Pilates Mat Exercise #19: The Neck Pull

Pilates Mat Exercise #19: The Neck Pull

The Neck Pull belongs to a group of Pilates exercises we all love to hate.

Perhaps it's even top of the list.

If you're not a fan of the Roll Up, you'll have nary a kind thought for the Neck Pull.

Promoted as the ‘Move of the Month' at Real Pilates NYC, you've still got the rest of your lives to perfect your Neck Pull. Your stomach and your back will love you for it.

Your ego may hate us…but please, persevere.

The Battle of the Body Parts

My personal journey through the Neck Pull remains vivid in my mind to this day. I first learned this abominable exercise in a Mat class at Excel Pilates in Washington, DC.

You may notice in the photo above I am on a proper studio Mat with a strap and handles.

‘Twas not always so…

Learning the Neck Pull in a Mat class – sans strap – with a tight back and a less-than-stellar Roll Up, this exercise soon became my nemesis. As I began the exercise I watched my lower body in horror. I quickly got stuck and flailed about, my legs lifting into the air.

#mypilatesnightmare

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.

And I'm really out of luck if they also demand I twist.

Worst-case Scenario

For many Pilates practitioners and teachers, there's no torture quite like the Teaser. For me, well, I guess I was much better at cheating on that one.

The Neck Pull didn't offer as many options.

After completing my initial teacher training I was assigned to teach an Intermediate level Mat class at the studio. Gulp. This class of course included the dreaded Neck Pull.

What if I should have to demonstrate the Neck Pull?

I knew this situation was unavoidable.

OMG someone may have a question.

Would I have an answer?

At the time I also had a client, perhaps 20 years my senior, who did the Neck Pull very well. She had issues with other exercises, of course, as we all do. But I would watch her do her 5-6 Neck Pulls and think “I got nothin'…look at her, DOING the exercise.”

As it turned out, an actual friend of mine was in my Mat class and struggling with the Neck Pull.

“I'm not getting it. Can I see you do it?”

Thanks, friend…

…and the sweating begins before the exercise.

That day I learned the degree to which the mind can impose its will upon the body. Who's in control here, anyway?

It was the first successful Neck Pull I had ever done.

Yes.

I know how to suck it up and get the job done.

No way was I going to choke while my class of 15 people all watched me.

#neverletthemseeyousweat

Here's a similar story of Pilates willpower: same exercise, a decade later, Jennifer Kries style.

In recent years I have added the Neck Pull to another group of exercises that, once odious to me, I now love love love with all my heart.

I hope you'll enjoy these 2 short tutorials on the Neck Pull.

What Luck! Even more great info on the Neck Pull from Alisa Wyatt here.

Thank you for watching!

Pilates Mat Exercise #19: The Neck Pull

Save the Date! Saturday February 7, 2015.

I'll be teaching at the California Pilates Center in Oceanside, CA. 

Sign up for my awesome Mat class here!

Let's workout. You know you want to.

Inside the Pilates Studio: Cynthia Lochard

OMG Inside the Pilates Studio: Vblog Edition

with your host, Alisa Wyatt!

Cynthia Lochard is one of the topmost Teacher Trainers for Romana's Pilates. She continues to travel for months at a time to conduct their Continuing Professional Education seminars around the globe.

Based in Sydney, Australia and with just a hint of an Aussie accent – I love to wait for it on certain words – Cynthia's teaching is steadfast, pragmatic and masterful.

She encourages teachers to to be confident, independent thinkers and to trust in ourselves as well as our beloved Pilates Method. She has a calm and commanding presence that you want to  must soak up and inject into your own teaching.

There is a lovely quote from Cynthia in one of my most-viewed posts (7 Spot-On Pilates Quotes to Keep you Honest). She was speaking on the proliferance of clients who stop and chat during their workouts and how to combat that in a nice way. Welcome to California!

“Today let's focus on NOT stopping.”

In this manner you give your clients the gift of stamina and endurance that maybe they thought they didn't have. A perfect lesson. How very Clara-esque to lead your student to the brink of discovery without giving it all away. Look what they can do!

Thank you so much Cynthia for your participation in my blog series. It is a true pleasure to have you and this awesome vblog courtesy of Pilatesology.

Enjoy the show!

The transcript of Cynthia's interview:

Alisa Wyatt: So these are the 10 questions that Andrea asks of every instructor that she interviews for this [Inside the Pilates Studio] and for Cynthia Lochard the first question is:

1. What is your favorite Pilates exercise and why?

Cynthia Lochard: The ones I could do well (smiles, laughs). Because I looked good doing it (laughter).

AW: Is there any one?

CL: The arabesques of course…

AW: Oh, lovely! The arabesques, I love it.

CL: They come after the Elephant.

2. What exercise is your least favorite? Pick only one.

CL: Oh, but you see, now I was trying to think about that, and I can't… It changes.

AW: Mmm…I like that. Okay, that's a great answer.

3. What turns you on creatively, mentally or physically about the Pilates method?

CL: The movement. The simplicity and his genius in how – you know, we're all over-complicating it – and it's just so simple. And every time you realize how simple it is…that really turns me on.

AW: I love it.

4. What is your idea of earthly happiness?

CL: A king-size bed with fabulous sheets and those fluffy things over the mattress and lots of feathered pillows and that: a great bed.

AW: You must have the time to spend in it as well. I love that idea.

5. What to your mind would be the greatest misfortune?

CL: Oh, gosh. What's happening – our insensitivity to the planet and what we're doing to it. What's happening, what you can see happening to everything around us.

AW: Yeah, it is a great, great misfortune.

Inside the Pilates Studio: Cynthia Lochard

Romana's Pilates CPE 2013 with Cynthia Lochard

6. What is your favorite Pilates word?

CL: Reach.

7. What is your least favorite Pilates word?

CL: (with rapid-fire delivery) Wrap.

8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

CL: Singing. I always wanted to be a singer.

AW: Are you a good singer?

CL: No. I thought I was when I was younger, I think, maybe…

AW: In the car?

CL: Yeah, the car's a good one… (laughs)

9. If Heaven exists, and by some chance when you arrive at the pearly gates Joseph Pilates is also there, what would you like to hear him say to you?

CL: “Let's go.”

AW: Nice!

CL: “Get on the Reformer.” (laughs)

10. What did you learn today?

CL: I learned, what I was saying before, that what a great medium this [pilatesology] is for really shedding some light on the Pilates Method and sort of hoping to inspire people to come to it and to really have the experience for real.

AW: Thank you, that's wonderful to hear. Thanks everyone!

Learn more about Cynthia here.

Related interviews:

2 Resolutions to Forever Endear you to your Pilates Instructor

2 Resolutions to Forever Endear you to your Pilates Instructor

January: the time of year when we've all got big plans on the horizon. ‘Exercise More' often tops our lists of resolutions. You, the Pilates devotee are well ahead of the curve on this one. No pun intended. So check out these sure-fire ways to be a super-awesome Pilates student in 2013.

1. Learn your order

Chances are if you have been a regular Pilates student for a while, you have at least some idea of which exercises you do. Some are more memorable than others, some are clearly unforgettable and others are perhaps painful memories that you block from your mind. Regardless, honing your focus to learn the order of the exercises will enhance your Pilates prowess immeasurably. You will add challenge to your workout as you move with from one exercise to the next with purpose. You will increase your control and build stamina.

Yes, there's a lot to think about, but it is your workout. Remember you are learning skills for life, not just party tricks where you Open Leg Rocker on the kitchen countertop.

We all do that, right?

2. Do a mat workout *gasp* at home between visits to the studio

2 Resolutions to Forever Endear you to your Pilates Instructor

Challenge yourself to begin with just 5 exercises (7 for you overachievers): 100, roll up, single leg circle, roll like a ball, (single leg pull, double leg pull) and spine stretch. This should not take you more than 15 minutes even with a cheat sheet. Ultimately you could begin every day with just these few exercises and be done in 5 minutes. And feel virtuous…!

The mat exercises were considered homework in Joe Pilates' studio. They are a great way to check in with your body without the distractions of the studio and your instructor all up in your grille.

Diligent work at home may uncover questions about a particular exercise to ask your instructor and therefore deepen your understanding of the exercise, the Pilates method, and ultimately your body.

Use the video links above for expert guidance from Alisa Wyatt and myself, via Pilatesology. You may surprise yourself and remember all your exercises, even the nasty ones. I find the hardest part to be just lying down on the mat to begin.

In the words of my budding-Pilates-Superstar husband, “Sometimes the Hundred is enough.” But you know, while you're down there…