get what you need: your teacher will include exercises you'd avoid if you were alone.
  4. You'll be more on display: Keep it together. Suck it up. Just do it. Never let 'em see you sweat.
  5. You'll surprise yourself and do something you thought you couldn't do.

Take it from me, it's a great lesson to learn (again)

Wait, I could do MORE?!

What a positive boost of energy. Not to mention, the heady afterglow of “Hey, I did that!”

And even better if it's some dreaded, necessary exercise. Speaking of…

Hello, Neck Pull

Perhaps I've mentioned it before (like 1000 times)

I was terrified to receive my first Pilates diploma due to my inability to do the Neck Pull on the mat at all, really.

I assumed if I were ever to run into criminals in a dark alley they would demand the Neck Pull in exchange for my life, and my odds of surviving said encounter were slim.

I really used to dislike the Neck Pull on the Mat. Oh, I'm being kind…

I f**king hated it.

I was like an insect that had gotten stuck upside down and couldn't roll itself over again.

The good news is that now I kind of like it.

Thanks, Joe Pilates!

Moreover, I like the Neck Pull even when I take a Mat class and must be parted from my best friend the strap at the end of the studio mat. I take it as a challenge and tackle the Neck Pull with pride as I am much better at it now.

Evidently even more so than I realize.

The weight of your teacher's gaze

Jennifer Kries is just about the loveliest Pilates teacher you'll find. She has a wonderful warm and encouraging demeanor as she leads the class. Somehow she becomes more cheerful and uplifting as the exercises get harder. Just when you need it.

How nice.

Except when viewed through the lens of the Neck Pull.

True, she was very warm and encouraging. Yet firm. Relentless, even. Unwavering in her directive:

Keep your heels on the Mat.

Neck Pull #1 goes by. Legs are basically still on the mat, but the heels do lift a bit. But it seems fine, not a disaster.

Your heels. Don't let them leave the Mat.

Neck Pull #2: pretty similar to the previous one. She's right, the heels are definitely lifting.

Is she standing closer now?

I begin Neck Pull #3. Our eyes meet, she is now right in front of me. Clearly, this is not her first rodeo.

Keep. The heels. Down.

Is it hot in here?

The room fades away and my focus hones into a singular beam of willpower and righteous indignation. Surely I have power over my heels, yes? Keeping them on the Mat is my only concern now.

That and proving to Jennifer that I do indeed speak English.

Concentration pops out more sweat all over me.

When did it get so hot in here?

But guess what. My heels stayed on the Mat.

It was actually possible, look at that! It took way more focus than I thought I could muster to accomplish it, but it HAPPENED.

I can do more!

Ladies and Gentlemen, yet another gem of the Pilates Method:

Wait, there's MORE.

Have you surprised yourself in a class or lesson recently? I hope it made you feel like a Pilates Rock Star!

Share your success in a comment below.