Search Results for: swan

Teacher Classes, Blog Awards and the Swan – Oh My!

Teacher Classes, Blog Awards and the Swan - Oh My!
Hello there!

Let me express a HUGE thank you to all my lovely subscribers. Thank you for all your support, kind words and Pilates success stories over the past 5 years. It's an inspiration to have all of you with me on my Pilates path.

I'd like to thank my Reformer… and my Small Barrel…

The Top 75 Pilates Blogs by has included my blog amongst some of the big kahunas in the Pilates industry including Pilatesology (5), Balanced Body (3), Blogilates (2) and Pilates Anytime (1).

Wowza! I am truly honored.

Even more amazingly I cracked the top 10, settling in at NUMBER 9 on this list.

View the full list here.

OMG and welcome NEW subscribers!

Take a look around and stay tuned for more exercise tutorials, workouts and classes to come.

Be sure to check out my most-viewed post On the Order of the Pilates Reformer Exercises.

If you've got a topic, concept or exercise you'd like to see featured in a post or video, leave me a comment, I'd love to hear about it.

NEW! Classes for Teachers

I'm offering a new class in my Solana Beach, CA studio.

It's a 2-hour workout/workshop I'm calling The Teacher Lab. In the 1st hour you'll workout independently in the studio. We'll decide on a discussion/workshop topic to explore in Hour 2. The cost for The Teacher Lab is $100.

I'm currently offering 1 each month for the remainder of 2017. If they fill up fast I'll add some more. You'll find a class on September 15, October 20, November 10 and December 8.

Classes are limited to 6 students. Non-Teacher Nerdy Enthusiasts are also welcome.

Pick a class and jump in it! Purchase your classes here.

New Tutorial!

Teacher Classes, Blog Awards and the Swan - Oh My!

Today's video is on one of our most angst-producing exercises, the Swan. That's the bad news. The good news is we're looking at 2 versions of Swan done on the Cadillac.

Swan on the Cadillac is a wonderful companion for the Teaser on the Cadillac. View my recent exercise tutorial below.

Tummy Time

The Mat behind us is our teacher too.

Learning to control the Push Thru Bar (PTB) for Teaser will require all the muscles of our trunk and back. The Mat provides feedback and support for our entire body while we perfect this skill.

Now let's get ready for the next challenge: repeating the very same task while lying on our bellies.

What fun!

Enjoy this short tutorial. Thank you for watching!

Access my YouTube library of workouts, exercise tutorials and the occasional Pilates shopping haul here. Thanks to you I have surpassed 1200 subscribers!

Save the Date San Diego!

My lovely colleague Lesley Logan, author and owner of Profitable Pilates will be heading to San Diego for her signature Pilatini® Night.

Save the date for Friday November 10, 2017.

We'll be gathering at Pacifica in Del Mar around 5pm in time for a bit of Happy Hour.

Pilatini® NIghts include Pilates instructors, laughter, networking and a chance to connect outside the Pilates studio. Lesley Logan's Pilatini® Nights are all about Pilates Instructors ditching their Pilates pants for their favorite outfit and hanging out with other Pilates professionals. Grab your Pilates instructor friends, shed the luon and join us for a date night for Pilates Pros only!

And here's where to find me for the rest of 2017

Pilates Mat Exercise #15: The Swan and the 2-way Stretch

Pilates Mat Exercise #15: Swan and the 2-way Stretch

Recently in the UK, I found myself surrounded by swans.

Whole families of lovely, photogenic-but-possibly-surly actual swans fill up at least a third of the photos from my trip.

Just today in fact, courtesy of Karen Frischmann, I learned the collective term for swans: a lamentation of swans. It's amazing what you can learn while doing your Mat exercises!

Interesting. There's enough swan shots for numerous posts about an exercise I never really liked that much.

However, the Swan is starting to become a bit warmer and fuzzier, and while I'm in the mood, let's dive in!

Why Swan now?

In the Order of the Pilates Mat exercises the Swan is the first exercise to place you onto your stomach.

You've already found your scoop lying on your back, rolling and sitting up.

Leave it to Joe Pilates to make us find our lift in a prone position. Enjoy the moment – soon you'll be expected to scoop in a side lying position as well.

But for now you've got to hoist your stomach in and up off the Mat.

No easy task.

How to possibly find the 2-way stretch?

a.k.a. Is that my stomach pooching out onto the mat? (It is.)

Gravity is not your friend here.

But it's a perfect time to commune with our most trusted ally…

Pilates Mat Exercise #15: Swan and the 2-way Stretch

You've got 2 best buddies: Lift and Length.

Finding the 2-way Stretch

Before getting all bunched up about the Swan, or even worse, the Swan Dive, take a moment to gather your thoughts and your powerhouse.

Remember the length you have when lying on your back: pre-Hundred and pre-Roll Up. On your back you've got the Mat behind you for feedback about how your scoop is working.

Now that you are on your stomach work to recreate that same length. It's in there!

Reach the toes away and along the Mat behind you. When done effectively you may feel your seat begin to work. You'll need the lower body to be fiercely strong in the Swan.

It may look like this is an exercise for the upper body.

Pilates Mat Exercise #15: The Swan and the 2-way Stretch


What do we know about the Pilates method?

Full. Body. Exercise.

That part of you that looks like it's just lying on the Mat? It must do nearly all the work here.

Reaching the toes to turn on the seat is the lower body part of your 2-way stretch.

Now your waistline has got something from which to lift in, up and away for some full-on dynamic opposition.

In! Up! And away!

Begin with length and use it to lift up into the Swan as much as you can without making it a push up.

Make your lift and length take you up and away from the Mat and your lower body.

Don't give up the reach of the lower body.

Trust me, you need it.

Where to look for your 2-way Stretch

For the upper body, the 2-way stretch is often described as the connection of the arm into the back.

You can find your upper body half of the 2-way stretch by beginning at your waistline: the low stomach and the low back.

Imagine that your lift of the waist reaches all the way to your fingertips.

Swan Speak?

  • Aim to connect your hands (either on handles or beside the mat) to your waistline to shift the focus away from the arms and shoulders.
  • Lengthen along the mat first. It will help your lift and encourage the arms to be more submissive to your scoop.
  • You may reach a point on the way up where you cannot lift higher without compromising your 2-way stretch.

Perfectly fine for now. Patience, swan friends.

Lower body?

The lower body really begins at the upper stomach/back of ribs and continues all the way down through the long reach of the tailbone and to the toes.

The connection of the lower body into the center is more tangible when you are standing on your feet or if you have them firmly placed against an apparatus.

Swan speak?

Sadly, Swan on the mat is not a terribly advantageous exercise for cultivating the connection of the lower body.

Where might we find a similar exercise with a connection to cultivate the lower body?

Ah, so many possibilities…

Today I will choose the Spread Eagle on the Cadillac.

Pilates Mat Exercise #15: The Swan and the 2-way Stretch

It's the same shape as our simple Swan on the mat and the Pulling Straps on the Reformer. Pulling Straps follows the Swan in the Order of the Reformer Exercises.

Hmm. I bet that's not an accident…

  • Stand firmly on your feet in the starting position.
  • Use your stomach to push into your feet and lift yourself into part 2 of the exercise where we'll find help for our Swan.
  • Stand firmly on your feet. I mean it.
  • Push down into the feet and lift the sternum up, up UP!
  • Pretend you are using the lift of your waist to “lift off the Mat” as you must in the Swan.
  • Feel what the standing connection of the lower body does to your powerhouse. It will teach it how to turn on. You'll use this feeling when you are back at your Swan bereft of a lower body connection.
  • See how you do!

A word about hand placement for the Spread Eagle

Joe Pilates was adamant about the hand placement for the Spread Eagle.

The shape of this exercise is not a full backbend. The backbend is in the upper back only: exactly the same shape as our basic Swan on the mat and the Pulling Straps done on the Long Box on the Reformer.

On my Gratz Cadillac I hold right under the eyebolt for the leg springs.

On other apparatus, aim to hold on where your arms can be fully extended down towards your sides.

This will make it impossible to fling yourself into a full backbend. The arms will extend down and your sternum will lift up in opposition.

A work in progress…

I've learned so much about the Swan and my own body over the last 5 years.

My strength and control has improved tremendously and I enjoy working on Swan all around the studio more than I ever thought possible.

I urge you to explore all versions of the Swan exercise on every apparatus.

When you workout, notice when you find yourself in the same shape as Swan even if it's a different exercise.

You'll find strengths in other related exercises that may serve you well, especially in the more challenging Swans.

Rock your Lower Body

Stay tuned for more tips and strategies to connect the lower body into the center.

I'm excited about my future post on the magical Pilates 2×4 exercises. They are sure to rock your Pilates world.

Sick of Swans?

Lay it on me in a comment below, I am happy to help!

Further Reading:

Upcoming Workshop:

On the Order of the Pilates Reformer Exercises

Pilates Mat Exercise #15: The Swan and the 2-way Stretch

I am super excited for my upcoming workshop on Sunday, November 29, 2015. I'll be teaching in Raleigh, NC for the first time at Laurabpilates Studio.

Find out more info and register here.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Swan Redux: 7 Handy Posts to make it your Secret Weapon

Swan Redux:7 Handy Posts to make it your Secret Weapon1. Alycea Ungaro started us off with a recent post:

Get Pilates Strong: The Swan

“Your move of the month is the Swan.”

Yes, ma'am.

The Pilates exercises are exaggerated versions of our everyday movements. What?

The length and lifted support you'll gain from even the simplest of the Swan exercises will train you to sit up taller during your day.

The Swan can be your secret weapon for life!

Our mothers were right.

It's good to sit up tall.

Swan Redux: 7 Handy Posts to make it your Secret Weapon

2. Strengthen your back with your first Swan.

The Swan: “It's not a pushup!”

The extension of the back you'll perfect with this simple version of the Swan will assure you many more years of lifted upright posture.

3. Alisa Wyatt helps you find the perfect Swan for you and work your way toward the big kahuna: Swan Dive!

Swan Redux: 7 Handy Posts to make it your Secret Weapon

4. Even more ways to challenge yourself on your quest for ultimate control in the Swan Dive

The Swan Dive and a Few Surprises (#3 is my favorite)

Swan Redux: 7 Handy Posts to make it your Secret Weapon

5. Already feeling plenty challenged by this particular back shape? Find some assistance from Pilatesology.

The Shape of All Things Pilates: The Arched Back

Swan Redux: 7 Handy Posts to make it your Secret Weapon

6+7. Yet another way to make the Swan your secret weapon…for crazy Pilates exercises!

Pilates Projects: 5 Exercises for a Better Control Balance Off – video

Pilates Projects: 5 Exercises for a Better Control Balance Off – post

Thank you so much for reading. You are awesome and I appreciate every single Swan-diving one of you!

Now go workout. You know you want to.


This just in!

8. Take your Swan Dive to another level entirely…but you might have to get wet…

(But you're a Swan, so it's probably okay.)


A big thank you to Simon Trangmar of Adelaide Pilates, a fellow Pilates nerd (and tech nerd!) for your beautiful swan contribution.

Anyone else wanna play?

Have a special swan tip to share? Swan success stories?

Honk your horn in a comment below.

(Totally couldn't resist that one.)

Video Blog: The Swan – it’s not a pushup!

Video Blog: The Swan - it's not a pushup!This week's video blog will focus on the very first Swan you'll do on the Mat.

No fancy diving for now.

Today we will look for the connection reaching from the sides of the low back all the way to where you'll place your hands. We will focus on strengthening the back and resist (!) the urge to push up with the arms. The Swan is not a pushup.

Oh yes, and length!


(Lest we forget dear our old friend…)

Thank you to the lovely JoJo, my partner in crime, who is steadily becoming a Pilates Nerd. Yay!

Please note, Joe has been working on the Swan exercise for some time. As you will see in the video, he can now lift all the way up until his arms are fully extended.

If you are just beginning to work on this exercise, or it presents particular challenge to your body, you might only lengthen and lift up partway.

Perfectly. Okay.

You'll keep the connection to the back, you'll avoid pushing with the arms and shoulders and you'll continue to build lift and strength in your back. Over time you'll be able to lift all the way up just like JoJo 🙂

I appreciate all of you. You are awesome!

Thanks for watching.

 Related posts:

The Swan Dive and a Few Surprises (#3 is my favorite)

The Swan Dive and a Few Surprises (#3 is my favorite)The Pilates Method is full of surprises. 14 years into the method as a practitioner and teacher, I still love the giddy surprise of a new exercise. One I've never seen before. Even better is a familiar exercise done in a new-to-me-way.

For example, a few years ago I learned that in addition to the Breast Stroke on the Reformer and its reverse, there also exists a combination, a combo, of the two.

My first thought – There's a combo? – was quickly followed by my next – Oh, of course there is…

It's not like we don't do that in other exercises right?

Swan on the Cadillac

Swan with Push Thru Bar on the Cadillac is a challenging exercise.

The Swan Dive and a Few Surprises (#3 is my favorite)

Very. Challenging.

My body left to its own devices just wants to hang out all over the place in an unsupported arch.


The version with the arms straight has been a great help in connecting my arms into my back and (!) using my stomach.

A fine idea, won't you agree?

The Swan Dive and a Few Surprises (#3 is my favorite)

But let me back up.

Private Lives

Watching Jay Grimes teach private lessons at conferences and intensives is always educational. And frequently full of surprises.

Surprise #1: Swan with Push Thru Bar with no spring!

OMG, whaaaaat?

Surprise #2: Swan with Push Thru Bar with no spring with one arm!

Lordy, Lordy.

Well I have to try that…

Later I mentioned to Jay that it was my first time to see the Swan with no spring and/or with one arm. I loved his answer:

“You should try it. It would be good for you.”

Okay, let's get out my loooong list of exercises that are good for me and add it to the list…

But man, that guy is always right.

I don't know what I don't know

I took Jay's advice and began to include Swan with Push Thru Bar, the 2-arm and 1-arm versions after my daily mat workout. This exercise proved to be truly magical. Without that enabling spring, the exercise essentially incapacitated my arms and shoulders.

I had to find the right muscles (the stomach, back and lower body) to even complete the exercise at all. With 2 arms. The one-arm version was even more fantastic and provided so much feedback as to what was (or was not) going on on each side.

Several months pass…

Did I mention that I like a challenge?

What I didn't know as I continued to practice Swan with the Push Thru bar each day was that it was also helping my Swan Dive.

Surprise #3!

Mind you – it's not really a surprise, per se, that the Swan on the Cadillac helped me with my Swan Dive on the Mat.

I hear you. I know the apparatus provides assistance to better your Mat exercises. Yes. It's the whole premise behind the full studio system of the Pilates Method. I completely agree.

But sometimes you don't know it's happening to you until it does.

Way back last year in my post on the Rocking exercise I intimated that the Swan Dive, technically a rocking exercise, deserved its own special post.

Well friends, it's time.

Let's Dive in

The Swan Dive and a Few Surprises (#3 is my favorite)

Swan Dive is the ultimate version of the Swan exercise done on the Mat. Once you understand that the rocking action must be generated from the stomach, it still may take years to create a long line of the body without a break in the middle.

A long line! Yes, our old friend length to the rescue – AGAIN.

And there's no time to micromanage in the Swan Dive, one must simply prepare and go for it…grrr….

Robbed of the ability to examine one can only reflect afterwards. Good news and bad news. Bad news for me, good news for the Pilates Method and moving. Gotta suck it up, I get it.

My standby method to execute the Swan Dive?

Hurl myself at the mat with a will of iron.

A hurl and a fling, actually…in succession. Hurl, fling…hurl, fling…hurl, fling…am I diving yet?

Oh you have to start somewhere.

I can dive with a little help from my friends

I am a visual learner. More often than not I've got an image in my head of what I believe is happening during the exercise.

However, sometimes my mind gets the wrong idea.


Picked up from an old correction that's no longer valid, or even the name of the exercise – Swan Dive – my mind is not quite on the right track. As I worked to refine my signature Swan Hurl, I happened to see my lovely colleague and classmate Samantha have her lesson on the Mat.

Samantha is a different body type than I am – she has more flexibility in places that I have stiffness, so it was wonderful to see what rhythms and shapes are possible during the Swan Dive, that I had not happened upon, shall we say…

My tactic was to hurl and use force to complete the exercise, while Samantha had such a light and delicate approach to the exercise that made it look effortless. And cute. And bouncy. And for God's sake it looks like a rocking exercise.

The Swan Dive and a Few Surprises (#3 is my favorite)

Oh, that's what I'm trying to do…

I should also mention that I'm a really good mimic.

So for a while I just pretended I was Samantha.

No. More. Hurling.

Another way I found to get me out of the hurling habit was to use the Spine Corrector. If you've not tried the Swan Dive perched on the crest of the Spine Corrector, hang on to your powerhouse. Nothing will tell you more quickly if you have control of your own destiny than an impending face-plant on the Mat.

The Swan Dive and a Few Surprises (#3 is my favorite)

As you find the length (where have I heard that before?) atop the Spine Corrector you will rid yourself of any forceful habits. It simply won't work here. The Spine Corrector Swan will give you a more long and reaching rhythm for the exercise that you can then carry to the Mat.

The Shape of All Things Pilates

In a series of posts on Pilatesology I mention that the Barrels can be used to find the shape of the upper back that you'll need for the Swan on the Mat.

The Swan Dive and a Few Surprises (#3 is my favorite)

While this is true, and helpful, I found out exactly how much Swan with Push Thru Bar was providing the same assistance in a different way.

One day it occurred to me mid-Swan on the Mat that I could replicate the shape that the angle of the Push Thru Bar was teaching me. Suddenly it was not as mysterious a position. My body remembered. Surprise!

You gotta love Pilates. So versatile. A place for everything and everything in its place.

The Swan Dive and a Few Surprises (#3 is my favorite)

This is my favorite spectator Swan Dive, Pilates bestie extraordinaire, Amy Kellow.

If you've not been to her Classical Pilates Convention, you don't know what kind of fantastic Pilates geek-fest you are missing. Plus lots of opportunity to perfect your Swan Dive!

Thanks so much Amy, Samantha and of course the cameo appearance of Karen Frischmann for your help with this post (and with my Swan Dive).

Dive in! Share your strategies and successes in a comment below.

Subscribe to receive a Special Bonus Blogpost
How to Fall in Love with the Exercises you Hate
We respect your privacy and never share your information.