The Universal Reformer: A Brief Tutorial on the Tree

The Universal Reformer: A Brief Tutorial on the Tree

For Tessa

Thanks so much to everyone who attended my Cadillac workshop this past weekend at LauraBPilates studio in Raleigh, NC.

It was a pleasure to meet and work with so many awesome readers. You guys rocked it on the Cadillac and the Standing Arm Springs!

The Universal Reformer: A Brief Tutorial on the Tree

Gifts from Joe Pilates

Joe Pilates has bestowed numerous gifts upon us. My favorite one is of course the gift of repetition. Do your exercises frequently and your body will reap the benefits. Even if you don't think you're particularly good at your exercises, it's the doing it anyway that counts.

And you're probably better than you think…

Lately I've come to feel a kind of Pilates déjà vu in my workout.

Hmmm… I've been here before…

The Tree is chock full of moments just like this.

See if you can find the moments of Spine Stretch, Open Leg Rocker, the Roll Up, Single Leg Circles, Double Leg Pull and High Bridge all jam-packed into one workhorse of an exercise.

Thank God for the Tree

Early on in my Pilates journey I was decidedly NOT a fan of the Short Box Series.

The Tree was the exception.

A fundamental exercise in our order of the Reformer exercises, the Tree, succeeded in making the entire Short Box Series just that much more bearable fun. 

The Tree is a versatile exercise that continues to grow and blossom along with our Pilates practice.

Even the basic version is not easy.

Later on you can turn on the jazz with your first taste of High Bridge.

Tree Time

If we distill the Tree down to its very essence it could look like this:

The Universal Reformer: A Brief Tutorial on the Tree

Sit up as tall as you can and reach your leg as much as possible without sinking in the back.

Your lift inward and upward must increase as your leg reaches further away from center.

Further progressions could include just setting up your Tree position:

The Universal Reformer: A Brief Tutorial on the TreeThe Universal Reformer: A Brief Tutorial on the Tree

Maybe you control yourself into this position and then return upright 3 times.

Later you'll learn to lower your upper body away from the center – just a little bit at a time. Remember to only roll backward as much as you can successfully return.

The Universal Reformer: A Brief Tutorial on the Tree

Over time you'll work your way all the way back and into the well if you are able.

The Universal Reformer: A Brief Tutorial on the Tree

And once you're completely comfortable upside down you've got some fun options:

The Universal Reformer: A Brief Tutorial on the Tree

Reach for the frame and pull everything in toward your center.

The Universal Reformer: A Brief Tutorial on the Tree

Ultimately you can add an empowering precursor to the High Bridge with lovely support from our friend the Short Box.

Here you may add the Single Leg Circles from Pilates Mat fame.

Holy stomach exercise, Batman!

And it's all leading up to where we began very simply: a global stretch of the back of the body in our final moment of Tree:

The Universal Reformer: A Brief Tutorial on the Tree

What's going on here anyhow?

Take another look at our final moment of the Tree. Every exercise in the Short Box Series is leading to this point: a global stretch of the back of the body.

That final moment of the Tree is the money note, the big kahuna, your raison d'être…

Often in this exercise we become preoccupied with stretching the back of the leg. We all feel so incredibly inflexible in this exercise, even the most loosey-goosey among us.

The back must take precedence over the leg. And the more lift you find in your back – ooooh that tight leg will get a fantastic stretch! See what you think.

Further Reading

Want even more info on the Tree and the Short Box Series?

Check out these related posts – you know I'm completely obsessed with all things Short Box…let's see if you are too!

Enjoy this short video tutorial.

Thanks for watching!

Thanks Order of the Pilates Exercises: Transitions! 6!

Thanks Order of the Pilates Exercises: Transitions! 6!

Welcome to the 6th installation of Transitions! Transitions!

We’ve been working our way through the Order of the Pilates Reformer Exercises.

The Short Box Series oh how I love thee, let me count the ways…

The Short Box Series presents us with yet another opportunity for efficient pace and tempo within an exercise series.

You’ll strive to connect the exercises as though they were one continuous movement.

It's helpful to be efficient in your set up for this series as it is quite accessorized: box, pole, pad, straps – ok GO!

Post Tendon Stretch and into the Short Box Series

Not sure why I haven't labeled this one The Big Transition as well, as there are several components to set up.

  • Keep the pad from Tendon Stretch where it is – you'll need it in a moment.
  • Get the box and pole and place them onto the Reformer.
  • Add the pad to the top of the box – you'll sit on it. It will help you keep your position solid on the box.
  • Reach down and take hold of the 2 black straps under the front of the Reformer.
  • Sit on the box and place both straps on your ankles.
  • Press the legs apart to tighten the straps. They should remain taut during all of the exercises.

Now you have arrived atop the box.

This is often the place where it seems okay to get chatty in your workout. I don't want to chat during this challenging series, but often people do.

Therefore it's nice to encourage flow and movement here.

During the exercises you are essentially in the same place on the box. So if you get too pick, pick, picky about the positions there is no moving going on.

Challenge yourself to move through the 5-6 exercises on the Short Box with a deliberate steady pace.

  • Round – a nice massage
  • Reach – some real lifting and work for the back
  • Side to Side – a juicy stretch if you can get it
  • Twist/Reach – a strength-builder and very challenging to maintain the tight straps on your ankles
  • Around the World – better have a good Twist/Reach for this one…
  • Tree – countless benefits in this one really…one-sided, back strength, global stretch of the back body…

I do like to dawdle now and then, when I get obsessed with perfecting one of the exercises. But again,

Just. Keep. Moving.

Want even more Short Box? Be sure to check out this post.

Enjoy this short video tutorial. 

Questions? Please leave them in a comment below.

Thank you so so much for watching!

In case you’ve missed one…

  • Check out the first Transitions! post to learn the purpose of an efficient Pilates transition.
  • Catch up on the 2nd post as well and move smoothly through the Rowing Series.
  • The 3rd installment will enhance your scoop and take you successfully into the Backstroke.
  • We hashed out the Big Transition into the Long Stretch Series into shape in post 4.
  • Transitions! 5! took us deep into the rhythm of the Stomach Massage Series.
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