Some of us have started to bake bread. Some took up running. Jigsaw puzzles are hot, and some of us unexpectedly became teachers as we homeschooled our kids. Zoom happy hours have replaced the real thing and has become the new way for us all to connect. These unprecedented times have challenged us to stretch our skills and get creative. For those of us with families and jobs, time flies by and feels busy despite never leaving our homes, while those living alone may be struggling to ward off loneliness and boredom. We are all experiencing this pandemic in different ways, but if you are a Pilates enthusiast, we all have one thing in common and available to us: The Mat.
I will shamelessly admit it: I have always loved the Pilates mat exercises. Knowing that these original exercises created by Joseph Pilates are among the most difficult in the repertoire and that he created the apparatus to help us get strong enough to execute them correctly, I felt challenged to want to master them. To some degree or another, we most likely have a love/hate relationship with the mat work. We all have an apparatus we may “lean into.” The Reformer gives us that meditative focus of “working the springs.” Pressing out and resisting in, we crave that oppositional, eccentric length. Who does not love the challenge of the Chair, or the juicy stretches on the Cadillac that leave us wrung out like a wet noodle, yet feeling pulled together in the Powerhouse? Or the Pedi-Pole that has us walking out the door feeling three inches taller than when we came in? Or that intoxicating openness in our hips and shoulders after some time on the Barrels? We all know that impossible-to-disguise grin that comes over us every single time our hips come down off the Spine Corrector, and we rest our legs over the barrel, right? Yes, and I love all this too, but the Mat remains my first love.
This time at home has reminded me of a quotation that has guided my practice, and I offer it as inspiration:
“Study carefully. Do not sacrifice knowledge in favor of speed in building your solid exercise regime on the foundation of Contrology.”
We may not be able to (or feel comfortable) entering the studio with all the apparatus we crave YET, but we do have the Mat. It is time to move the coffee table over, spread out the Mat, and commit to the basics. This is the time to “study carefully.” I have this idea: What if we take each of the six principles of classical Pilates and apply them to every exercise in the Basic Mat?
We know the six principles in the classical system to be Centering, Concentration, Control, Breath, Precision, and Flow. We also know the Basic Mat to consist of the following exercises:
- The Hundred
- The Roll-Up
- Leg Circles
- Rolling Like a Ball
- Single-Leg Stretch
- Double Leg Stretch
- Spine Stretch Forward
Now we have got a reliable approach to guide us to “study carefully.” Watch this video as a demonstration. We may be stuck at home but consider it an opportunity. Are you ready to see what you can discover in the basics? Go!