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!

Yes.

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.

3 Quick & Dirty Tricks that ROCK! So you will too.

3 Quick & Dirty Tricks that ROCK! So you will too.This one is for Sarah.

I found rocking on the front of the body to be a shocking development in my first Pilates classes.

We had already been rolling on our backs since day 1, so of course why not rock on our fronts? This realization did not make the rocking exercises easier to do…

But I get it. 

That Joe Pilates, he thought of everything.

Part 1: Let's Rock!

The Rock(ing): a challenging exercise done primarily on the Mat.

And yes, technically the Swan Dive is also a rocking exercise, but what say we give that one an entire post of its own? (Oh boy, already excited about the photos for that post…can you feel my joy?)

Quick & Dirty Trick #1: WWJPD?

Do a little homework. Consult Joe Pilates' manifesto Return to Life Through Contrology.

Take a look at the 4 figures of Joe Rocking and let's consider his directives:

3 Quick & Dirty Tricks that ROCK! So you will too.

Fig. 1:

  • (a) Take position illustrated
  • (b) Rest body (face downward) on mat or floor
  • (c) Press arms to sides with palms upward
  • (d) Stretch legs (close together) backward
  • (e)Keep toes (pointed) forward and downward

I have emboldened the directions that were news to me. I found these to be particularly insightful.

When I begin in this position as Joe suggests, I lengthen my body on the stomach just as I would do on my back preparing for the Hundred or the Teaser. Cool. No big deal…I'm just on my stomach…

As I “stretch legs (close together) backward” I feel my seat engage. Brilliant. Guess what it's gonna have to do by the time we get to Figure 4.

Fig.2:

  • (a) Bend legs forward toward head
  • (b) Grasp feet

Ok, pretty per usual. But “feet”, mind you, he does not say ankles. Duly. Noted. Let's press on.

Fig. 3:

  • (a) INHALE SLOWLY
  • (b) Thrust chest out with head thrown back as far as possible
  • (c) Stretch legs (close together) toward mat or floor

Thrust chest out with head thrown back as far as possible?!!

How many of us would never want to use these words to teach our clients? Sounds scary, I know.

So I tried it.

With the first action of thrusting the chest out, trying to throw my head backward only resulted in more lift of my whole shape similar to the Down Stretch on the Reformer. More on this later, as it was one of my favorite parts. It did not result in a crank of the neck, as I had anticipated. Interesting…

…and I am a bit of a neck-cranker.

I like direction (c) he uses here as well. “Stretch legs (close together) toward mat or floor” is very clear and effective. Thanks Joe!

Fig. 4:

  • (a) Rock forward until chin touches mat or floor
  • (b) Rock backward as far as possible
  • (c) INHALE SLOWLY as you
  • (d) Rock forward and
  • (e) EXHALE SLOWLY as you
  • (f) Rock backward

Okay, let's talk about all this stuff. At the risk of getting über-precious about the breathing (Resist!) the rocking exercises on the stomach (as well as all the rolling exercises) have their roots in Joe's philosophy of correct breathing:

3 Quick & Dirty Tricks that ROCK! So you will too.

Honestly, who can think about breathing while doing this exercise? I only hope to survive and make it to the Control Balance. One thing I can actually count on is that I will keep breathing. All the other stuff, ehhh, not so much…

Must… Move… Vigorously! Lift up, everybody – Up!

However, following Joe's directives made the exercise feel good:

INHALE slowly as you Rock forward

EXHALE slowly as you Rock backward

I am sure I have been exhaling my face into the mat for years. This change of where the exhalation comes made a big difference in the exercise for me. It gave me more lift and ease in the exercise and a big, full, toxin-clearing exhalation like the Down Stretch on the Reformer as I said earlier. Which brings me to…

We only have one exercise

You saw that one comin', huh?

Quick & Dirty Trick #2: Lengthen and calm yourself.

You've done the research. You've made it this far in the mat. Just 3 more exercises and you are golden…don't freak out. It's only the Rocking. All the exercises you have already done have led you to this moment. You are ready. Lie on your stomach and stretch yourself long.

Quick & Dirty Trick #3: A backbend is not a free-for-all.

Don't lose your sh**, K? Work fiercely to engage all that which wants to pooch out onto the mat. Try to forget the exercise is a backbend when you are in the starting position (Fig. 1). Find straight first, when bending the knees for the initial stretch – ribs in, stomach in, seat tight – find the stretch in the thighs and hips if it is not already palpable, or ridiculous. That backbend will find you soon enough…

Who's in charge here?

The Pilates exercises that Rock and Roll are stunning examples of ultimate control. Both ends of the body must work constantly in opposition to move us about. Find the 2-way stretch here just as you would in any other less-fancy exercise: lift the back and then reach the toes to the sky.

In the Rocking it is the reach of the big toes that will help you find your seat and the work of the lower body while you Down Stretch your way to success with the lift of the upper body and chest a là Swan.

Ready for Part 2?

Click here for my exploration of the Pilates rolling exercises and why they are so freakishly good for us. They make a good pair, the rocking and the rolling. They work together to encourage the strength and flexibility of the entire back.

Mmm…a massage for back and front and the toxic air goes bye-bye!

3 Quick & Dirty Tricks that ROCK! So you will too.

3 Quick & Dirty Tricks that ROCK! So you will too.

Got some Quick & Dirty Tricks of your own? Share them in a comment below.