The Pilates System: What’s in a Workout?

The Pilates System: What's the Best Workout for You?

Welcome new subscribers!

Thanks for joining me here for all things Pilates.

I've got a special announcement at the end of this post. It's another cool way to work with me even if you're on the other side of the world so be sure to check it out!

If you've missed some of my YouTube collaborations with Lesley Logan of Profitable Pilates, check out this playlist. There are also lots of workouts on my channel. Thanks for watching!

What's in a Workout?

The Pilates System: What's in a Workout?

The Pilates Method works best with consistent, concentrated and diligent practice. Joe Pilates famously tells us to be faithful to ourselves and our pursuit of Contrology, and in just 30 sessions we'll have a whole new body. Joe bases this claim on lessons 3x per week with HIM!

Today, alas, this is not possible…

What's to be done?

Every workout is valuable and serves to better our progress and execution of the exercises. But what's the benefit of my private lesson versus my independent workouts? And what about working in a class?

How can we best spend our workouts and our training dollars to deliver optimum results?

Not all workouts are the same. The combination of lessons, classes and solo workouts beautifully complement each other and ensure our steady progress.

This week I examine our workout options to illuminate how they best serve our Pilates needs.

Let's start with a favorite of mine:

The Private Lesson

The Pilates System: What's the Best Workout for You?

The Private Lesson pairs you with your very favorite Pilates instructor(s). Ideally you've been studying consistently with one or more teachers over a long period of time.

You know more about your skills and your body from working with this/these instructors. You may even hear his or her voice in your head when you workout solo (more on this a bit later on).

In the Private Lesson you are working to refine your skills and better your weak points. You may not do every exercise you currently do; you might work more slowly through your order of exercises with a focus on a particular nuance. You may investigate the same focus in each exercise in today's workout.

The Pilates System: What's the Best Workout for You?

The Private Lesson is a wonderful way to make yourself accountable to your workout. When I first began my Pilates lessons years ago, making my appointments kept me honest. I couldn't blow off my workout or there would be consequences… and a cancelation fee to pay.

Consider the Private Lesson as an hour chock full of ME time. I initially got hooked on Pilates via a Mat Class (more on this a bit later as well). Soon a couple friends from Mat Class joined me in Pilates Class (Small Group Apparatus). We were a great trio. One day I remember, both friends canceled and I had my very first Private Lesson.

I learned so much about my body in that very first Private Lesson.

Me likey!

The Private Lesson is also a great space in which to clarify new or unfamiliar exercises. It's a great place to begin scary crazy exercises like Headstands and Backbends.

You need a friend.

Do you have concerns about injuries or other body issues?

If so, the Private Lesson is the place to be.

The Continuing Education Workshop

The Pilates System: What's the Best Workout for You?

The Continuing Education Workshop tempts us from all around the globe.

In April I snuck off to Seattle with a few Pilates friends for a workshop weekend with Lori Coleman-Brown. Later I visited Jay Grimes in Los Angeles for a workshop on my favorite topic The Double Leg Pull. This summer I head to Kuopio, Finland to teach a bunch of my favorite workshops.

Oh I love a good Continuing Education Workshop!

My favorite workshops include a workout component as well. I find it hard to sit still in a Pilates workshop (all the while talking about glorious ways to MOVE!).

The Pilates Method is experiential.

My body must experience the exercises (over and over again) to better them.

Jay Grimes is famous for stating that one cannot learn the Pilates Method by taking notes.

I take notes, but as much as possible I also take action.

I encourage you to be mercenary. Don't be an apparatus hog, but if you're the only one who volunteers to do the exercises I say seize the day!

The Pilates Mat Class

The Pilates System: What's the Best Workout for You?

I took my first Pilates Mat Class in the Fall of 2000. It was the most inexpensive option at the Pilates studio. I had a job in retail and for my budget, the six-week Mat Class course was ideal.

The Pilates Mat Class can give you a taste for the wider method to come. However, you should know the Mat exercises are unforgiving and you'll be at the mercy of your own body.

The Mat Class enables us to experience a variety of instructors over time and perhaps discover a different spin on an old favorite exercise. Perhaps a teacher's language speaks to you in a new way. Or you've made a discovery about how an exercise early-on prepares you for what's to come later in the sequence.

The Pilates System: What's the Best Workout for You?

Let's say you've combined your Mat Class experience with the Private Lesson as well. Now your Mat Class gives you a chance at more of an Independent Workout. You know what you work on in your lessons and now's your chance to try it out in real time. Hopefully with some movement and flow.

The Mat Class can often be self-limiting. You will either accomplish the exercise or you won't. There's minimal help and no matter who you are, you're gonna need some.

Enter The Pilates Class (Small Group Apparatus).

The Pilates Class (Small Group Apparatus)

The Pilates System: What's the Best Workout for You?

The Pilates Class brings you and a few choice friends together with a fun teacher. You'll have fun just letting your instructor steer the ship for the hour. Maybe you'll use the Reformer for the majority of the hour. I bet there will be a trip the to Wunda Chairs and perhaps a Wham Bam! finishing sequence.

Like the Mat Class, you'll get to be more independent in your workout although you'll probably receive specific instructions as well like the Private Lesson unless the class is large.

Sharpen your listening skills and be ready for the journey. Sometimes it can be nice to allow yourself to simply follow directions and be a student again. Remember why you started this whole Pilates adventure in the first place?

Enjoy your workout!

The Independent Workout

The Pilates System: What's in a Workout?

For the devoted and consistent student you'll finally arrive at the Independent Workout! Years of hard work and dedication (and quite possibly a Teacher Training Program) have led you to this moment.

Working out solo often puts the voice of your favorite Private Lesson teachers right in your head to guide you. At some point your own voice may even replace that of your teachers. Enjoy this focused hour of mental and physical control.

In the Independent Workout I find it helpful to pick one element of your workout to focus on each time you will workout. As a way to streamline the mind and get moving perhaps your most-heard correction (from your Private Lesson!) may be a good starting point.

By yourself you have the luxury of an uninterrupted hour to devote to even the most challenging aspects of your Pilates workout.

Pilates Playtime

The Pilates System: What's in a Workout?

I use the term ‘Pilates Playtime‘ to cover any little mini-workouts which are often unplanned and sometimes just happen to us.

If one of my clients is late I will start my “workout” while I wait. I know I'll soon be interrupted. But I can seize the moment and maybe even do more exercises than I had anticipated.

Or maybe one exercise in your lesson becomes new or more valuable and you'd like to try it out again. What was the correction again? How did it feel?

Of course. Use my stomach…

Sometimes if I have a jam-packed week my only workouts will be Pilates Playtime!

But even little bits of Pilates done frequently is better than no Pilates at all.

PS. Make sure to schedule a lesson or a class!

Come workout with me!

In the spirit of committing to our own Pilates workouts I'm offering a new online class.

It's called Move Now. Talk Later.

In this 60-minute class we'll explore all the apparatus in the Pilates System. The class format will be 45-50 minutes of working out followed by a 10 minute discussion and questions.

Each week we'll pick a different apparatus to explore.

The class will meet on Wednesdays at 9am PST.

There will be a maximum of 6 people and the cost will be $50.

This week will be a Reformer workout. There are still a few spots open so snag them if you can!

Here's the link to schedule:

https://app.acuityscheduling.com/schedule.php?owner=12715947&appointmentType=6385798

Thanks for reading and have a great week!

And here's where to find me in 2018.

Hey that thing really works! A Foot Corrector Love Story

Hey that thing really works! A Foot Corrector Love Story

Hello Pilates friends!

This week on the blog I'm sharing some Foot Corrector love from across the globe.

Thank you so much for your lovely emails and comments telling me how much you are loving and reaping the benefits of the sweet, sweet Foot Corrector.

Special Subscriber Announcement: My apologies if you received emails containing decidedly off-topic posts which appeared to be from my blog. I believe it was a WordPress glitch of misdirected, but not malicious content. I have since remedied the problem. Please be assured you will only receive Nerd-tastic Pilates content from me. Boo, WordPress…

Welcome new subscribers!

If you're new to the blog, check out an earlier video on my morning workout including the Foot Corrector here. And thanks for signing on for the long haul/love affair that is our beloved Pilates Method.

A Rose by any other Name would Smell as Sweet?

Hey that thing really works! A Foot Corrector Love Story

We mustn't underestimate the specific names of the apparatus. First and foremost Joe gives us our principle piece of Pilates apparatus to reform our movement.

You guessed it – the Reformer.

What a name, right? Kinda says it all.

Two of Joe Pilates' smaller apparatus include the word ‘corrector' in the name:

  • Spine Corrector
  • Foot Corrector

We must take Joe at his word. He was not kidding!

These apparatus – used with frequency – will change our backs and our feet, respectively.

Need an arch in your foot?

Step up regularly to the Corrector and watch the magic happen.

Fix your Feet and Save your Shoes

Hey that thing really works! A Foot Corrector Love Story

Recently I wore a pair of shoes which had been languishing in my closet for years. I had convinced myself I either found them to be unattractive or uncomfortable (or both) and there they were in a tumble on the floor.

Upon further investigation I discovered they were 1) cute and 2) only uncomfortable on my left foot. The right shoe felt fine.

Hmmm…

A little secret about my left foot: it has a saggy arch and only the big toe half of it likes to work…awww… frownie face…

The moment I applied a bit of the Foot Corrector magic I've been steadily infiltrating into my workout body the left foot felt amazingly better in my shoe.

Can't blame the shoe when half your foot doesn't work I always say…

Dizzy, high marks on the Nerd-o-meter I know. Thanks for playing 🙂

Foot Corrector Basics

In this week's video tutorial, we look at a few basic exercises. These will well serve you (and your feet) with regular practice.

These 5 exercises follow the same foot positions as our trusty Footwork series done on the Reformer.

Woo hoo!

#itsgoodtohaveasystem

  • Ball of Foot on Pedal
  • Heel on Pedal
  • The Massage…
  • Arches
  • On top of Pedal with Heel Lifted

Repeat each of your 5 Foot Corrector exercises 3-5 times.

Familiarity is key with the Foot Corrector. Regular practice will illuminate how you'll control the spring here just like you control all the other springs in the studio.

The Foot Corrector gives great feedback on working both sides of the foot evenly. Maybe the big toe side does all the work?

My main interest currently is how the Foot Corrector teaches us to connect the lower body into our center, our powerhouse. This is one of my favorite bits of Pilates Magic.

My Foot Corrector is made by Gratz. The spring is strong by design. Those new to the Gratz apparatus in general will agree the spring tension on the Reformer and Cadillac, for example, is considerable.

The spring tension offers sufficient support and assistance help us to defy gravity. Quite a noble endeavor and so hard to do on our own.

And by ‘on our own' I mean the Mat.

GASP!

It's nearly my favorite time of the year (no not my birthday).

The 1st of March my fancy turns to thoughts of Joe Pilates 34 original Mat exercises!

March MATness is coming.

Tangent over. I know it's still f**king Foot Corrector February.

Foot Corrector Praise from Around the Globe

Hey that thing really works! A Foot Corrector Love Story

From London

My right and left sides of my body are totally different!

When I place my foot on the bar my right low back immediately tightens and I really have to scoop up my waistline and l-e-n-g-t-h-e-n my tailbone down to decompress my back. For someone with a tight low back this really feels gooood! This gives a massive clue as to what I should be feeling in exercises like footwork and frogs and circles…hmmm

from South Africa

I cannot believe how effective the Foot Corrector is. I used it as a “warm up” today before my Footwork. It is very effective in connecting the “feet to the seat and the centre.” I have a weakness on my right lateral chain. It felt so much better after I did my right foot.

From Montana

The part I struggle with, is keeping the hips square and level and totally stable and THEN pushing down. I will cheat so bad on this, hike one hip up or roll back in the hip, etc…and then not get the work out of it….but only because my glutes are WEAK.  Doing it in a mirror helps a lot!

You always tell me, the distance the Spring moves does not matter 🙂

 

My 30-Day Challenge So Far…

In last week's post I threw down the gauntlet for myself and whoever would like to join me.

Today brings me to Day 9 of my 30-Day Standing-One-Leg-Spring-at-the-Cadillac challenge.

What have I learned so far?

On Day 2 I wrestled a spring from my Arm Chair to use the lightest spring in the studio. I had been using the springs from the Roll Down bar on the Cadillac, but it was overpowering the exercise and causing me to grip my standing leg fiercely.

I don't need any help in that department.

Oh, Control, where have you been all my life?

Slowly I am discovering new supportive muscles in my weaker leg that would rather lock its little knee and give up.

I've also found an excellent exercise pairing: using Going Up Front and Going Up Side on the High Chair as a prelude to the Standing One Leg Springs.

Especially Going Up Side for the standing leg support in the One Leg Springs.

It's such a new way of looking at the meat-and-potatoes High Chair exercises. They're my pre-Pilates. I love when everything old becomes new again.

Welcome to the Pilates Method!

This Week's COLLAB with Lesley Logan

The Pilates System: A Day in the Life

Welcome to our Pilates version of Shark Week.

Sort of.

This week we begin our Swan Month.

See? Just as scary!

Today's video collab with the Lovely Lesley Logan of Profitable Pilates will be on one of our “nicest” Swans, done on the Mat.

No diving yet, just our basic (ish) Swan.

Stay tuned for all our Swans in the studio over the month of March.

Thanks for watching!

Hello Hong Kong!

Hong Kong, you are getting ever closer! Maybe I should pack…

I'll be teaching many of my favorite workshops as well as lessons and classes. You know how much I adore the Reformer

I hope you'll join me at Flex Studio in March 9-12. Teachers and clients are all welcome!

Workshops will include a Reformer workshop based on my most-viewed posts On the Order of the Pilates Reformer Exercises and Transitions! Transitions!, a Mat workshop based on the posts On the Order of the Pilates Mat Exercises and Transitions on the Mat plus 7 Spot-On Quotes to Keep you Honest and The 3 pilates Barrels.

Register here.

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

The Pilates System: Teaser on the Cadillac

The Pilates System: Teaser on the Cadillac

Hello there my lovelies!

Thanks for joining me for yet another post in my Teaser series.

Today we've got perhaps the Method's finest: Teaser on the Cadillac avec Push Thru Bar (PTB).

It's 2 Exercises in 1!

The Teaser on the Cadillac is brilliantly 2 exercises in 1.

Part 1: Upper Body Reach

From the lift in the waist all the way up to your fingertips, the upper body must learn to connect into the deeper back muscles.

What luck!

We've got a brilliant way to work on just that.

(Many, in fact.)

Begin lying down, arms overhead with hands firmly gripping the PTB. Note you also have the luxury of the mat behind you for feedback and support.

With hands on the apparatus – PTB – push into the bar as it starts to move toward you. In this way we can connect our fingertips into the deeper back muscles.

With our backs against the mat we can tangibly feel what's going on (or not going on) behind us.

Never let the spring push you around! This must be your Pilates mantra.

Part 1 is lovely for lots of folks whether they'll continue to the full-on Teaser or not.

To recap:

  • Set up your position under the PTB.
  • Pull in your stomach, exhale and drop your ribs: get as much of your back on the mat as you can.
  • With a firm grip on the bar resist! as it moves toward you bending your arms.
  • Do not let the spring push you.
  • Sustain this connection as the bar changes direction to move upward.
  • You should not lose control of the bar – it should not accelerate!

Part 2: Teaser options

Using the helpful lift of the PTB you've got several options for your Teaser, depending on who you are.

You can work just the upper body.

The Pilates System: Teaser on the Cadillac

Or you can explore your full-on Teaser here.

The Pilates System: Teaser on the Cadillac

You can lift the lower body with the legs straight a la Teaser 3.

If necessary you can begin in the Frog and reach out to your angle as you roll up.

The Pilates System: Teaser on the Cadillac

Okay you've made it up to your Teaser, so now what?

You've got a few options here as well. Traditionally you'll complete your Teaser 3x.

You've even got an optional “dismount.”

One Potential Sequence for Teaser on the Cadillac

  • Begin with Part 1 to arrive at your Teaser.
  • Roll up to your Teaser.
  • Lift your back and bend your arms 3x a la Shave on the Reformer. Your back should not sink when your arms bend.
  • Roll down.

The Pilates System: Teaser on the Cadillac

  • Roll up to your Teaser a second time. Keep the arms straight and the back lifted.
  • Lower and lift your legs 3x a la Teaser 2.
  • Roll down.

The Pilates System: Teaser on the Cadillac

  • Return to your Teaser for a 3rd and final time. Here you've got some options:
  • Alternate – arms bend 1x, legs lower 1x. Repeat 3x.
  • Roll down.

OR

  • All together now! Bend arms and lower legs together and then lift everything up.
  • Repeat 3x.

What was that about a dismount??

Let's put it all to the test. You've completed 3 Teasers and you're ready to move on.

  • Use the lift of your back to reach up and return the PTB without a sound.

The Pilates System: Teaser on the Cadillac

Both arms reach to up to the sky and the toward the toes to finish on your own – unassisted – in your beautiful Teaser.

Voila!

Check out this short video tutorial for more info and tips for a perfect Boomerang ending.

Thanks for watching!

Related posts:

And here's where to find me in 2017.

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!

A Pilates Field Trip: Revisiting the Basics

A Pilates Field Trip: Revisiting the Basics

You know me – I am a big fan of my Pilates workout. I never want to skip any of my exercises – if you skip them they don't get better right?

I love all the fun advanced tricky moves – they jazz me up!

However, my understanding and my Pilates practice have matured.

So let's take a little Pilates Field Trip back to where it all began.

The Basic System!

Great power resides in the fundamental exercises you've been doing for years decades. 

I've documented my progress in my Another One Bites the Dust series here and here.

The Another One Bites the Dust series takes a look at a few exercises I hated at first and I now adore. It includes some basics and a couple doozies. Despite our newfound love affair, Snake/Twist and the BreastStroke are NOT basic exercises.

Why bother with the Basics?

A client/colleague of mine suggests the basic exercises are actually the hardest to do well and that's why we learn them first. These things take time…

Kinda true.

Who really feels they excel at the Hundred?

Does anyone have a perfect Elephant?

The Pilates method is skill-based. Like any sport or movement discipline we learn fundamental skills to serve us throughout our Pilates career. Akin to a martial art, Pilates sets us on a path to mastery.

Oh and CONTROL (that old thing?).

Complete control of our body and mind.

Our modus operandi in all things Pilates. Who's in charge here anyway? You or the exercise?

Here's a little test: examine the exercises you find to be extremely difficult.

What fundamental exercises lie within? And how good are you at them? 

More questions to ask yourself:

In Snake/Twist on the Reformer, do you struggle to return the carriage with control?

More. Elephant.

Are you unable to lift your hips off the mat for Corkscrew, JackKnife and Overhead?

More. Roll Like a Ball.

Are you wobbly when you do the Mountain Climb on the Wunda Chair?

More. Kneeling Knee Stretches. More. 2×4 exercises.

Get Cozy with 3 Basics

In today's post we'll revisit 3 basic exercises on 3 different apparatus.

As we explore each of these basics keep in mind a few questions:

  • How does this exercise serve the body I am now?
  • What have I figured out? What is still a mystery?
  • How does perfecting one basic skill translate across the greater Pilates System?

If you enjoy this post and would like to see other basics featured in future posts, just leave me a comment below. I thank you already…

1. Pelvic Lift on the Reformer

A Pilates Field Trip: Revisiting the Basics

We learn Pelvic Lift on the Reformer in our very first lesson.

But what's really going on here?

Pelvic Lift brings our workout full circle. It echoes our Footwork series at the top of our Reformer workout with the added element of holding your hips up off the mat. At a certain point I learned (and perhaps you did too) to place my hands underneath my tailbone as a guide to keep the pelvis level.

Okay my pelvis is level but what am I doing?

First let's examine the order of the universe.

Pelvic Lift is our last exercise done lying down before our Control Push Up series and our Splits. Here we strive to have one more moment of length in the low back and low body before getting up onto the Reformer never to lie down again until we finish.

More complex versions of the Pelvic Lift – and where we'll need this skill – include Short Spine Massage, Long Spine Massage and Shoulder Bridge on the Mat. I could name a few more, but you see how this goes, we only have one exercise…blah-ty-blah-ty-blah-ty…

#lengthintheback

Think about the length we cultivate in the Short Spine Massage:

A Pilates Field Trip: Revisiting the Basics

The tailbone reaches long and away from our ribs as we make our way slowly – deliciously – to the carriage.

The Pelvic Lift is a tiny version of this same stretch.

Pelvic Lift has our rib cage/middle back anchored to the carriage as our belly scoops in and our tailbone reaches long and away toward the footbar.

Finding my Pelvic Lift skill was so satisfying. It's one I'd been doing for years of course, but yet it remained shrouded in mystery for a while.

2. Pull Up on the Wunda Chair

A Pilates Field Trip: Revisiting the Basics

The Pull Up is one of our basic exercises on the Wunda Chair. Every exercise on the Wunda is a challenge even the first ones we learn.

The Pull Up is pure powerhouse.

Find your lift deep in your center or the pedal is reluctant to move. Sure you can cheat and shift your weight off the pedal and onto your arms, but you'll only regret it later.

Where might your Pull Up skills come in handy?

A Pilates Field Trip: Revisiting the Basics

Yes the Kneeling Knee Stretch series is a basic exercise but perhaps the most complex and formidable of our fundamentals.

The Pull Up skill will help to address the shape of the back in the Knees Off which often suffers.

How about more advanced exercises served by the Pull Up?

A Pilates Field Trip: Revisiting the Basics

Tendon Stretch anyone?

Although a strong Elephant is also essential for success in the Tendon Stretch, your Pull Up skill will create the lift and rhythm for this exercise. Oh and that gorgeous back shape!

A Pilates Field Trip: Revisiting the Basics

When you first learn Snake/Twist on the Reformer, you may only learn the very first bit:

Getting up into the starting position with control and the carriage in.

Not easy.

This is a pure Pull Up/Powerhouse move. With a bit of Elephant thrown in for style!

And now our Pull Up is not straightforward – arms on different levels, one one leg, etc…

Oh dear…

3. One Leg Circle on the Mat

A Pilates Field Trip: Revisiting the Basics

Oh gosh, I've hated the One Leg Circle on the Mat for years…

In my first ever beginning mat class years ago I was just so thankful to have survived the Roll Up. The One Leg Circle was my exercise to rest up before Roll Like a Ball.

I've noticed a common theme with me and the Mat exercises. Ones in which my first thought was “What's so hard about this exercise?” have become my MOST challenging exercises to do properly. One Leg Circle, Single Leg Kick, Leg Pull – ooh I see a little theme here – I must beware the one-sided exercises!

If only I'd known…

One Leg Circle is the first exercise we learn that is one side at a time. And it's a nice one. We get to lie down. In the studio you may get a strap on your foot and some handles.

But what's really going on here?

The One Leg Circle is a shining example of choreographic distraction. Our circling leg is so flashy and right in front of us it's hard to focus on anything else right?

But you must focus on EVERYTHING else.

Pilates Mantra: The part of your body that is just lying/sitting there doing nothing should actually be doing all the work.

The One Leg Circle is about stability. One leg is “resting” on the mat? Imagine you are standing on that leg.

Yes. treat the One Leg Circle like you are standing on one leg with the other one reaching out in front of you. Wowza – how hard would that be? Stay tuned, if you're disciplined and consistent, it's bound to happen and soon.

Let's see where else we'll find our One Leg Circle skill:

A Pilates Field Trip: Revisiting the Basics

Not too long after learning your One Leg Circle you'll be introduced to its unstable cousin, the Side Kick Series. Another exercise I loathed for years…which I dearly love now. Unbelievable.

Now lying on your side, your support is minimal but your body must be controlled and strong as you move your leg not only in front of you but eventually LOTS of places.

In our Reformer workout, our beloved Tree will turn into not only the One Leg Circle (with a box underneath) but also our first taste of the High Bridge.

A Pilates Field Trip: Revisiting the Basics

Now you'll need your stomach and your stability of that standing leg!

Later in our Pilates career we'll confront our One Leg Circle in the Star with minimal support and a reaching leg that also eventually behaves very fancily…

A Pilates Field Trip: Revisiting the Basics

Note my “deer in the headlights” expression no less. Clearly I'm surprised to find myself in this position…

Thanks Joe Pilates! You never leave us unprepared.

Want to see your favorite Basic featured in this series? 

Let's have a look! Leave me a comment below.

 

 And here's where to find me in 2017.