Desperately Seeking Neck Pull on the Mat

Thanks Order of the Pilates Exercises: Desperately Seeking Neck Pull

Recently I shared my torrid love affair with the Snake/Twist on the Reformer

But nothing compares to your first, right?

Me and the Neck Pull, baby.

Now that's some tough love.

I first laid eyes on the scoundrel – now my beloved – in a Mat class. Alas, relegated to a foldable foam mat, my tight back would wait nearly 5 years to blossom more fully with the help of the strap on a studio mat.

It's a classic case of preparation meets opportunity.

What are the pitfalls here? What are the necessary elements to cultivate from the moment you begin your Hundred?

Years ago I confided to Pilatesology my great fear of completing my first Pilates teacher training program still unable to achieve full-on Neck Pull.

Global stretch of the entire back of the body and extension of the hip is what we're after.

Right there you've got some information: if you know you've got a tight part of your back it's likely to show up during the Neck Pull.

My luck had clearly run out when I had an intermediate mat class in my teaching schedule. A friend of mine – Kim Schraf I will remember you forever! – had a question about the Neck Pull (which I totally understand – like how do you frickin' accomplish it???) and asked me to demo. 

Nooooooo…

We theatre folk though, we never crack under pressure. We go for the standing O. 

Nailed it!

One Neck Pull in hand and all subsequent ones on standby. Cause I'm comin' for ya.

Strap-tastic!

Thanks Order of the Pilates Exercises: Desperately Seeking Neck Pull

Some facts about the strap:

  • The strap is not just for beginners.
  • The strap on the Mat is for everyone!
  • The strap will become your teacher too.

Who doesn't love a good apparatus?

Support, right? Assistance? Yes I need it. And gradually as one becomes more proficient and Pilates-savvy, the strap will dig into the body deeper than is possible without it.

The Order of the Universe

This past weekend On the Order of the Pilates Mat Exercises came to life at Excel Pilates in Washington DC.

It's one of my favorite workshops to teach. 

And there's a special Neck Pull moment I'd like to share.

(Want this post to be a video tutorial? Your wish is my command.)

Thanks so much to all the awesome Pilates peeps in attendance!

I got to nerd haaaaaaard…

Such a pleasure to meet new friends and see all my Pilates besties at Excel: Lesa, Louise, Michelle, Janice, Alix and Tatyana.

A special shout out to Tara, Ellen, Kathy and John. Got a little misty over Pilates and all of you lovelies. Mariska, always a delight…

And thank you so so much for all your kind words on the blog and tutorials. Love you!

“There IS a reason!”

Joe Pilates is truly looking out for our best interests. He has prepared us well. 

The gift of his order of the exercises is a treasure map to Neck Pull success. 

Let's take a look at a few roadside attractions on our journey:

The Roll Up

Thanks Order of the Pilates Exercises: Desperately Seeking Neck Pull

Ah yes, the prerequisite.

In my first mat classes I used to size up what might happen in the Neck Pull by how – goes – the Roll up. In the Roll Up you get a bit of help with the upper body lifting and reaching forward and the legs together. 

Later our arms will be all tied up behind our head. And our legs apart,

Considerably less helpful.

2. Time to warm up

The 18 exercises which precede the Neck Pull get the back moving and more supple.

Oh God it just has to right?

3. The Fab 4

Swan, Single Leg Kick, Double Leg Kick and Thigh Stretch, hone in on a crucial skill we'll need for Neck Pull success: strength of the lower body and the seat.

To fully execute the Neck Pull you must have sufficient extension of the hip.

OMG is it that whole ‘extending the hip' thing again? Sheesh…

Let me repeat. Your butt must work so your hips and legs don't tank the exercise.

Let's go.

Swan (Dive)

Desperately Seeking Neck Pull on the Mat

This one's a big flowing movement to get it all working now for the first time in this on-the-Stomach position. The back must work hard to open up the front of the body.

Single Leg Kick

Thanks Order of the Pilates Exercises: Desperately Seeking Neck Pull

Now we've got a fixed point from which to reach our lower body deliberately away one leg at a time. Re-emphasize the Swan lift of the upper body as your leg reaches away to the mat for the compete Double Leg Pull experience.

Double leg kick 

Thanks Order of the Pilates Exercises: Desperately Seeking Neck Pull

Double Leg Kick contains a boatload of foreshadowing of the following exercise: Thigh Stretch.

Both sides are working together now to strengthen the seat and open up the hips and thighs.

OMG it's not too early to get ready for March MATness 2017. 

Thigh stretch

Thanks Order of the Pilates Exercises: Desperately Seeking Neck Pull

You've strengthened in the last 3 exercises and now it's time to put it to the test. Now the seat and back of the body must support us as we control our lift into the Thigh Stretch

Keep this area on fire and don't let it go as you start your Neck Pull

How did you do?

Tangent (not a tangent…)

Remember our friend the Small Barrel?

Use this video every day for two weeks and watch your Neck Pull change.

Mat happens…

In 2017 I'll be teaching a Mat class at California Pilates Center in Oceanside.

(Wanna join on January 21st? Awesome! Register today.)

As you might well imagine, I've got boatloads of empathy for Mat class students who struggle with the Neck Pull

I also know that what you don't like, you do TWICE.

Oh yes, the struggle is real…

I've seen their Roll Up by now so how about a little love? Empathy-o-meter – off the charts!

If possible I like to pair up the students. One student does the exercise and their partner gets to be the strap. 

You can really hit home the concept of the 2-way stretch too. Yippee!

The “strap” student gently pulls their partner's heels and ankles on the rolling down portion of the exercise. My gosh it might even feel good and foster a bit of Neck Pull love for us all.

Arm yourself with your order of exercises and see what you think…

You'll continue this theme of hip extension with the next few exercises as well: High Scissors, High Bicycle and the Shoulder Bridge. Read more about them in a related post.

Only one more chance to catch me this December!

Saturday December 17, 2016 LauraBPilates Studio, Raleigh, NC

In Raleigh we’ll have a full day of Pilates Continuing Education: private lessons and my favorite Cadillac workshop: The Unsung Heroes and progressions to Standing Arm Springs (3 PMA CECs)Register today