Gifts from Joe Pilates

Gifts from Joe Pilates

If you that have yet to experience the Pilates mat exercises using Joe Pilates' original strap and handles I urge you to seek out, dare I say, a properly equipped studio mat and try it out. Do what you have to do.

It is a misconception that the strap at the end of the mat is only for beginners. It is forever and for everyone. The strap can assist you to get so much deeper into the body especially as you become a more proficient student of the method.

The exercises done with the strap are the Roll Up, Single Leg Circles and the Neck Pull.  In just these three exercises the strap can do wonders for your back. To work the strap well, the stomach must exert an oppositional pull on the strap to such a degree that the strap remains ridiculously taut. In this way you get some assistance on the mat – in just a few exercises – amidst a sea of other exercises where you are left to your own devices.

The handles are used to do the Roll Over, Single Leg Circles, Corkscrew, Swan and the Jackknife. For some individuals lying on the back and having hands on the handles is a HUGE stretch. I vividly remember using them myself for the first time. I could not believe how big a stretch it was. It was of course, just what I needed, and I am sure my chest would have caved in on itself by now without these blessed handles in my life. Make no mistake, the handles are not for the injured. But little by little as one gets stronger and ultimately uninjured the handles will turn into injury-prevention. Brilliant!

Of course intellectually I believe Jay Grimes when he tells me these things, but I have also been using the strap and handles for years now so I do not have an immediate point of comparison.

Until Now.

Recently I filmed some mat classes for Pilatesology. Often to appeal to a wider audience at home that may not have a mat with strap and handles, I am happy to ‘kick it strapless' and use a rubber roll up mat for the workout. I did not digest the full meaning of what the strap really does for me until my lesson a couple days later.

My lesson revealed an unfamiliar clunky spot, a flat unbending spot – let’s call it an ‘abyss’, since that’s what it felt like – in my back. Hmmm…what is that? Has that always been there? Ok, moving on…my workout felt great, hard and necessary. It was only afterward that I suspected the ‘abyss' was in a part of my back that is usually taken care of by the strap. Alas, I didn’t know what the strap was doing for me until it was gone. I did not know what I was missing! Well, I did, but now I do.

Not to get up in anyone's grill, but I must shout the truth: Nothing about the apparatus is by accident.

Joe knew what he was doing and spent his entire life obsessively fixated as only a genius inventor can. We have 11 major pieces of Pilates apparatus today not counting the small apparatus – okay, let's count – 6! 6 beautiful small apparatus. I am sure Joe threw out twice as many inventions that for whatever reason did not meet his approval. There are countless others of which we even have numerous photos (the V-bed, magic square, balancey-head-thingee-with-sandbags-hanging) that are no longer extant.

So I guess I am saying seize the day! Use the strap and see what happens. Years of Joe Pilates' research, tweaking and sweat went into that thing, don't let it just flop about. He has built in so much help for the body, into both apparatus and exercises. Simply by doing the work one can be the recipient of all Joe's wonderful gifts. Wow, has this turned into a rant?

This could almost fall into the category of Jay said it would… Man, that guy is always right.

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