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

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.

Take a Pilates Class: You just might surprise yourself!

Take a Pilates Class: You just might surprise yourself!

Sure, I can workout by myself.

I'm quite good at kicking my own ass.

Soundly.

But it's still just me.

I am beholden to myself only.

Oh yeah, Mat classes and private lessons…

Private lessons and Pilates classes taught by OTHER TEACHERS are fantastic in so many ways:

  1. Focus and planning are required: you have to make an appointment or consult a schedule.
  2. You are held accountable: there are consequences ($$$) if you bail at the last minute.
  3. You will get what you need: your teacher will include exercises you'd avoid if you were alone.
  4. You'll be more on display: Keep it together. Suck it up. Just do it. Never let 'em see you sweat.
  5. You'll surprise yourself and do something you thought you couldn't do.

Take it from me, it's a great lesson to learn (again)

Wait, I could do MORE?!

What a positive boost of energy. Not to mention, the heady afterglow of “Hey, I did that!”

And even better if it's some dreaded, necessary exercise. Speaking of…

Hello, Neck Pull

Perhaps I've mentioned it before (like 1000 times)

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.

I really used to dislike the Neck Pull on the Mat. Oh, I'm being kind…

I f**king hated it.

I was like an insect that had gotten stuck upside down and couldn't roll itself over again.

The good news is that now I kind of like it.

Thanks, Joe Pilates!

Moreover, I like the Neck Pull even when I take a Mat class and must be parted from my best friend the strap at the end of the studio mat. I take it as a challenge and tackle the Neck Pull with pride as I am much better at it now.

Evidently even more so than I realize.

The weight of your teacher's gaze

Jennifer Kries is just about the loveliest Pilates teacher you'll find. She has a wonderful warm and encouraging demeanor as she leads the class. Somehow she becomes more cheerful and uplifting as the exercises get harder. Just when you need it.

How nice.

Except when viewed through the lens of the Neck Pull.

True, she was very warm and encouraging. Yet firm. Relentless, even. Unwavering in her directive:

Keep your heels on the Mat.

Neck Pull #1 goes by. Legs are basically still on the mat, but the heels do lift a bit. But it seems fine, not a disaster.

Your heels. Don't let them leave the Mat.

Neck Pull #2: pretty similar to the previous one. She's right, the heels are definitely lifting.

Is she standing closer now?

I begin Neck Pull #3. Our eyes meet, she is now right in front of me. Clearly, this is not her first rodeo.

Keep. The heels. Down.

Is it hot in here?

The room fades away and my focus hones into a singular beam of willpower and righteous indignation. Surely I have power over my heels, yes? Keeping them on the Mat is my only concern now.

That and proving to Jennifer that I do indeed speak English.

Concentration pops out more sweat all over me.

When did it get so hot in here?

But guess what. My heels stayed on the Mat.

It was actually possible, look at that! It took way more focus than I thought I could muster to accomplish it, but it HAPPENED.

I can do more!

Ladies and Gentlemen, yet another gem of the Pilates Method:

Wait, there's MORE.

Have you surprised yourself in a class or lesson recently? I hope it made you feel like a Pilates Rock Star!

Share your success in a comment below.

 

Another One Bites the Dust

“Pilates is an endless journey. It can be a wonderful journey but it never ends.”     Jay Grimes

“What you don’t like, you do twice!”    Romana Kryzanowska quoting Joe Pilates

There are not many Pilates exercises that I dislike. Often more information about a particular exercise can point up how badly one executes said exercise. And by ‘badly' I only mean ‘incorrectly'. No judginess, but there is always ‘better' and, well… we've all got our issues…Such is my relationship with the Leg Springs on the Cadillac. The more you know…

My Pilates workout can be quantified by each exercise I add to my “No Longer Despised and Now Beloved” list. Now thirteen years in, I am able to welcome The Leg Springs on the Cadillac into the fold. I do not do this lightly, I assure you. I did not see this one coming. It will be a fine day indeed when Pulling Straps gets added to the list…or perhaps a cold day in hell?

Here is the list so far: 

Another One Bites the Dust

The Roll Up

…many… years… pass…

The Neck Pull

The Short Box 

The Breast Stroke (no one was more surprised than I…)

and now…

The Leg Springs

…yeah, that’s about it right now. We few, we happy few… There is a longer list of exercises that have the potential to make this list but they have not arrived just yet. These include some extension exercises and all the twisting exercises including the Snake/Twist.

The Snake/Twist is like a bad boyfriend. It never shows up when you need it, and maybe after a long absence it returns and tries to make nice for a while. It is the perfect storm for the particular imbalance in my back which means it will soon prove indispensable 🙂

Oh happy day when I induct the Snake/Twist into my Personal Pilates Hall of Fame.