Tag: Private Pilates Sessions

Pilates Exercise of the Month: Teaser 1

Purpose: Humorously referred to as “the mother of all sit-ups”, the Teaser tests your powerhouse control to the fullest. At the peak of the exercise, momentarily hold the position, “teasing” the balance.

  1. Lie on your back with legs extended at a 45 degree angle. Heels are together and toes turned out slightly. Stretch your arms overhead by your ears. Don’t allow your back to arch or your ribs to pop out.
  2. Maintain the scoop; inhale; raise your arms, head and shoulders in sequence, peeling the upper body up off the mat vertebra by vertebra. The chin is toward the chest. The fingers reach for the toes.
  3. Hold the “V” position, balancing on your tailbone. Exhale; begin rolling your spine back down to the mat.
  4. When your head has touched the mat, stretch arms overhead to the starting position and repeat 3-5 times; inhaling as you float up; exhaling as you peel down.

Visualization: As you roll down, imagine each vertebra touching the mat the way your fingers travel on the keys of a piano.

Checklist: Breathe during the exercise or you will not be using your muscles efficiently. Don’t lower legs past the point of control. If you feel back discomfort, raise legs up to the ceiling. Take your time, relax your mind and find your rhythm as you go.

Note: If you suffer from a stiff spine, perform the exercise with your feet against a wall.

Modified Leg Position: If you have difficulty sitting up all the way, slightly bend the knees, keeping the toes higher than the knees, as you lift and lower the body.

Pilates Exercise of the Month: Neck Pull

Strengthens abdominals in shortened as well as lengthen positions, stretches hamstrings, articulates spine and improves posture.

  1. 1. Lie on back with your hands layered behind your head, elbows wide. Legs are straight out on mat; hip width apart; feet flexed.
  2. 2. Inhale, to begin curling forward. Draw the weight of your head forward and round up sequentially – head, shoulders, ribs and finally pelvis. Think of “peeling” your self up off the mat as you curl forward; elbows wide.
  3. 3. Exhale, as upper body folds over legs, elbows still wide, abs scooped in, legs firmly anchored on mat, toes pointed up.
  4. 4. Inhale, to roll up tall to a seated position, as if “pressing against an imaginary wall behind you”. Remember to lift up- not back.
  5. 5. Exhale, as you slightly tuck your tailbone underneath you and begin slowly rolling your spine, vertebra by vertebra, back down to the mat.

Repeat 5-8 times

Head to Toe Checklist:

  • Remain fixed in the lower body. Imagine your feet are two lead weights that can’t be budged.
  • Avoid letting abs bulge out or legs rise off the mat.
  • Keep elbows wide; never tug on neck, let the powerhouse do the work.
  • Articulate your spine as you peel off the mat, press each vertebra into the mat on the way down.

If you have a stiff or weak back or difficulty articulating through the spine, avoid the exercise.


  1. Hand positon #1: Crawl your hands up your legs as you round up. Keep knees soft and heels pressed to mat.
  2. Hand position #2: Fold your arms in around your head.
  3. Or combine the two modifications, walking your hands up your legs as you round up and placing them behind your head to lower down.

Debunking Pilates Myths

It’s expensive
A one-on-one session is a great way to start your Pilates training, but when you learn your routine, you can work out with a partner or small group to cut costs.

It’s only for women
Joseph Pilates was a man, and he created a system of exercise meant for every body, male or female. Pilates requires concentration, focus, coordination and agility.

It’s repetitive
Pilates builds a foundation of core strength, and that requires some deep, precise, consistent work. Only after your core is established and muscles correctly firing can you move on to the more complicated, advanced Pilates exercises. So yes, Pilates can seem repetitive in the beginning. But be patient! Your repertoire will expand as you become stronger and are able to demonstrate control in your body.

It’s only for dancers
Joseph Pilates was not a dancer; he was a boxer and wrestler, studied yoga and gymnastics. When Joseph and his wife Clara set up shop in New York City, George Balanchine sent many dancers to Pilates to rehabilitate their ballet injuries. The news of a workout that promoted strength with stretch spread quickly through the dance community, and has been popular ever since. However, Pilates is beneficial for all populations.

It’s easy
Pilates can be modified to accommodate nearly any injury, but true Pilates, once the basic concepts are understood, is challenging to the most fit person.

Can Pilates Make You Taller?

Can Pilates really make you taller? According to SAC member Lenell Nussbaum the answer to this question is yes!

Lenell began Pilates a couple of years ago. She experienced regular back pain due to scoliosis and decided to give Pilates a try.

“The biggest change is that my back is no longer a pain issue. The by-product is that I am taller!” said Lenell.

Pilates works in several magnitudes – twisting, bending and extending – to strengthen the “powerhouse”, the muscles that support your spine. More space between the vertebrae is created by working and articulating the space in these magnitudes, thus lengthening your spine, improving your posture and in essence making you taller.

“I have ‘powerhouse’ muscles that didn’t know they were supposed to be the powerhouse. Really now: muscles on the front side of my spine? I was confident my gene pool had omitted them. Although I have always preferred doing things that I do well, it was clear I needed to do something that was difficult for me: find these muscles and engage them.”

Pilates exercises are specifically designed to reach and engage the “core” or “powerhouse” muscles. Exercises such as spine stretch forward on the mat, short spine on the reformer and push the pedal down on the wunda chair strengthen the muscles surrounding the spine, therefore creating support for the spine allowing you to stand more erect. The extra space created by stretching the spine will actually lengthen the spine and reduce pain caused by poor posture or weak muscles.

“My favorite aspect of Pilates is hanging upside down by my ankles! It offers my crooked back great relief. It feels like gravity is finally on my side. I also like short spine, where is get to turn upside down on the reformer. If gravity helps me stretch the spine, apparently the exercises help me strengthen the muscles in between to retain some of the space. I’ve located several of those muscles I didn’t know I had. We’re getting to know each other.”

Lenell has grown 1.5 inches since starting Pilates and is now living pain free!

Pilates Exercise of the Month: Swan Dive

The Swan Dive strengthens the muscles of the back and stretches the hip flexors. This is an intermediate/advanced exercise performed on the Pilates Ladder Barrel. A SAC Certified Pilates Instructor should assist with this exercise.

Starting Position:
Lie prone (on stomach) with upper body draped over the barrel. Arms are long. Knees are bent. The balls of the feet are on 1 rung and the heels on the rung above; heels together toes apart. (V position)

  1. Inhale, keep heels together; lift upper body off barrel, forming 1 long line from feet to head (dart position); reach arms long, palms down. Legs will straighten.
  2. Exhale, lift upper body even more– reaching chest and arms up toward the ceiling forming an arc. Bend knees, keep thighs pressing against barrel. Arms open slightly; turning palms to face each other.
  3. Inhale, straighten legs, lowering and lengthening the upper body to the dart position, reaching arms long— continuing the long line, palms turn down.
  4. Exhale, bend knees, and lower body to starting position.
  5. Complete 3 sets.

Come to the longest line possible in dart position before lifting upper body into extension.
Engaging abs is critical in order to protect the back and achieve the arc shape.
Bending knees is important to avoid overextension of the lower back.

Lengthen out to the dart position only, return to the starting position.