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.

February

  • 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.”

A STRONG WILL

A SPIRIT TO SUCCEED

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

Whaaa?

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.

Back to the Basics: Everything Old is New Again

Back to Basics: Everything Old is New Again

Hi there!

I recently wrote a post on the importance of revisiting our basic exercises.

As an advanced Pilates practitioner, skills earned over time shine brightly in our most fundamental and straightforward exercises. Any difficulty with our beginning exercises will show up later in our favorite Pilates circus tricks.

Am I right?

Elephant, anyone?

The body – it is a-changin'

We are currently in the midst of a Pilates renaissance.

Curiosity abounds as the traditional exercises we get from Joe Pilates beckon to countless instructors of varied training backgrounds. Apparatus designed to support the original system gains new fans every day.

In the past I would hear questions like:

  • “Don't you get tired teaching the same exercises all day long?”
  • “Having an order you use for everyone sounds like lazy teaching.”

Or something to this effect…

My understanding of the system at the time was that fundamental exercises, once mastered, would open up more exercises and variations for the devoted client.

Also each day our bodies are different – how will we do today? Our group of exercises will tell us the story: where we excel and where we fall short.

But wait – there's MORE

I'm sure you are familiar with one of Joe Pilates most famous marketing slogans:

In 10 sessions you'll feel the difference, in 20 sessions you'll see the difference, and in 30 sessions you'll have a whole new body…

What about that ellipses?

Less familiar is the end of this sentence: or your money back.

The results mentioned in this quote are predicated on Pilates done 3 times a week with Joe Pilates – a man we all understand to be sufficiently confident (and then some!) in his life's work to make such a claim.

A whole new body might take a bit more time if you're attending 1 weekly Mat class.

Or in my case, the new body showed up 5 years post The Work – just as Jay Grimes predicted…

That guy is always right.

New Skills, New Body, Same Old Exercises

Last week I spoke about ‘meat and potatoes' exercises done on the Reformer and Mat.

I was also thrilled to discover a post from Brooke Siler which included a shot of my Reformer Poster. Brooke is a celebrated Pilates teacher/practitioner and the author of the very first Pilates book I owned, The Pilates Body: The Ultimate At-Home Guide to Strengthening, Lengthening and Toning Your Body- Without Machines.

Oh it's a goody.

I saw this post immediately following my lesson with the lovely Karen Frischmann.

Having scaled my own workout back for the moment I looked at “the big picture” on my Reformer poster with new eyes.

I got excited to return to the more complex exercises – Headstands, Backbend, High Frog, Star – with my new skills – with my new body!

My thoughts on doing the same exercises over and over instantly had a new clarity of purpose:

  • The exercises don't change.
  • Over time the body changes…
  • The exercises become at once familiar, new, exciting and challenging.

Those same old exercises are going to be such a new experience – some will be even more awesome and others will be a wild ride.

YouTube Collaboration with Lesley Logan

Back to the Basics: Everything Old is New Again

Join me this week for my 2nd YouTube collaboration with my Los Angeles colleague Lesley Logan. Lesley is the owner of Profitable Pilates and she's a gem.

This week we will begin at the beginning with an exercise tutorial on the Hundred.

Back to the Basics: Everything Old is New Again

Check out my video. If you'd like to see us collaborate on other exercises, leave a comment below and we will add it to the list!

Check out Lesley's video on the Hundred here.

If you're a YouTuber with a Pilates channel and want to join our collaboration please email me at andrea@pilatesandrea.com and I will give you all the deets.

And here's where you can find me in 2018.

To V or Not to V: Let Connection Be Your Guide

Joe Pilates had a keen eye.

Joe looked at the skeleton and noticed the specific way our feet hang on the skeleton.2-Way Stretch and the Anatomy of Pilates

In the natural position of the bones the feet have a slight splay to them.

For this reason we use the heels together-toes apart position in our beloved Pilates method.

You may have learned this position as Pilates Stance.

Jay Grimes maintains there is no such thing as Pilates Stance. It is a made-up word. Joe didn’t make it up or use it. Joe simply looked at the way the bones hang on the skeleton.

To V

To V or Not to V: Let Connection Be Your Guide

I love the connection and organization of the lower body I get from using the heels together-toes apart position. It's great when standing and even better when I have my lower body reaching into the air.

To V or Not to V: Let Connection Be Your Guide

For me – I've got a slight bow to my legs – I find it to be ideal.

However, the V is not the only option we've got for our Pilates exercises.

Parallel feet hip-width apart proliferates in the method as well: Neck Pull, Short Box, Long Back Stretch, Up Stretch, Elephant.

Joe Pilates wants us to have it all.

Or Not to V

To V or Not to V: Let Connection Be Your Guide

Certainly there are individuals for whom the V position of the feet is not appropriate.

  • Structurally those with knock knees often need a parallel-feet-apart position to have room for their knees to not overlap.
  • An individual with a knee issue may need to omit the V position – among other things – for a while.
  • The ballet dancer who lives life in turnout could find a nice challenge in a parallel position.
  • Those with a weaker side – also me – benefit from using a parallel position so each side must work individually and cannot rely on the other.

But what about those who could kinda do either position?

In our Pilates method there are no hard-and-fast rules. In fact, if you learned certain rules in your training, what would happen if you considered them to be simply guidelines?

Maybe the V position looks okay, but upon closer inspection it doesn't seem to be… quite… right.

What's to be done?

Let connection be your guide.

Every lesson we teach – just like our own lesson – is a work in progress.

Diligently we work on connecting our various parts into center. We work to exert greater control over our muscles, our movements and our daily life.

There's no reason we can't weigh a few options for our foot position while we're at it.

We're learning too.

Our feet are far away from our center and cultivating the muscles of the back and seat with our foot placement is a noble quest worth exploring.

Let's look at a bit of Footwork on the Reformer as an example:

As you perfect your 1st Footwork exercise – Toes – and also the 4th Footwork exercise – Tendon Stretch – ask yourself some questions based upon what you're seeing in front of you:

(Eyes open, mouth shut preferred.)

  • Do the knees look crowded or overlapped?
  • Does it look like one side might be working more than the other?
  • Do one or both knees want to lock?
  • What does the hip look like compared to where the knees and feet are?
  • How's the alignment of hip, knee and ankle?

If you answered ‘yes' or ‘not great' to the above questions it might warrant a trip to the Parallel Universe…

Wait.

What's all that about connection?

In our Pilates workout we're always looking for more action in our center.

All our Pilates exercises for the feet are magical and wonderful for the health, flexibility and well-being of our feet. Agreed.

But wait, there's more.

Imagine if you will, our 4th Footwork exercise again – the Tendon Stretch:

To V or Not to V: Let Connection Be Your Guide

Using the strength of the center – stomach lifting and bottom working – we'll stay light on our feet.

The whole body works to lift up in the front and lengthen downward in the back culminating in the heels reaching under the bar.

Often students will want to drop their weight when the heels drop and the ankle must overwork to hoist them back up to the toes. Boo… unhappy ankles…

Constant controlled motion is required as you reach lower with the heels and rise up again.

Hey! This maneuver done standing up is also a great way to end a Mat class:

  • Can you rise up to your heels with the strength of your center and not just by leaning forward?
  • Can you lower your heels without getting any shorter?
  • Never underestimate the Pilates exercises done lying down… you will eventually be asked to do them standing up!

Embrace the Grey

Part of the excitement and the teeth-gnashing of our beloved Pilates Method is there is no one rule to apply to every body you'll meet.

On one hand, Yay! There are not really wrong answers only better and more informed choices to be made.

Conversely, our powers of observation require constant cultivation.

  • We must truly show up and respond to the unique individual in front of us.
  • Maybe watch your student for a while saying nothing and plan your strategy.
  • Assign value to your own opinions about what you see as well as those of your mentors and from your training.

See what you think.

Questions?

Comment and join the conversation, we're a lively bunch!

The Gratz Cadillac: TRULY The Best of its Kind

The Gratz Cadillac: TRULY the Best of its Kind

Photo by Jack Coble

I hope you'll enjoy this re-post of an article I wrote for Gratz Pilates a little while back. Originally published on their blog, I thought you'd also appreciate my bit of Pilates detective work. Treat yourself to a Cadillac workout afterward and you'll be glad you did 🙂

It’s been said that Joe’s Cadillac apparatus received its name from a mid-century General Motors’ Cadillac advertisement which declared the car to be “the best of its kind.”

Would vintage Cadillac adverts help me to locate the specific ad?

I’m curious.

Could this story be true?

Sadly, the roots of the Cadillac name need to be relegated to the category of “more myths about Joe Pilates and his apparatus” as I did not find an ad with the specific wording ‘the best of its kind.'

Oh, but vintage Cadillac ads would please Joe Pilates GREATLY.

They kinda sound like him.

The Cadillac ads of the 40s and 50s share the same emphatic tone we find in JP’s manifesto, Return to Life.

Imagine Joe vehemently declaring the following about his Cadillac apparatus:

The universal symbol of achievement!

(See? Universal – a good Joe Pilates word.)

In a realm all its own…

(so Game of Thrones…)

Magnificent beyond all expectations!

(Mine is built like a Mack truck, yo.)

Styled to be copied for years to come!

(How true, how true…)

Beside it all others look obsolete!

(They really like their exclamation points…)

A great experience awaits you!

It will aid to your Happiness!

(I know, right??)

Come home to it after your vacation!

(Oh gosh yes!!! That’s when I need it the most.)

You get the point.

The idea of the story rings true even if the precise slogan is not “the best of its kind.”

Clearly, General Motors and Joe Pilates were thrilled with their creations.

Simplicity in Form and Function

Years ago I worked in a fully-equipped Gratz studio with a vintage Gratz Cadillac built by Donald Gratz. It featured a unique X-shaped safety chain and the studio owner had further equipped it with numerous spring choices.

We had extra leg springs and arm springs, baby arm chair springs and springs from other manufacturers perhaps as well.

We had a spring for each and every scenario one might encounter with a client.

Truthfully at the time I loved having such a choice. It seemed ideal.

Five years later I ordered my Gratz Cadillac.

My one concern was that my new Cadillac wouldn’t include all those extra springs I had come to rely on and utilize.

How would that be?

Would the springs be “too heavy” for some of my clients?

I really wasn’t sure.

My own Cadillac…

Wow.

Nothing says commitment quite like assembling a Cadillac in your house.

(But it will aid to my happiness!)

Finally the day arrived to try out my new springs Cadillac.

Leg Springs and Arm Springs.

Oh and the Roll Back bar springs – there’s a boon – some extra springs I hadn’t counted on.

But that’s it.

Simplicity.

Lying on the Cadillac I learned a valuable lesson about our beloved Pilates method:

The springs must be sufficient to coax the body into a full body workout.

I need to use my whole body to work the springs properly.

The Gratz Cadillac: TRULY The Best of its Kind

This is no arm exercise!

And these springs are PERFECT.

We live in an era with choices of ridiculous proportion.

Enter the Gratz Cadillac: there are choices. Arm Springs? or Leg Springs? Even a few choices for where to place them – low or high – or for standing exercises.

And that’s enough.

Another ad slogan described my feeling for my Gratz Cadillac perfectly:

It’s a “Cadillac among Cadillacs!”

I couldn’t have said it better.

Again – the finest can be YOURS!

What are you waiting for?

Find me in 2017 at a studio near you!

The Pilates Language: Laying the Foundation

The Pilates Language: Laying the Foundation

An internet search of the benefits of Pilates reveals the following:

“…Women strengthened their rectus abdominis (the muscle responsible for six-packs) by an average of 21 percent, while eliminating muscle imbalances between the right and left sides of their cores, according to a Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise study.”

Okay, your abs will be amazing and a stronger core will help with everything.

“Researchers believe that by stabilizing the core's lumbar-pelvic (lower-back) region, Pilates alleviates stress on the area and ups mobility.” 

If you have back pain, Pilates will help.

“Pilates elongates and strengthens, improving muscle elasticity and joint mobility.”

If you have joint pain, Pilates will help.

“You'll learn to control the movement of your body.”

You'll need to think and pay attention.

“Pilates: It's amazing for sex.” 

From “Look better naked,” all the way to claims I'm blushing too much to offer here on the blog. 

“…you can learn moves that mimic and improve performance in your sport of choice.”

You'll get better at your chosen sport, even if that sport is life itself.

Gain long, lean muscles and flexibility.” Pilates will give you “a dancer's body.”

Really?

The Art of the First Lesson

Despite the accuracy of the above claims, that's a lot of language.

Lengthen.

Decompress.

Eliminate muscle imbalance. 

Yes, please.

But this language is not actionable.

Who really knows what we're talking about in their first lesson?

What does “improving muscle elasticity” mean to a first time student trying to learn to do a Roll Up?

The First-time Student

Pilates has a different point of view on exercise than traditional fitness. We also have a language – that we all desperately want to use – which will be unfamiliar at first.

As a teacher, I consider efficient communication to be one of my main jobs.

With any beginning student, even an athlete, we must lay the foundation.

How can I effectively communicate to Mr. X in his first lesson?

Consider the difference between asking someone to “lengthen the back” in a seated position.

I'm not suggesting these words would be used in this situation, but it's what we all want to see as a result, yes?

Yet who knows what this means sitting on the Short Box for the first time?

We must lay the foundation.

We also must never underestimate the power of silence. Communication does not imply a lot of talking.

Pedestrian Language

I like to think in ordinary, everyday words. The exercises will feel foreign enough on the first lesson. Elaborate language will not be helpful at this point.

Let's use words we all understand and things most people can figure out how to do:

“Sit up taller.”

“Pick your head up and reach your arms forward.”

“Roll up off the Mat and reach past your toes.”

“Lower your heels slowly.”

“Use this.” accompanied by a poke of my finger.

“Lie down.”

“Sit up.”

“Stop.”

“Go.”

“Yes.”

“Good.”

Occasionally even these directions may misfire.

Relax…it's not a sin to get up and show Mr. X what to do.

“Oh yeah, I can do that…” the visual learners will love you.

The Collection of Cues

The word ‘cue' is not a favorite of mine.

cue 1 |kyoÍžo|

noun

  • a thing said or done that serves as a signal to an actor or other performer to enter or to begin their speech or performance
  • a signal for action
  • a piece of information or circumstance that aids the memory in retrieving details not recalled spontaneously

Hmmm…

In progressing students toward autonomy, I prefer to think in terms of making ‘suggestions' or ‘corrections' rather than prompting them into action.

What you say vs. What you SEE

My formal education is in the theatre. I absolutely love the craft of acting and I enjoy a good narrative almost more than life itself.

As an actor, the skills you cultivate in your training and through the rehearsal period will serve you well in performance. All the preparation is built into you until the curtain goes up and you are live and in person.

At this point in the process, you must show up and respond to your fellow actors.

Similarly our years of Pilates training, CECs, weekly lessons and countless observation hours prepare us for anything and anyone to show up at our studio.

We are thoroughly prepared and now we must show up and respond.

Even crazy can be effective…

Through the years I've uttered things that work perfectly yet really shouldn't. Clients also contribute to the dialogue with suggestions that work beautifully for them but which would mean nothing to anyone else.

I've used the following bizarre directions with great success:

“You need to slouch more.”

“More parenthesis here.” (to elicit the Round shape of a new exercise)

Fielding the question “Am I to squeeze the asshole?” giving it a try and then responding, “Yes.”

“Pretend you are round.”

“Yes. Now do that forever.”

“Can you be taller upside down?”

The Experience of the Exercises in our Bodies

I firmly believe our intimate experience of the Pilates exercises in our own body serves us immeasurably as a teacher.

How the exercises feel and how they perform in the body enables us to choose wisely for our students.

The order of the exercises also informs us about the exercises.

  • What are they doing for the body?
  • How do they progress us forward in our workout?
  • What are the demands on the body that show up later in the order?
  • How are we being prepared for them in the early exercises?

Get your own personal workout on a regular basis and cultivate depth in our Pilates exercises. Your endeavors will reward you tenfold!

And here's where you can find me in 2018.