October 25, 2017

What would happen if …?

By Sunni Almond


What would happen if … you dropped your risers (you know, the things that stick up at the back end of your reformer that hold the ropes that attach to your handles or loops) or you did your Hundred on the Reformer with the long loops, or Short Spine with the short loops, or if you didn’t go all the way out when doing the Long Stretch Series, and you pushed out with low abdominals and your feet, not your arms?

Or get crazy and just STOP and articulate your spine in the smallest space you can, because even on an 80-inch reformer, you shouldn’t use up all the space doing Semi Circle.  How about if when you did the Wall Series, rather than walking your feet away from the wall, you instead let your back be against the wall (meaning you walked right up to the wall and used your abdominals to move your spine closer to the wall)? You see, I read on many Pilates forums that people are looking for variety.  They ask such things as, “How do I add interest? How do I use my creativity? How do I make this exercise more fun? How do I keep my group classes entertaining?  Can we put a straw in our cabernet and sip with every push up? [That, of course, would be Drinkilates™.]”


Well, pretend your reformer foot bar is only 20” wide.  What if you marked it there and tried things in that more narrow position?  For example, what if you did your Bottom Lift with your arches in the narrower position, kept your low back on the carriage and really did just lift your bottom?

I think you can add variety in the Stomach Massage if you resist the lowering of the heels while pressing the carriage back out? OR get wild and resist the springs on the return during Footwork? What if your ladder barrel DID NOT ADJUST (yeah – even for the guys!! Gentlemen, a well-placed pad may work wonders here)? Are all these things kind of shocking?

What IF the variety you are looking for already exists? You see, I think that Pilates done in a way that encompasses going back to its roots provides the variety you seek.

There is a general myth in our community that in ‘classical’, ‘authentic’, ‘original’ Pilates (whatever you choose to call it), there is a specific order to a workout, so there must not be any variety. There is a general sense that the ‘classical’ is way too challenging even for the strongest mover, so it isn’t available to everybody. The myth continues, saying people with injuries or issues are not suited for classical Pilates…. LIES!!! We are not doctors (unless we are), so after someone has been released from PT, we work with their strengths while the injury heals, we don’t poke the inflamed bear or do anything with the injured area. It gets to rest and heal. WE don’t rehab them, they rehab by staying strong around the injury, the other stuff gets used while we wait. Then the injured part is slowly brought back in as the person gets stronger.

So, I ask you, the variety seekers … do you actually believe this? Were you told this or did you decide on your own?  Because, you see, I encourage you to examine your beliefs.

Let’s debunk the myths!! Have you heard about Eve Gentry – a Pilates Elder? No? Well I invite you to take a peek here:  About Eve Gentry on Pilates Anytime. If you don’t know the story, Eve Gentry was a modern dancer and had the misfortune of breast cancer.  The double mastectomy was incredibly disfiguring in those days, and she and Joe worked tirelessly to get her back to health, They retrained her muscles to do double duty and take their job plus the jobs of newly missing pieces.  The medical community didn’t believe the results, so they did video of her topless to show how she had healed. Lots of Pre-Pilates exercises came from their work. The doctors were so impressed with the rehab he did with Eve that Joe was invited to give a presentation about his method to a group of physicians. Alas, when they found out that he didn’t have an “alphabet soup” after his name, they decided not to do it. Joe was devastated by that.

I’m another example. I’ve broken 3 bones in the last 8 years, two requiring surgery. Pilates helped me get full function again.

SOOOOO, you want variety? I will give you variety. Let me guide you through the Short Spine on the Reformer:

To start, instead of hip hinging into your short spine using the long loops, try lifting of the legs almost from 45 degrees with the SHORT loops. (Right after you step into the short loops, you press out into a frog, and from there scoop from your deepest lowest abdominals to lift the legs up and ‘paint the ceiling’ in one smooth move with your toes as they move overhead)


Next, when bending your legs down, keep the connection between your seat and your heels as the knees bend at the shoulder blocks, keeping them inside your frame with your toes hovering over your eyes.

Legs lengthen as you roll your spine to the mat and frog press out to start over again without stopping before peeling back up off the carriage.

Take a hint from me, variety isn’t about making things up unnecessarily, it’s about using your tools well. Get out of your own box and have a look at the tools that have been around for a long time. If you are not sure about all that I am saying, let me refer you to a ‘classical studio’. Alternatively, stop by ‘ Going More Joe’ on Facebook and have a look around.  It is a friendly forum where contemporary, evolved, modern Pilates teachers can go for a taste of “as close to the ‘original’ deal” as we can do in a study group online. Since none of us worked with Joe, but Romana had the system handed off to her, and she has added some things for the dancers, we do have Francene Perel as a fact checker, because she learned Pilates from Joe’s niece, Mary Pilates, and she keeps us honest 😉

Get all the variety you need, from the work that’s already there, TRUST ME, there’s enough stuff to keep you busy for another lifetime of teaching.

PS: I’ll be teaching in The Canary Islands in February, 2018.  Check it out here:  http://www.azulfit.com/retreats/pilates-retreat-in-spain/ and take a winter Pilates vacation!


Sunni Almond is a comprehensively trained classical Pilates teacher, she has been teaching for nearly 20 years, and remains a student studying with the most gifted and solidly trained classical teachers. She is a published author with many articles in PilatesIntel, PilatesGlossy, and The Pilates Bridge, a member of the PTA, Pilates Teachers Association. Holds a cert in Pilates for Breast Cancer, and Pilates for MS and other Neurological Conditions..
Website: www.temeculapilates.com