Tag: Wunda Chair

Mythbuster #3: Pilates and yoga are the same.

Joseph Pilates had a diverse background in physical activity. Being  sick as a child motivated him as an adult to become an accomplished boxer, diver, and skier who also studied ancient Greek and Roman exercise regimens.  He developed his own system of exercise by culling from a variety of sources, including fencing, acrobatics, and yoga, etc.


It is clear that he was influenced by the goals of yogic practice, bringing the mind and body together for holistic health. He called his method “Contrology,” the study of control, because he believed that connecting the mind to the work of the body would bring strength and fortitude to everyday life. Yoga comes from the mindset of a spiritual practice, however, and the idea of “yolking” with ultimate reality. Pilates was very much reacting to the industrialization of the early 1900’s. He saw that the burgeoning technology of mass production was causing people to move mindlessly and sought to bring mindfulness into the mechanical precision of the new age.


There are two components to Pilates: matwork and apparatus work.  The matwork is the most similar to a yoga class. Both are performed on a mat while your teacher leads you through a specific order of exercises that use gravity as resistance. In Pilates matwork your main focus will be moving from your center, called the “powerhouse,” to execute movements that focus on control and precision, while in yoga you will use your breath to place your body into alignment.


The pace of the class can be a major difference, as well. In Pilates matwork there is a seamless and rhythmic flow between exercises, so that you are always moving and never still. This is a way of stretching your body dynamically—making you limber while maintaining and improving explosive muscle power. Yoga generally employs a different kind of stretching that is muscularly active but much more static, holding poses for a certain length of time in order to deepen into poses. The use of eccentric contraction in Pilates matwork, (actively contracting the muscle while it’s on the stretch) is what gives Pilates practitioners the “long, lean” look.


The apparatus invented by Joseph Pilates include the Reformer, Cadillac, Wunda Chair, Electric Chair, and Ladder Barrel. They are incredibly versatile pieces that use spring resistance to develop the powerhouse, articulate the spine, and increase strength, flexibility, and balance in the body. You will always use apparatus with the guidance of a Pilates instructor who can modify your workout and the exercises to either assist or challenge you in your workout goals. The genius of Pilates’ designs is that there are almost limitless variations of exercises that allow your instructor to cater directly to you, whether you are an elite athlete, just beginning a workout regimen, or recovering from injury.

Pilates Exercise of the Month: Pull the Pedal Up or Elephant on the Wunda Chair

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Purpose: To develop abdominal control, scapular stabilization and strengthen shoulder girdle.  This exercise is 100% Powerhouse, making it difficult to perform. A trained professional must spot throughout exercise.


Starting Position: Face the pedal and place the palm of your hands on the edge of the chair with fingertips hanging off.  Step 1 foot on the pedal to press it down, step the other foot on.  Glue your heels together and lift so you are balancing on your tip toes.


  1. 1.   Inhale; Keep scapulae stable and round the trunk in a Pike position, scooping your abs. Float your head between your shoulders.


  1.  Exhale; with Powerhouse strength, lift pelvis up towards ceiling allowing weight to shift  into hands.  For 3 counts, lift pedal higher to top of its range.


*      Inhale; lower pedal down with control.  Bring pedal just above base (not quite to the floor), maintain the pike position.


4.  Complete 3-5 reps, lower pedal all the way down. Step 1 foot left; then the other, not letting the pedal rebound.


Visualization: Imagine your are floating upward – levitating.


Head to Toe Checklist:

* Maintain scapular stabilization to avoid sinking through shoulders

* Keep head  aligned with spine, think of dropping top of head toward floor

* Stabilize around shoulders and through arms to avoid losing control

* Don’t let your body rock or your hips move from side to side



Omit the 3 count pulses.

Pilates Exercise of the Month: Pike on Floor or Stretch Pumping Arms on the Wunda Chair




Purpose: This exercise increases flexibility in the hamstrings and lower back, plus  challenges the powerhouse.  It’s a great prep for the Mat exercise, Teaser.


Starting Position: Sit on the floor facing the chair, weight just back of sit-bones.  Place your feet on front edge of chair with legs together.  Arms long, reaching forward, palms on raised pedal.  Shoulders down and stabilized.


  1. Inhale;  Prepare.  Exhale; Nod your chin, increase spinal flexion to maintain C-curve.  Engage abdominals as you press the pedal down (arms can be slightly bent).


  1. Inhale; Lift the pedal back up with control, keep abs engaged.  Lengthen the spine  and release the pedal.  Exhale.


3.  Repeat 3-5 times.


Head to Toe Checklist:

*Maintain scapular stabilization to avoid neck, arm or shoulder tension

*Keep abdominals engaged throughout exercise

 *Keep arms in same position relative to torso so the pedal is depressed by abdominals, not      by pushing with the arms



Sit on a foam cushion or platform extender to decrease gripping in hips.