Want to advance your Pilates practice in the new year? Keep your certification current? Lean 73 exercises and how to integrate them into a session? Check out our latest Instructor Newsletter to learn more about our Workshop January 30-31st.
I often get asked what makes Peak Pilates unique. After years of owning my own studio and hiring teachers of many different backgrounds, here is what I can say for sure.
1. We teach Pilates by honoring the past
Peak Pilates teaches Pilates as a movement system, honoring the work of Joseph Pilates. We don't feel his work needs to be changed, but we work hard to understand it in today's language with some minor adjustments to reflect the advancements of science and what we know about the body and mind. You certainly wouldn't want a doctor with medical knowledge limited to the last century. So as a Pilates instructor, it's important to understand advancements that have been backed up by science so that you have the latest knowledge to safely teach your clients and help them meet their workout goals.
2. It's all included.
At Peak Pilates, our training is integrated. After successful completion of PPC-I, you will know all the beginning exercises on Mat, Reformer, Cadillac/Tower, Chair, Small Barrel, Ladder Barrel, and Power Circle. You will not pay additional money to assess. You will pay for the four modules and material fees (and shipping). That's it. You will understand how to modify exercises to keep people safe with general back, knee, wrist, ankle, shoulder or neck problems, as well as how to modify a class for a healthy older client. Everything to understand the system is included. You don't need pre-anatomy courses. Anatomy is included.
3. We teach not just WHAT to teach, but HOW to teach.
There are a number of reputable companies that can teach you what the 100 is, but at Peak we teach you how to teach your clients to perform the 100. That means how to spot, how to communicate, how to use imagery and touch...all the amazing things that will set you apart as a Pilates instructor. Our Five-Part Formula for Success is unique in that it sets up people who have little to no teaching experience to achieve excellent results. Even if you have taught before, the Five-Part Formula will expand and deepen your teaching skills.
Without this system unique to Peak, it's easy for beginning instructors to get overwhelmed. Imagine, you've spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours taking exercises apart and discussing the nuances of movement. So what do you do when you get that first new client in front of you? If you share everything you know about an exercise, they will very quickly be overwhelmed. How do you know what to say and when to say it? How do you cue a body in motion to stay in motion without music? How do you safely progress clients? As a graduate of a Peak Pilates training program, you will know how to do all these things. And because you have this knowledge, you will stand out, and you will get excellent results.
So start your Pilates journey will all the information necessary to succeed - check out our latest trainings and get started today!
After I had my first child, my husband banished me from using the words "muffin top." And I thought, "Why can't I say muffin top? I have one! Can't you see it? I hate my muffin top!" But I am at heart a rule follower, so I did what he said and stopped using that phrase. And you know what? My muffin top didn't disappear overnight. It took months of Pilates (thank you Ab 5s and Side Sit Ups on the Reformer!) and focused eating. But by just stopping the negative self-talk, I think I made a significant change in my head for the better, which helped me work out in a more focused way.
And that's the reason I think negative talk just doesn't work. Sure, we all have conversations with ourselves in front of a mirror - I hate this, I hate that. But I don't think those conversations inspire us to change. I think they actually hurt our ability to change, because if you are so intrinsically flawed, why would you try? If the part of your waist that meets your jeans after having a baby (or just a few too many not-so-great food choices, or a hard genetic hand) makes you rename it something hideous, doesn't that take away your power to own your body? You've just separated yourself from a part of you that, like it or not, has carried you and helped you move (and yes, maybe expanded a bit from time to time). But it's not a muffin top, it's your waist. And your waist isn't even your waist (that's for another post). Your waist is an invention of the fashion industry to sell pants. You don't have a waist bone. You don't have a waist muscle. You have many muscles that connect your pelvis to your torso, so don't oversimplify the wonderful machine that is your body into one part you dislike.
I've written a lot about mantras here, so I'm a deep believer in self-talk. How we talk to our bodies, even in our heads, is important. And I'm sure as anything not going to be that Pilates teacher that tries to make you feel bad about your body to workout. Not only because it isn't kind, but because I don't think it helps. Do you really think you'll go deeper into your Powerhouse by renaming it after a high-fat pastry? No, you'll disconnect from it more. But a little bit of self-love goes a long way, especially when you're sitting on top of the Short Box in front of a mirror and see your thighs squoosh out to the sides. Yes, I've finally written about the Pilates exercise we all hate to see ourselves do.
So, here are your two choices:
1. Wow, I hate my thighs. Look at how big they are. I shouldn't have eaten/drank that.
2. Hmm. I think I'm losing my seat. Maybe I should pinch/perch.
Guess what? Number 2 is always the better choice (because it works!) Through the eyes of a skilled teacher, none of our bodies are flawed. They are just still evolving. And we need to be that guide for ourselves, too. See something that's not right? You probably need to change how you are performing the exercise, not how your body is put together.
So, that's why I don't want to hear about how much you hate your butt, or your thighs, or arms. Sure, we all want to grow and change and shape our bodies, but let's choose the path of least resistance, shall we? It's simple, just correct to the positive.
So my son recently started taking Taekwondo, and one day as I was observing class, my son and the instructor had this conversation while he was trying to do the splits.
Master: How are you doing, Ty?
Student: Not so good, Sir. It hurts, Sir.
Master: Oh no, Taekwondo Kids do not say, "It hurts." Taekwondo kids do not say, "Ow." They say, "I love it, Sir." Say "I love it, Sir."
Student: I love it, Sir.
So what to make of this? Well, initially I was a little worried. Is my son being taught to ignore pain or his feelings? I wouldn't want that.
But on second thought, it seems the lesson is that you can frame thoughts in your head so that you don't defeat yourself. This reminds me of my mantra, "I love the burn." or why I need to do the exercises that I "hate." But maybe I don't "hate" them anymore. Maybe I "love" them. Because they're making me stronger.
How we talk to ourselves is very important. How you talk to your clients is important. Honor that something is challenging. Much of Pilates is. But find the joy in the struggle, the love in the work. Pilates is difficult enough. Adding negative energy won't help you find depth in a stretch or connection in a movement. But maybe "loving" it will. And it will make the journey that much more pleasant, so go ahead - love the burn, love the stretch, love your body and the effort you're putting into it each time you approach the work. And who knows? Eventually, your self talk may turn into actual self love.
People often ask me which is better - mat or equipment Pilates. Or people will tell me, "I hate mat" or "I only do mat." So which is better? Well, let's start by looking at what makes each unique. As I say to my children when they complain that someone got a bigger piece of something or a longer whatever, "You are not equal, you're unique."
Some things that make mat unique:
1. It's portable. You can do it just about anywhere with very little equipment. See Keeping Up Your Workout While Traveling.
2. It's affordable. You'll probably pay $10-15 for a mat class, while equipment classes will run you about $25-60, depending on how many people are in a class.
3. It's what Joseph created first. It's the beginning of the work. It connects you to the largest equipment available - the earth. It's is the foundation to everything.
4. It's done using your own body for stability and is more open-chain (exercises where the hand or foot is free to move). This means that you will have to work in your core a lot to hold your body still or mobilize it during an exercise.
5. Mat has more flow. Since you're not getting up to move a box, change a spring, or attach a bar, you can just keep moving from one exercise into the next.
So how is Equipment Unique?
1. It uses more resistance. Most equipment (outside of the barrels) have springs. These springs give resistance in both directions to every exercise. So, if you're looking to strength train and up your metabolism, the equipment will help.
2. If you need more support and alignment cues, equipment has the edge as well. On reformer alone, you have a head rest, shoulder blocks, and a foot bar so your teacher can easily see exactly how your body is moving. I call my Reformer the diagnostic piece of equipment.
3. There are more exercises on equipment. There's about 50 mat exercises, and on reformer 250, chair even more than that. So it's great to help keep variety in your Pilates routine.
So which is better? It's important to understand that Pilates is best as a system. If you've always done the hundred on the mat, imagine pumping your arms with resistance (that's Reformer). If you've always done Short Spine with springs to help you, imagine doing it without them and you'll really build up your Powerhouse and train it how to lift your pelvis while performing the Roll Over on the mat.
I've seen it time and time again, clients who only like one or the other, and they don't progress as much as clients who perform the entire system. What you learn on one informs your body on the other. You'll build newer connections faster and deeper if you do both.
And sadly, whichever one you "don't like" is probably the one you have to do. Sometimes tighter people don't like mat - it's a lot of sitting or straight legs extended in the air if your hamstrings are tight. But guess how you help lengthen your hamstrings? By performing mat. People who don't like equipment because it's too much stopping and starting probably have a hard time connecting their mind and body without distraction. But guess what helps with that? Unlocking the rhythm sections on Reformer.
So, yes, I love my two children equally. Does one get on my nerves sometimes? Do I feel more connected to another at points in my life? Certainly. But that doesn't mean I stop loving one or the other. So challenge yourself to explore new exercises on the mat, or try an equipment class. You may just find that it helps push your body in a new way help you go deeper into the work.
So I read this on a blog the other day, and, well, it kinda made me sad:
"One casualty was Lisa Brinkworth. Lisa is a resident of Buckinghamshire, England and the mother of three small sons. Last year, she started taking Pilates at a local studio and was inspired by a fellow student to sign up for a twice weekly “planking” competition. Initially she was excited by the planking event and did her best to hold the pose longer and longer. Around Christmas, Lisa began suffering what she describes as an “excruciating pain in the left side of my chest.” The pain was so bad that she feared she was having a heart attack or had developed breast cancer. Doctors finally diagnosed her condition as “costochondritis,” an inflammation of the cartilage that joins the ribs to the breastbone. “How many of us,” she wondered, “are putting ourselves at risk of such a painful unnecessary injury?”
Now, I want to be very clear. I do not want to start to compare Pilates with barre classes. I take barre workouts and enjoy them. The first class I was ever certified to teach was the New York City Ballet Workout, which could easily be described as a barre workout (without the barre, it's all done standing in center). So let's not go there. This is not about what is better or worse.
For me, this is about Pilates and how we teach it. Did you see the pictures of the planking on the blog? It's bodies piled on top of each other. How is this Pilates? What part of Pilates should involve a competition?
I believe that Pilates should be taught as a movement system. I believe Joe taught it that way. It's one of the things that makes Pilates, well, Pilates. So what is a movement system? It's process-oriented, non-competitive, and non-intimidating. A movement system should stimulate the senses, the mind, and motor skill development. It should focus on breathing and regeneration of energy. I think you could ask any of my clients and they would say this is how we teach Pilates at JSP. But I teach it that way because I think it honors the way Joe taught it. Contrast Joseph Pilates' quotes below with the experience that poor woman had:
"Contrology (Pilates) is complete coordination of body, mind, and spirit. Through Contrology (Pilates), you first purposefully acquire complete control of your own body and then, through proper repetition of its exercises, you gradually and progressively acquire that natural rhythm and coordination associated with all your subconscious activities."
"Beginning with the introductory series, each succeeding exercise should be mastered before proceeding progressively with the following exercises."
or my favorite:
"A few well-designed movements, properly performed in a balanced sequence, are worth hours of doing sloppy calisthenics or forced contortion."
If we honor Joseph's work, we must teach Pilates as a movement system. Even if we cannot agree on imprinting or order or neutral pelvis, can we at least agree on this? I don't want to ever see Pilates mentioned in an article entitled "The Good and Bad of Extreme Workouts." Really. If you're teaching something that extreme that you are putting bodies on top of one another, working people past the point of exhaustion, and competing one person against another, can you please just not call it Pilates? Because it really isn't.
The saddest thing about the blog post? I agree with the author's point. She writes, "The best way to transform your body remains training under the guidance of a knowledgeable teacher and committing yourself to regular, focused practice." I couldn't agree more, I just would call that "Pilates."
Here are the latest Powerhouse cues from the clever ladies that met this weekend:
100 - draw in and down like an anchor on your pelvis; like being strapped to the floor
Roll Up - like going down the stairs, step by step,b one by bone; bone by bone like a strand of lights; like rolling up and over a beach ball
OLC - hold your pelvis still like you're wearing a girdle; anchor your spine like it's a tree trunk; move your leg like folding in egg whites
RLAB - pull in and up like a zipper; round out from your center like spokes on a wheel; make a shape like a bug protecting itself
SLS - press down to the floor like flattening a pancake; extend your legs like reaching the pedals for a bike that's too big
DLS - like a clam opening and closing
Scissors - keep your pelvis still like you have a tray of drinks on it
Lower & Lift - Hold you Powerhouse strong and rooted to the floor like an old tree; like tightening a corset
Criss Cross - Still your pelvis like you're stuck in mud; rotate like the roots of a swaying tree
SSF - stacking bone by bone like building a house brick by brick; round up like a flower coming back to life
Saw - sit tall like a tree trunk; lift up like you're wearing a corset
Side Kicks: Front & Back - move front and back like you're ringing a bell
Side Kicks: Up & Down - press down through honey
Side Kicks: Inner Thigh - Press leg up like you're offering a drink with your foot, hold your foot like the base of an electric mixer (circles)
Seal - roll down like a wheel pushing from each tread
Standing Roll Down - up and over a mountain
Check out other cues here!
100 - Bowling Ball on Pelvis
Roll Up - Roll Pelvis like a Wheel
OLC - Imprint Spine like a Brick Pressing Down, Lie in Wet Cement
RLAB - Tilt pelvis like a bowl back and forth
Single Leg Stretch - Maintain Rectangle Box
Double Leg Stretch - Melt back in like chocolate
Scissors - Drop weight into lower back like a ship dropping an anchor
Lower Lift - Drop spine into mat like a heavy bike chain
Criss Cross - Wring out a wet towel
Spine Stretch Forward - Roll forward like a slinky down a stair
Open Leg Rocker Prep - Balance on your tailbone like a diamond in a ring setting
Corkscrew - Press hips down to the mat with super glue, Stir a pot
Saw - Turn and lift like a top
Swan - Snake coming out of a snake charmer basket/move head like the sun coming up and over the mountain
Rest - Turtle your tailbone under
Bridge - Curl lower back up like a scorpion's tail, Lift up like a wedge is sliding under your spine
Side Kicks - Front - Swing your leg like a saloon door
SK - Up and Down - Draw leg down through mud, Stretch leg like a rubber band on way down/Spring it on the way up, Lift a mile/Push away a ton of weight
SK - Circles - Stir a pot, Light a match
SK - Inner Thighs - Keep abs up and in like two panes of glass on the front and back of your body, Keep your body in a toaster
Beats - Wrap your thighs like bacon over a date, Beat feet like you're fanning a fire - Put the coals out
Teaser One Leg - Hold flower between knees, curl up to smell it
Teaser - Lift your chest like you just won an Olympic medal
Swimming - Swim through sand
Leg Pull Front Support - Head to heel like a piece of steel
Mermaid - Press hips down and separate ribs like a shutter on a window/Two opposing magnets/Block of ice on hips
Seal - Hold a bowl in your empty space - Don't loose your bowl
Push Ups - Open your scapula broad like a book
Find more cues here
1. It's a Three-Dimensional Picture of Your Powerhouse. However how hard you press the circle, that's how hard you're scooping. The Power Circle isn't isolated work for your arms or your thighs, it's work for your entire body. So don't forget to connect to your center. It's not a workout for your peripherals, it's a workout for your Powerhouse.
2. Press the Circle, Don't Squeeze. You wouldn't choke your dance partner, would you? So don't squeeze the circle. Press it (with long fingers and not a death grip). Just like we don't sit on the Pilates Chair, we sit in it, we press the circle toward our center to bring our awareness there as well. There's no prize if you break it. Work into your body by bringing your upper thighs in toward your pelvis or your scapula onto your ribs. Don't squeeze with your knees (This is not Suzanne Somer's Thigh Master)!
3. Work Without It. After you've used the Power Circle to deepen the work in an exercise, take it away and try to find the connection without it. The circle is a tool to help access your critical connections, but ultimately you should be able to work without it and find the same connections.
100 - Balance a teacup between your pelvis and hip bones
Roll Up - peel up like a wet spaghetti noodle off the mat, round over a beach ball
One Leg Circle - Pin hips down
RLAB - Be like a ball, eyes on the prize
Single Leg Stretch - Draw a line with your legs in and out
Double Leg Stretch - Glue the lower back to the mat, wrap the legs, funnel the ribs, knit the ribs
Scissors - Lengthen your heel to your seat
Double Leg Lower/Lift - Draw it in
Criss Cross - Wring out ribs like a towel
Spine Stretch Forward - Lift over a beach ball, Lift up and and over your three anchors
Saw - Saw open your back, spread the scapula like wings, wring out your ribs
Swan - Don't smash the mouse in your house
Rest - Round in the spine
Shoulder Bridge Prep - Feel lifted to the ceiling, Lay buttons down on the mat
Side Kicks: Front - Glue hip to mat
SK: Up and Down - Move through Peanut Butter for resistance
SK: Circles - Abs Lift/No Shift
SK: Inner Thighs - Lengthen out leg like a laser
Beats on Belly - Mouse in the House
Teaser One Leg - Roll Bone by Bone
Swimming Prep: Mouse House, Lead Core
LPFS: Abs up and into Core
Seal: Roll the abs up and in
Push Ups: Roll down bone by bone
I was reading this blog today and this line really struck a chord with me:
"Stress trumps all. Even when the diet and movement are right, you can be undermined by a mind that's bearing a heavy load."
Isn't that true? Every time I've had a major injury, it's been during a very stressful period in my life. I've taken to preemptively doing energy work before a stressful event because my body manifests stress so strongly physically. When I last sprained my ankle, I was a Graduate Teaching Assitant, was completing my Masters, was teaching full time, and completing the highest level of Pilates certification. So was it the movement in the ballet class that injured me? No, it was the heavy load I was carrying in my brain and in my heart.
So, how are you planning on taking care of your mind this year? How can we lessen the load for each other?
This may be my New Years Non Resolution .
Lies Within. If you cannot find your center, you cannot stand tall. Check out my latest video in honor of Toe Talk's Warrior Chick Sock $2 discount this Monday 12.29. Enjoy a wonderful sock discount and learn to work your Powerhouse in celebration.
I know Pilates has gotten a girly reputation, but Joseph Pilates was not a dancer - he was a boxer! How more manly can you get? But I can't tell you how many times people have asked me if I have any male clients. Yes, and do, and here's why.
You get to stretch without taking a yoga class with a bunch of hyper-flexible women. Many of my guy clients know they need to stretch (and did you know that a tight psoas can lead to erectile dysfunction?) but they don't want to be surrounded by super flexible women (women tend to be more flexible than men) with their feet touching their heads while they struggle with straps and blocks to approximate the same position. In every exercise in Pilates, there is a stretch and a strength. So in Spine Stretch Forward, you're working your abs but at the same time you're stretching your hamstrings, but you get to move and flow in the position. You don't have to sit and hold something that may feel intense for 3 minutes.
It helps to open your chest. Many men focus on developing the muscles of their chest, but that can lead to overly tight chest muscles, even kyphosis (and hey, staring at that smart phone all day isn't helping!). Without stretching the chest, over developed chest muscles can cause lower back pain, and tight hips (see reason #1 above for a sneaky way to stretch without forcing yourself into Cobra). Pilates extension for the upper back focuses on opening the thoracic spine without loading the low back - it's more of a sternum lift than an arch of the mid-back. If you're really tight in your chest, deep back bends will only cause more pain. The smaller, more strategic extension in Pilates will help deeper postural changes take effect.
You'll perform better at your favorite sport. Many of my clients (male or female, for that matter) remark on how much more lung capacity they experience after starting a regular Pilates practice. The lateral opening of the side body coupled with the lift of the rib cage in forward flexion is unlike any other exercise system. This means that in your Pilates lesson, you are lengthening your ribs off your pelvis in two directions - to the side (which is easier and will give your body more stretch) and when you round forward (which is much more challenging). But if you can master that, you are training your internal, deepest abdominal muscles to support the carriage of your rib cage. If you can do that, you'll make more space to breathe, helping you increase your endurance for whatever sport you do.
By now, we all know that King James does Pilates.
Are you ready to join him? Or are you already a male student of Pilates? Share your story in the comments!
Often, my clients ask me how they can breathe in Pilates. "If I'm pulling my belly in, how do I inhale?" Watch this short video to learn how to breathe in honor of my toe talk inhale/exhale socks which are $2 off this coming Monday 12.15!
100 - Anchor your pelvis into the mat like an anchor on your PH
Roll Up - Pearls, Bone by Bone, Beach Ball, Candy Cane, Roll your Pelvis Like a Wheel
One Leg Circle - Paint the letter "D" on the ceiling; your leg is the brush
RLAB - Scoop to catch a ball in midair
Single Leg Stretch - Pull/Lengthen in leg like taffy; Reach opposite leg out to edge of cliff or edge of pool
Double Leg Stretch - Tuck like a diver
Leg Pull Front Support - Push the ground away and become the roof of a house
Mermaid Stretch - Don't touch the porcupine and come up and hug the puppy
Seal - You're a row boat filled with water, tip back and let water out for three
Push Up Series - Someone is playing tug-of-war with your head and your heals
I'm often asked by clients how far or long to reach a leg or arm during an exercise, and that's where my often spoken, "Range is determined by form" comes from.
It's most important to keep your critical connections in Pilates - so if by reaching your arm you cannot keep your ribs to your scapula and your scapula to your ribs, you've gone too far. If you don't feel your three anchors, your legs have dipped too low.
But how do you determine where this end range is? It can be different from day to day, and hopefully with improve with time as you commit to your Pilates practice. In general, stay where you are working in your Powerhouse, and let that connection build in a smaller range of motion before taking it bigger. Start at the center, at the Powerhouse, not in your arms or legs. You should feel your arms and legs lengthening out from your Powerhouse connection. Stop when you loose that connection.
My first Pilates teacher made me make the tiniest One Leg Circles I had ever performed, but when I did my hip stopped clicking. I kept working on my Powerhouse connection and one day she said, "I think you can make them bigger now." But it was important for me to keep them small so that the larger motion didn't distract me from my Powerhouse. Momentum is not a muscle group, and it certainly isn't one of the Pilates Principles.
So stay inside the exercise and your body. Really listen to see if you are finding your connection. And don't be afraid to make the movement small and controlled (that one is a Pilates principle)!
100 - Box heavy like cement
Roll Up - String of pearls
One Leg Circle - Stir leg w/in hip socket, hips heavy into floor
Rolling Like a Ball - Keep chin to chest like a laser, Eyes focused on pelvis
Single Leg Stretch - Don't rock the boat
Double Leg Stretch - Scoop to reach out, Wrap your hips and scoop belly, Hold an orange between your thighs
Scissors - Scoop out belly with ice cream scoop
More Cues Here
We're gearing up for another busy fall at JSP! Do you want to start by tipping your toe into Pilates teaching or just firm up your personal practice? Join us for Basic Mat this September and December! And don't miss out on our full certification beginning October 3rd - this certification includes mat, Reformer, Cadillac, Barrel, Chair, and Small props like Wall and the Power Circle. Do you need CECs? Two fabulous ones to choose from are Lengthen and Strengthen with Elastic Bands and Jump Board Intervals, both October 26th. Hurry, space is limited! Make your passion your career!