Drawing on Kathy Grant’s teachings for inspiration, Peter Roël instructs you on deconstructing the Pilates vocabulary, to help build more awareness and better posture for each and every client—and lead them to more functional movement in and out of the studio.

By Peter Roël • Edited by Amanda Altman

Bodies do not function the same way they did in the recent past. Today, sitting is the new smoking, and laptops and handhelds influence our posture and functionality. We need new protocols to alleviate and assist the burdens of this newfound, consistently changing physical reality. Pilates teachers have the opportunity to impart this knowledge to their clients to create better life function, not only when working out, but for the rest of their waking hours.

During my studies with Kathy Grant at Bendel’s, and later at NYU, I observed how she related the Pilates vocabulary to an individual. Everyone was taught to do the exercises relative to who they were, and what they did—where, when and why (e.g., due to an injury, scoliosis, etc.). There was always a “warm-up” with Kathy’s fundamentals, which were a deconstruction of the more complex Pilates exercises. “Before the Hundred” was a title Kathy thought could be a possible book about her work, in which the teacher-client interaction created the session’s intent.

I experienced Kathy’s process as a dialogue, where she observed, assessed, pinpointed the objective and applied the Pilates method to the client in front of her. I took this as an opportunity to examine and break down the Pilates vocabulary and application, to pave a path for my clients to grow while approaching each exercise and arriving at the pinnacle.

This routine, which is designed for the healthy client, is about building physical awareness and teaching the sequential stabilizers that become stabilizing energy patterns. In the following movement sequences, you’ll mobilize, stabilize, strengthen and balance to create full ranges of motion while working with body orientations in space.

As teachers, we can deconstruct these patterns and apply them to the client, to teach toward the Hundred. The client will have more information about their own body and functioning—an internal dialogue, if you will—when they do Joe’s work. This series is a broad approach to give the largest range of clients the benefit of a stronger, more supported posture, nourishing not only their Pilates practice, but the foundation of their movement outside the studio walls.

Heel Slides/Arm Reach Series

Purpose: serves as a diagnostic tool for mobility; builds awareness
Setup: Lie on your back with your legs 3 feet apart and arms by your sides, palms down.

1. Rotate your legs in and out.

2. Close and open your legs, working either in parallel, external rotation or both.

3. With your legs together, slide one heel in, bending your knee; return it to straight, sliding your opposite heel in.

4. Reach one arm overhead, and the other toward your feet, palms facing inward. Switch arms and repeat.
5. Combine the arm and leg movements.

6. Do 10 reps of the entire sequence.

Tips: Pay attention to any hip, leg, shoulder, arm or rib cage rotations, as well as any lifting, bending or alignment changes. Keep your elbows straight with external rotation in your upper arm. Don’t force the range of motion in your arm—the arms go where they can—but move as if you were in the water doing the backstroke.

Advanced: Add a pronounced exhale to help move the rib cage down. In step 5, change up the arm/leg movement pattern.

Pelvic Lift Series

Purpose: mobilizes the spine; coordinates movement with breath; builds stability, strength and awareness
Setup: Lie on your back with your knees bent hip-width apart and feet parallel, heels under your knees. Extend your arms by your sides, externally rotating your upper arms, gently pressing them into the floor with your palms down.

1. Exhale, rounding your pelvis, waist, rib cage and chest to lift up. Inhale at the top, then exhale, reversing the movement pattern. Do 2–3 reps.

2. Exhale, rounding back up; inhale, lowering with a flat back, returning your tailbone first. Do 2–3 reps.

3. Lift and lower with a flat back, organizing your breath pattern as desired. Do 2–3 reps.

4. Lift with a flat back, then roll down to the starting position. Do 2-3 reps.

Tips: Use the breath to help you stabilize. Be mindful of hip rotation. Don’t do the variations all at once.
Advanced: Place a band over your hips, and hold it with your hands, arms on the floor throughout.

Heel Slides/Ab Series

Purpose: activates the hamstrings and inner thighs; strengthens the abdominals; opens the upper back; promotes awareness, especially of the upper-back connection to the abdominals and inner thighs
Setup: Lie on your back with your legs together, fingers intertwined behind your head, elbows reaching up and back within your peripheral vision (“Neck Pull arms”). Lift up from your sternum, allowing your head to rest in your hands, feeling your serratus anterior connect into your obliques.

1. Repeat step 3 of Heel Slides/Arm Reach Series. Do 20 reps, inhaling for 2, and then exhaling for 2.

2. Repeat step 1, but move your legs together as one unit. Do 10 reps, inhaling as you slide your heels in and exhaling as you slide out.

3. Repeat step 1, this time crisscrossing your upper body toward your bent leg. Repeat to your other side. Do 20 reps, inhaling for 2, and then exhaling for 2.

Tips: In step 3, rotate from your lower ribs. Reach through your elbows on the way in and on the way out.

Side-Lying Series

Purpose: promotes rotational stability; distinguishes the work in the upper and lower body
Setup: Lie on your side with “Neck Pull arms,” your legs together and feet parallel. Stack your sit bones on all three planes.

1. Inhale, lifting your legs, reaching them away; hold for 5 counts.

2. Exhale, lowering your legs. Do 3–5 reps without fully releasing your legs down.

Tips: Stay active through your upper back, arms and back of your neck—push out through your heels. Watch your sit bones!
Modifications: Lift just your top leg up, then reach your bottom leg to meet it. Place your top arm in front of your sternum for support.
Advanced: Slowly scissor your legs, then rotate your torso to the front and back while keeping your hips still.

I, T, W

Spring Setting: n/a
Purpose: stabilizes and strengthens the upper thoracic and cervical spine (back of the ribs and neck); builds awareness
Setup: Lie facedown on the Long Box with your legs together, and place a small ball by your ankles. Allow your head, neck and shoulders to hang heavy, and your arms to relax by your sides.

1. Inhale, lifting your spine, bringing your shoulder blades together and reaching your straight arms by your hips, palms facing down. Hold for 5 counts.

2. Exhale, returning to the starting position with your palms facing in. Do 4 reps.
3. Repeat step 1, but reach your arms to a T position, straight from your shoulders with your palms facing down or forward; exhale, and then inhale, pulling your arms back to your thighs and then back to the T.

4. Exhale, returning to the starting position with your palms facing down. Do 4 reps.
5. Repeat step 1, and then bring your elbows into your waist with your elbows bent and forearms parallel to the floor.

6. Exhale, returning to the starting position with your palms facing down. Do 4 reps.

Footwork on the Reformer

Spring Setting: medium
Purpose: promotes active parallel rotation (APR) and proper alignment; increases awareness of the rib cage in the neutral lower spine, and leg rotation while activating the hamstrings
Setup: Lie on the carriage with the balls of your feet hip-width apart on the footbar. Place a medium ball between your ankle bones, and wrap a band below or above your knees, holding the ends with your wrists straight and elbows by your ribs. Place a small ball on your abdomen.

1. Exhale, straightening your legs; inhale to return home. Do 10 reps.

2. Place your heels on the footbar, flexing your feet with the ball between your big toe joints. Exhale, straightening your legs; inhale to return home. Do 10 reps.

3. Return the balls of your feet to the footbar and the ball between your heel bones. Straighten your legs, and then lower and lift your heels for 10 reps.

Tips: Keep your knees over your middle toes, and maintain the parallel position while bending your knees and lowering your heels.

Front Pulls on Cadillac

Spring Setting: medium–heavy (have the feeling you are pulling yourself up)
Purpose: strengthens the back while lifting the spine from the hips
Setup: Sit tall straddling the Trap Table with your fingers shoulder-width apart on the push-through bar. (You want to be far enough away from the bar so you have room to reach for it.)

1. Inhale, bending your elbows in to pull the bar down to shoulder height.

2. Exhale, returning to the starting position. Do 10 reps.

Tip: Externally rotate your arms as you bend your elbows. Resist the springs when your arms come up.
Advanced: Reverse the breath pattern—the breath controls the ribs.

Side Pulls on Trap Table

Spring Setting: medium–heavy
Purpose: enhances rotational awareness and torso alignment, including the hip-to-rib connection; builds a pathway from the legs through the torso and into the neck/head
Setup: Sit sideways with one hip off the Trap Table/carriage, and your ankles under your knees. Place a medium ball or block between your knees. Hold onto the push-through bar with an underhand grip, and place your other hand behind your head (“Neck Pull arms”).

1. Inhale, bending your elbow to pull the bar down.

2. Exhale, returning to the starting position. Do 10 reps on both sides.

Tips: See Front Pulls on Cadillac. Also, focus on keeping your “floating” hip level, sitting with your weight more on your pubic bone.
Advanced: Do the exercise with the bar on the outside of Cadillac, then repeat with the bar on the inside. Or change the breath pattern.

Standing Leg-Spring Series

Spring Setting: leg spring attached at shoulder height
Purpose: works extension in the spine and hips; promotes balance in parallel; enhances overall alignment
Setup: Stand about 3 feet from the Tower. Place one foot in the strap, and your other foot in parallel on a pad/Moon Box. Move your arms into Neck Pull position (or in a T).

1. Inhale, pulling down on the spring with a parallel, pointed foot, bringing your legs together.
2. Exhale, resisting the spring to return to the starting position. Do 5–10 reps on both sides.

Tips: Watch for upper-torso rotation, and that your hips stay level. Reach through your standing-side elbow and upper back to stabilize. Go slow—work on resisting your leg up with control.
Advanced: Increase the spring tension and/or reps. Repeat the exercise, standing sideways to the Tower and then in arabesque (parallel and/or turned out).

Variation: Attach the spring at ankle height to increase the work on the standing leg.

The Breathing

Spring Setting: arm springs attached in the middle of the Tower
Purpose: integrates the upper and lower body, and also the front and back body, in extension
Setup: Facing away from the Tower, lie on the Trap Table, about 4 inches from the edge, with your feet/ankles together on a Sitting Box. Hold onto the arm springs.

1. Inhale, lifting your hips as you did in Pelvic Lift, lowering your arms by your sides.

2. Exhale, returning to the starting position. Do 3–5 reps.

Tips: Keep your hips parallel to the floor, wrists straight and shoulder blades together. Make sure your arms stay straight with your chest open throughout. (This is a chest extension, after all!)
Advanced: Prop the Box on its side, or use a stability ball instead. Rotate your legs in and out, and then rotate your hips as in Side-Lying without lowering. Integrate the Pelvic Lift Series.

Peter Roël, BA, PMA®-CPT, is the director of the Pilates Shop Teacher Training, and the co-founder and co-owner of the Pilates Shop/Yoga Garage in New York City. Peter was educated at the Dance Conservatory at Arnhem in The Netherlands, specializing in dance education. He moved to New York City in 1983, and danced as a principal dancer with Elisa Monte and the Martha Graham Dance Companies, among others. He started his Pilates education in 1984 with Kathy Grant, with whom he studied and worked with for 15 years. Peter has been teaching Pilates since 1985 and was certified to teach Pilates by Romana Kryzanowska in 1994. In 1995, he became qualified to teach Gyrotonic® through Julio Horvath. From 1996 through 2001, Peter was the co-director, teacher trainer and studio manager at Power Pilates in New York. Because of a lifetime as a competitive track-and-field athlete, gymnast and dancer and dance educator, Peter provides an integrative and individualized approach to his Pilates teaching. Peter studies with Irene Dowd and Deborah Lessen in NYC, where he teaches clients and gives continuing-education workshops. To reach Peter, email pr.psyg@gmail.com or info@psygnyc.com, or call 212-316-9164.

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July 7, 2017 at 10:04 am
Category: Exercises, Pilates Blog
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