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.


  • 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.”



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


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. ūüôā

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.

The Universal Reformer: A Tutorial on the Front Splits

The Universal Reformer: A Tutorial on the Front Splits

For Corrie

Wowza, it's been an amazing month of March MATness. I hope you enjoyed all the MAT-tastic images and videos abounding over social media this March.

What a Like-fest!

Thanks again Benjamin Degenhardt for infusing and enhancing our Pilates lives with the 5th annual!! month-long homage to all things Return to Life.

You. Da. Bomb.

Meanwhile, back on the Reformer

If you've been lolling about on your Mat of late, let's dig into our series of 4 splits with gusto!

Side Splits on the Reformer was our first installment of the series of 4 splits that come at the very end of our order of the Reformer exercises.

Today's post and tutorial features the 2nd split in our series, Front Splits.

The Universal Reformer: A Tutorial on the Front Splits

Full disclosure:

The series of splits come literally at the end of 80 or so exercises done on the Reformer. They are also after the “closure sequence” of the Reformer which I've come to refer to as¬†‘the beginning of the end.'

The beginning of the end = Knee Stretches, Running and Pelvic Lift.

I often finish my Reformer Рdue to time constraints or exhaustion constraints Рat Pelvic Lift and then I do a bit of rolling on the Mat Рwithout visiting our Control Push Up Series or our series of Splits.

Today I vow to change my (quasi) cheating ways.

Especially for my body – and I suspect for many of you out there – one-sided exercises are crucial to strengthen my one-sided body. Sure they are fun (?) stretchy splits, but more importantly the split series works each side individually.

Just what I need to be skipping doing.

Front Splits on the Reformer

Welcome to Front Splits, all the fun of Single Leg Pull and Going Up Front combined!

The Universal Reformer: A Tutorial on the Front Splits

See the upside down Front Split?

(Scroll down for a shot of Going Up Front)

The Front Splits on the Reformer is a wonderful opening of the hips in preparation for the full-on splits of the 2 subsequent exercises Russian Splits and Big Splits.

Moments in this exercise are reminiscent of the Down Stretch, but done one leg at a time.

The Universal Reformer: A Tutorial on the Front Splits

The Front Splits series has about 4 parts to it which are taught in 2 different orders.

Originally you may have worked the Front Splits thusly:

  • Standing up with one foot on the footbar, front leg bent
  • Standing up hands behind head
  • Kneeling on the carriage one foot on footbar
  • Finishing kneeling balance

You'll see both this order as well as the one I prefer to use now, which is exactly the same parts just reorganized:

  • Kneeling on the carriage with one foot up on the footbar
  • Kneeling balance
  • Standing up with one foot on the footbar, front leg bent
  • Standing up hands behind head

I enjoy the preparation of what is essentially a kneeling thigh stretch Рyour one-legged Down Stretch! Рand the standing strength move as the final moment of each side.

Check out both versions of the Front Splits in the video at the end of this post.

See what you think.

Front Splits Deconstructed

Here you are in a similar position to our oh-so-favorite series The Long Stretch Series.

The Universal Reformer: A Tutorial on the Front Splits

Oh boy.

Dare I say you may face the same plight of overworking with the arms and upper body in the Front Splits? Remember what's attached to the carriage: the lower body.

The Front Splits – all the splits to be precise – are lower body exercises.

I love the standing moment in the Front Splits as it is Going Up Front on the Chairs all over again.

The Universal Reformer: A Tutorial on the Front Splits

What good news!

Work to keep this much lower body action especially when you've got your hands on the footbar.

Enjoy this short tutorial.

Stay tuned for our next installment, Russian Splits.

And here's where to find me in 2017.

March MATness Day 13: The One Leg Kick

March MATness Day 13: The One Leg Kick

At first blush some Pilates exercises are no big deal.


Enter the One Leg Kick.

What's going on here anyway?

Although it was hard to keep my legs tightly together, what's so hard about bending your legs and kicking your bottom a few times?

Okay, pull my stomach in.


Let's. Look. Closer.

The Order of the Universe: It's Swantastic!

March MATness Day 13: The One Leg Kick

The One Leg Kick is our 2nd exercise since Рin a radical turn of events Рwe've landed on our bellies. 

Here in the Land of Swan we're still expected to scoop our middles off the floor and yet somehow lift our chests??

Swan, One Leg Kick and [spoiler alert] Double Leg Kick place our limbs in various configurations.

Don't be distracted: it's still Swan. Our body shape is an elongated evenly arched back position.

No dumping in the lower back please. 

Now where did I put my 2-way stretch?

I'm sure it's here somewhere.

One Leg Kick presented a puzzle to me: how is this exercise like all the others?

How do I find our quintessential Pilates exercise the Double Leg Pull? 

If you, like me, are also bereft of your Double Leg Pull in the One Leg Kick here's a few tips I've found to be helpful:

  • Reach your toes away with your legs straight before starting the kicks. Not only will you increase the opening in the hips and thighs but you may even pinpoint a teensy bit more of your seat. Huzzah!
  • As you replace each leg into the floor reach away in both directions augmenting and elongating your Swan shape and your lift with each switch of the legs.
  • Use your forearms to firmly press into the Mat creating greater lift in he upper body.
  • Squeeze the legs together more than you think possible. Then do it some more.

Help to be Found in the Greater Pilates System

My helper exercise isn't an easy one but it helps to find your center in the One Leg Kick (always the first thing to go).

Hamstring Stretch on the Reformer

March MATness Day 13: The One Leg Kick

You may encounter this exercise in a few forms: Rocking, Hamstring Curl and Mushy Tushie.

I originally learned a version of this exercise on 2 springs but Hamstring Stretch is done on 1 spring. Use both legs if you're new to the exercise before working the one leg version. 

It's a familiar position yes? 3 sets is plenty here on the Long Box.

Do 5 sets of One Leg Kick on the Mat. 

Enjoy the MATness!

Use my Mat workout playlist on my YouTube channel for your daily Mat exercises. Even if you've only got 5 minutes, there's a workout for you.

Check out my new poster which features all the exercises in Joe Pilates' manifesto Return to Life plus a few more.

Related Mat Posts:

And here's where to find me in 2017!

March MATness 2017: Let the Games Begin!

March MATness 2017: Let the Games Begin!

It's hard to believe we are on the cusp of March MATness 2017!

How did it all start?

March MATness 2017: Let the Games Begin!

Now in its 5th year, March MATness is a global celebration of the original Mat exercises and brilliant body conditioning system that is our beloved Contrology.

Read more here.

OMG I love the Mat exercises!

March MATness 2017: Let the Games Begin!


It's true.

I'm endlessly fascinated with all of Joe's Mat exercises. He stretches us to the very edges of our capabilities with infinite variations on a theme.

My personal Mat workout consists of the 34 exercises from Joe Pilates and the 3 extra ‘Series of 5‘ exercises reportedly added by Romana Kryzanowska:¬†Single Straight Leg Stretch¬†(Scissors), Double Straight Leg Stretch¬†(Lower Lift), and Criss Cross. Another staple is Thigh Stretch, an exercise Jay Grimes learned from Joe Pilates in the 1960s.

Which brings my total to a whopping 38 exercises!

Sometimes I like to add the High Bridge after the Shoulder Bridge. Because I can.

And if you can you should.

Every little bit of this workout can be completed in under 30 minutes.

Let's get the party started with the Hundred on Wednesday March 1, 2017.

The Order of the Universe

March MATness 2017: Let the Games Begin!

I'm a huge fan of Joe Pilates' original order of the Mat exercises.

What a precious gift from Joe Pilates.

We've got an entire month (and beyond) to focus on his brilliant sequencing.

Thanks Joe.

If you're new to the order of the Pilates Mat exercises get your list of the exercises here.

Stay tuned in March for the debut of My Mat Poster…coming soon!

3 Cheers for our Faves

March MATness 2017: Let the Games Begin!

This year I'm thrilled to have a few more favorites on the Mat than in previous years. Maybe you do too.

Since last year's MATness I have come to thoroughly enjoy Swimming.

Way more than I ever thought possible…

Other stretchy favorites include Control Balance and Bicycle.

Don't get me started on the rolling exercises… ¬†#goodtimesroll

Wanna take a closer look?

March MATness 2017: Let the Games Begin!

On the Mat, perfecting your exercises can take time.

Use these posts to dive in deep this week and sail on through the weekend:

Maybe you're ready to link your exercises together into one glorious chain of movement?

Tighten up those transitions between exercises all month long:

Or you can watch the playlist on YouTube.

MATness All Month Long

I hope you'll join me here for Mat-centric posts as we move and sweat our way through the MATness.

Got an exercise you'd like to see featured in a post or tutorial?

Leave a comment below and I'll get on the Mat!

And here's where you can find me in 2017.

March MATness 2016: The Recap

March MATness 2016: The RecapFirst off, let me offer a hearty congratulations for every single one of you who took up the challenge of March MATness this year.

We all deserve a few minutes each day to care for our bodies with the Pilates Mat exercises. What a treat!

Yes, there are days when for whatever reason you must keep your workout quite short. A couple days I managed to sneak in only the Hundred. Other days I did my full Mat workout perhaps even with an ending on the Spine Corrector. Most of my March workouts were somewhere between 1 exercise and all of them.

Now for Romana's famous question:

What did you learn today in March?

1. Day 2 – already feeling fabulous

Not surprisingly, even on March 2 – only 2 days into the MATness – I could feel the effects of my efforts in my body. I felt great. Lots of energy and just more comfortable in my own body and brain. Several of my colleagues on Facebook reported they felt awesome too.

A few days into March, my husband began using a mantra: “abs glistening in the sun.”

I decided it deserved to be a hashtag.



2. ‘Me time' is FUN!

Given my druthers and a clear schedule, I truly love my Pilates workout. Working on the Mat exercises each day helped me to appreciate my time for self-care. It almost functions as a form of meditation – a focused “quiet time” for the body and spirit.

Although I am hardly quiet in some of the exercises… Lots of grunting during the Side Kicks Kneeling…

3. Structure and Creativity

The framework of the 34 Mat exercises in Return to Life¬†is a perfect backdrop for the kind of a workout you'll plan for each day. I know what exercises I need to get in and if I'm short on time I still make sure to include my ‘favorites' and my ‘necessaries.'

How about a brief day of only rolling exercises? Why not?

And I tried to make sure my workout included the exercise for that specific day, as a little celebration and thanks for Joe Pilates.

How did he know I need that Swimming exercise SO MUCH?

4. The daily check in with your body

As an unbalanced person (take this as you will) I've been working on not overusing my strong side.

My daily Mat workout helped me to pinpoint the exercises in which I like to overwork.

I got better and better at finding them as I worked diligently each day. Lots of Pilates detective work helped me to learn more nuances about my body.

5. A workout REALLY doesn't take that long at all

Even with the inclusion of every Mat exercise in Joe's original system, my maximum time spent on the Mat was under 30 minutes.

And I was wiped.

I've certainly got more than enough time in my day to fit in my workout. Even if I've only got 25 minutes.


6. OMG the Hundred got better!

Wonders. Never. Cease.

I have been steadily working to create more length in my back and have my legs at a lower level.

Sure I can just park my legs low and hang them off my pelvis, but how will I live with myself??!

I could still continue to pump on and on, but what am I really¬†“warming up” then? My arms??

A daily dose of the Hundred helped to efficiently warm up my center by working fiercely to keep the back long.

7. The Order of the Universe

Finally it dawned on me that March MATness is not only a celebration of Joe Pilates original system, it's also a gateway drug to the order of the exercises as well.

O frabjous day!

It made my heart warm to see so many lovely Pilates friends on Social Media beginning with the Hundred on March 1 and proceeding each day to the next exercise. What a lovely way to celebrate and learn the order of the exercises.

Now we need a month beginning with ‘R' for the Reformer.

Oh and that month has to be like 80 days long…

Rocktober anyone?

How was your March MATness experience this year? 

Share your successes in a comment below.