I love pizza, and I could eat it almost every day. But I don’t want to eat the exact same pizza every day – if I did, I wouldn’t love it as much. Too much of the same makes anything less interesting. In the end, I always come back to my favorite Neapolitan-style pizza Margherita, and that is the pie that all others are judged against. I feel the same way about my Pilates Mat.
I have been teaching a Pilates Mat class on the same day and time in the same studio for the past 12 years. To this day, I am always surprised (and grateful) that people show up week after week, month after month, and year after year. They continue to progress and get better, which is very rewarding to witness in that environment. The concept of group fitness (perhaps particularly in a health club) thrives on new and different with lots of bells and whistles. I teach mostly without props and without music – the total opposite. Yet they still come…. or maybe that is why they come.
As a classically trained teacher, I believe deeply in the integrity of the sequence. I’ve learned to use it as my personal teaching trademark, the foundation of every class I teach. Strangely, the sameness is what makes it unique. Adding, subtracting, creating themes, changing the orientation of the room, translating exercises from other equipment keep us engaged. Still, we always come back to the same exercises. The trick is to create a challenging workout that feels ‘new’; somehow unique, yet familiar.
The classical Pilates Mat sequence is my favorite recipe, with so many ways to spice it up to keep it fresh and fun. Why not go from Rolling like a Ball into Teaser? Or sneak the Tree in before Open Leg Rocker? Speaking of Open Leg Rocker, why not do a single-leg Rocker from that Tree and take that into Single Straight Leg Stretch? Another nice combo is Neck Pull into Jackknife into Boomerang. Once you start playing around with exercises, the Pilates that lives in your teacher’s body just comes out – it intrinsically knows what it wants to do next. Sometimes the best classes are improv (although I do always recommend some preparation for teaching classes).
But for my own practice, I always Return to Life with Joseph Pilates 34 exercises, and it feels like coming home. After all these years of practicing, it has become a safe haven where I can feel the work and tune into my body without judging – a moving meditation. Thirty-four exercises, 30 minutes, me, and the mat, that’s all I need