Text by Stephanie Frick • Photography by Jim Wells
The “Pilates” Method as created by Joseph Pilates, is described as the “complete coordination of mind, body, and spirit.” It is a body balancing form of exercise which strengthens from the center, outward. Each motion is so precise that only 4-6 repetitions are required. As a full body workout, it merges mind and body into unity. The results of Pilates are incredible! You become more connected to your body through a clear mind. Re-alignment of your muscle, brings you automatic balance into every day functions. Most amazing to me is how you feel after Pilates! 55-60 minutes and you feel refreshed, alert, and charged with energy! One less cup of coffee needed!
There are five foundational elements of Pilates. Breathing, Centering, Concentration, Control, Fluidity, and Precision. BREATHING cleanses the lungs and clears the mind, creating direct concentration. CENTERING is disciplining your mind to listen to your body as you advance individually at your own pace. CONCENTRATION is essential to activate each motion in the correct way, combining breath patterns and focus. To be in CONTROL of each motion is essential for preventing injuries, both in everyday living and most importantly during exercise. FLUIDITY, a smooth flowing motion encourages the body to safely extend into gentle progression. Sharp Jerky movements may cause cramping or injury. PRECISION; for each focus point as explained above, when activated, creates and targets precise training! Why treat your body any other way than with care? You only have one body, treat it beautifully.
Pilates has changed my life and body. The testimonials of the incredible people I have worked with would speak the same. I knew the minute I took my first lesson from Michelle Berger-Reitz that my calling was to be an instructor as well! I trained and apprenticed with passion and vigor, soaking in every work and cue she gave. Because of her gift and skill as my mentor, I found my own style and my own strength to touch lives. Everyone has a light in them, a strength, and a beauty. It took healthy body awareness, and results from Pilates, to find mine. My mission is to help you find yours!
Hundreds- 4-6 Reps
Prep- Lie on your back, with a heavy tailbone and low back slightly lifted off the mat, legs extended up straight or at an angle, together parallel or turned out feet, toes spread, arms long at sides.
Exercise- inhale through your nose and float chin to chest. Exhale out through your mouth, pulling your ribcage together. Lift and reach arms forward with palms facing down. Inhale Pump arms 5 beats; Exhale Pump arms 5 beats; for 10 reps
Variations- Beginner; Legs bent at 90 or flat on the floor. Intermediate; Lower straight legs. Advanced; Even lower
Avoid pushing the abdominal wall out! Suck it in. Be very aware of a long neck.
Roll-up- 4-6 reps
Prep- Lie on back, legs extended and connected with feet flexed, or knees bent, feet flat on floor,arms overhead but off the ground.
Exercise- Inhale through your nose to reach arms forward, floating chin to chest. Exhale pulling your ribs together, and tuck pelvis under to roll up one vertebrae at a time, with a long line of neck. Reach to stretch. Inhale pull stomach in, tilt pelvis, curl head back. Exhale to roll down, arms return overhead.
Variations- Beginner; Knees bent, feet flat, using back of legs to assist into roll-up
Avoid popping your ribs high when lying down. Shortening your neck and shrugging as you roll up and down is also a no no.
Roll-over- 4-6 Reps
Prep- Lie on back, arms pressing firmly at sides, legs extended up or bent, and squeezing together, feet flexed.
Exercise- Inhale to push legs over and back, parallel to the floor. Exhale roll down gently, melting spine into the mat.
Variations- Beginner; Knees slightly bent, roll through low back, and gently back down to start.
Avoid looking to the side and lowering your legs past a neutral position. That will hurt your back! These aren’t done with momentum. If you find yourself straining at all, or have had a back injury, cut this exercise out entirely. Pilates has much more for you to do.
Tree- 4-6 reps each leg
Prep- Lie on back, one leg extended long, foot flexed and heel
pressed into mat. Other leg lifted, hands hold back of leg, hips flat
Exercise- Inhale draw stomach in to float chin to chest. Exhale corset ribs
together to stretch leg, walking hands up leg, to sit straight up with and open
chest. Inhale draw belly in to pull leg in for a deep stretch. Exhale curl
hips under, walk down leg, roll down to start position.
Variations- Beginner; bend underneath leg. Advanced; float up leg
with hands unassisted.
Avoid giving yourself “no neck” as you stretch your leg. You are
not a Troll under a bridge. Deeper stretch even through your feet if
you spread your toes. Try it!
Open Leg Rocker- 4-6 reps
Prep- Sit on mat, straight back, Legs bent, extend one leg up at a time, hold backs of legs.
Find your balance, and hold higher up on your legs as long as your back stays straight. Turn
legs out and toes spread. Chest stays high, ribs in tight, long line of neck.
Exercise- Inhale pull stomach in, Curl to roll back, keeping legs
straight and your chin tucked. Exhale roll back up to balance on your
rear, chest high, ribs tight, long neck.
Variations- Beginner; knees bent, holding backs of legs, elbows wide for a
long neck. Intermediate; higher grip on leg. Advanced; legs closer
together, as high on the leg as possible.
Avoid rolling back throwing your head like a horse. Rolling onto
neck, or getting “stuck” on shoulders also may happen. Please don’t.
Ouch! It is a “Rocking” back and forth movement. Have fun with it, but stay in control. It is one of my favorites!
Swan- 4-6 Reps
Prep- Lie on stomach, hands next to shoulders, head turned sideways.
Legs close together, toes Pointed, in a relaxed position.
Exercise- Inhale through your nose to draw belly in, push your pubic bone
down into the mat, engaging rear end, slide shoulder blades down your
back. Lift upper body with a long line of neck, looking directly down
at your mat. Exhale through your mouth, release and relax, head
turns to the other side.
Variations- Beginner; hands under shoulders to assist in the stretch.
Avoid bringing your toes off the mat. This will work your rear and not target those lower back muscles. Try to keep rear relaxed. Work on your “swan” neck by pushing through the crown of your head. Lift your torso up using your shoulder blades, not your arms.
Your modifications to these exercises are my “beginner” Variation.
I am so excited for you to use these exercises at home or the gym. Use them every day, morning or night! The results are amazing. You will find muscles in your body you didn’t know existed. The human body was meant to move, so have fun with it!