Don’t Go Higher-Go Deeper!

The other day I was mentoring a wonderful teacher and she asked what she could do to add further intensity and challenge to her Mat programme to make sure her clients do not get bored. My answer was,

“You don’t need to go higher, you need to go deeper”

c33686553c74dfd8b1571643b5a12d48It struck me that this is the essence of Pilates which makes it so different from other forms of exercise. Understanding this is what differentiates a beginner from an intermediate practitioner

Let’s take the Roll Up. Initially we focus on the ability to flex through the spine sequentially as we roll up with control and fluidity. So any beginner with a fairly good level of spinal mobility can do this exercise, does that mean they fully understand the complexity of the move? For clients who have been attending our classes but are unable to perform this move, we may highlight restrictions in the lumbar spine or hip flexors and create a programme to enhance movement in these areas so that eventually they can Roll Up with success. But we shouldn’t leave it there! Now is the time to go deeper!

Understanding Points of Stability  

A fundamental element of all  Pilates exercises is the ability to anchor one area whilst moving another.

The greater the point of stability, the greater the potential for articulation.

In the Roll Up, the points of stability are the legs, giving us a large area to stabilise from to help create greater spinal articulation. So look deeper- does the client use the legs to create a strong base? Can the feet stay flexed with the little toe in line with the big toe? Can the legs stay together with the inner thighs connected? Do the hips open easily and the legs stay still?

Get The Two-Way Stretch

It’s all about oppositional pull

Now we are going into the intermediate realms! As the client rolls up can they reach with the fingertips and through the heels whilst drawing in the opposite direction with the navel to really create oppositional pull and space through the spine, further increasing the opening of the whole back line?

When these deeper elements are achieved in the client’s movement we see and feel the true magic! Now we are ready to higher or deeper still!!!

If you have enjoyed this please join us for The Moves workshop on 21st January where we will go deeper into the whole Mat Repertoire. For more information please click here.


One year ago! Where are they now??

As the final assessments are completed for the Spring Matwork10417597_781953875257664_1386087093206663367_n 2016 group, I was lucky enough to catch up with several of the 2015 Matwork graduates to discover how their Pilates classes, businesses and studios have been developing and flourishing.

Louisa Hughes-Freeman, The Pilates Studio New Forest.

image2.PNGOne year on….I can’t believe it, time really does fly when you are having fun! Training to teach Pilates with Joanne Cobbe of JPilates was the best decision that I have ever made (apart from my children)!  I have a job that I absolutely love and have so many amazing clients.  It’s the perfect career for me, as I can work my classes around the children.  I set up my  own studio and am running 14 classes each week with 9-10 people in each class, but I have slotted them into my day to work around me. I’ve recently started teaching Barre Pilates (I also trained to do this with Jo) and I have put on 2 classes each week.  I love teaching Barre, it is a high intensity exercise done to music.  It’s really tough but you get results quickly and you have a lot of fun at the same time! My friends can see how happy my job makes me, so much so that one of them has recently signed up to train under Jo!  I would recommend this career to anyone thinking about training.

Amy Holmes, Saffron Pilates
Wow, one year on and so much has changed! When I started my training with Jo I knew I loved Pilates but I had no idea where it was going to take me.Since qualifying I have trained in barre, pre and post natal, essential and progressive reformer and can’t wait for the convention. Just over a month ago I after a lot of umming and ahhing I quit my full time corporate job in wine to teach Pilates full time. I can’t pretend there haven’t been sleepless nights and I’m sure there will be more but it was definitely one of the best decisions I’ve made.  I am now teaching at 3 different studios as well as running my own classes in Saffron Walden and I love it. Who knows what will happen in the next year!

Emily Roberts, Emily Roberts Fitness
unnamedWhen I decided to do the Level 3 Pilates course with JPilates one year ago I had only taken part in a few Pilates classes and I was fairly naive to the many benefits that Pilates can offer you. During the course I learnt in depth about the original 34 Pilates exercises and how to move my body with more control. We learnt about our limitations and how to correct technique in minute detail. The biggest learning curve for me was how to achieve greater mobility through the spine. The knowledge given to us on the course was extremely fascinating and invaluable and I left the course feeling confident to teach Pilates. Over time I have slowly developed my own style and now, having set up three private classes with my own equipment and four classes within gyms I am at the point where I would like to further my training and keep growing as an instructor. I get a great deal of job satisfaction from teaching Pilates and I have also loved introducing my friends and family to it. It is my strong belief that it should be part of everyone’s lifestyle to ensure a healthy mind and body.

Rose Green, Rose Green Pilates
I aStylistm self emloyed and alongside my office sustainability consulting work have for the last year been working in London 1) at a physiotherapy studio in Camden, 2) doing staff classes at the British Library, and 3) teaching corporate classes (regular and one off) with Stretching the City across central London. I have just moved to Wiltshire into an army barracks and will soon start teaching at the camp gym. There are 300 people living on camp, as well as all of the hundreds that work here (but don’t live on site) and I have already had masses of people desperate for me to start teaching as soon as possible because they want to come to the classes! The Pre & Post Natal course I did with JPilates last year is about to come in VERY handy! In due course I will also contact studios in Salisbury and plan to start advertising for private classes at people’s homes. I am still doing part time consulting work, so will fit the consulting and Pilates around each other.
Pilates has had a huge impact on my life – before qualifying and since. My own personal practice has kept me strong and able to do the other things I love doing (boxing, running, kitesurfing) and has helped me manage various injuries on a day to day basis. Teaching has been the most incredible experience – developing relationships with clients, being able to help them with such a range of different needs, seeing others enthuse about pilates when you mention you teach, seeing clients progress in their capabilities, strength, flexibility. And it has made my own practice so much better as I came to understand better what the exercises were trying to achieve. It’s been such fun teaching a really wide range of people, from those with very specific and/or serious injuries they’re recovering from at the physiotherapy clinic, to young and energetic professionals at a trendy tech company, to the hilarious and chatty regulars at the British Library.

Sue Giltrane, SG Fitness Chelmsford
I can’t believe it’s only been a year wow , I actually feel as if I’ve been teaching Pilates a lot longer ! I’m now running 3 fully subscribed Pilates classes a week in Writtle with a waiting list for the evening sessions.  My husband has built a small summer house in the garden of which I use for 1-1 or 2-1 private sessions. Pilates has helped me with every client I have,  1-1 personal training clients and also my boot camp clients as I incorporate Pilates who ever I teach. I have found teaching Pilates so rewarding as Pilates is for everyone , the injured , the old , the less mobile , the sports person etc. I have made people feel better with there aches and pains and have very happy clients with what results they are getting from Pilates.
For full details on all out teacher training courses and workshops please click here

The Danger Of Pilates

images-16Beware! There is something dangerous about Pilates. Could it be one of the moves that should never be taught? Is it a spinal position that should be avoided at all costs? Is it a certain condition which is contraindicated for all exercises? No, it is a  thankfully rare species of Pilates instructor known as the Underminer.

The Underminer can be easily identified by several traits. They openly criticise of other instructors and constantly question other instructors’ training history. They can be seen aggressively policing other instructors’ posts on social media, seeking to belittle them. They badger you to join their groups and Associations and try to create elite gangs where entry requirements are years and years of training under their approval. Yet the most revealing aspect is their complete lack of professional respect and courtesy which is frankly jaw-dropping!

The Underminer can sometimes appear when you begin to teach a new class in what they perceive as their territory. This is where they may feel threatened and concerned that the competition may affect their business and so begin to question your reputation. Admittedly we all can feel this way when new classes open, but how we react is what identifies us. If you find yourself in this position, I would suggest meeting for a coffee and discuss how you can mutually help each other by referrals and cover classes.

Social media forums seem to be the breeding ground of the Underminers  where they feel it is their right to bully, badger and criticise other instructors.

In an attempt to better understand this species of instructor, I try to look at their motivation in behaving in this way. One reason is the feeling of being threatened by other instructors. Another reason is simply egotistical. They have embarked on a global dominance of the Pilates world and seek to turn all instructors to their elite beliefs and style of teaching. Or is it simply financial? They want to gain as much financial benefit from training instructors as possible by shrouding the study of Pilates in mystery.  Benjamin Degenhardt recently posted,

“I often struggle being part of an industry that is trying its very hardest to make more of this thing called “Pilates” than it was designed to be: an approach to physical fitness and health that is inherently and utterly… simple.”

and I couldn’t agree more. This is not to say we never stop learning and our understanding of this amazing Method is a constant journey with revelations unfolding with each client we teach and every workshop we attend. But rather that no instructor should be judged unworthy or not capable simply on the stage of the journey they are at.

So how should we  deal with the Underminer on social media forumsPersonally I strenuously avoid any contact with them wherever possible. I refuse to engage with them and I believe that clients and other Pilates instructors can clearly see their true nature. If it does become unavoidable, I ask them to have a direct, personal  chat with me to discuss their comments and questions and I generally find with a quietly muttered “There’s no need, thank you” they tend to scurry away.

If you are not already a member of the Underminer-free JPilates Forum on Facebook we would love to welcome you. It is incredibly supportive and friendly and is open to Pilates instructors from all training backgrounds. To join please click here

Pilates and Stroke Survivors-An Inspiration

831f5e8ed5ac74cbf8fe5dee48d9fb5dThe ability of Pilates to completely change and improve someone’s quality of life never ceases to amaze me. It is a true testament to the life-long dedication that Joe Pilates gave to his method that it can improve and enhance the ability to move and function regardless of limitations.

In my job as a Pilates instructor, I have met some truly inspirational and courageous people. One of them is my client, Sam. I first met Sam, a 40-year-old stroke survivor at Akasha Wellness last November about 8 months following her stroke. I had received a short email from her neurological physiotherapist explaining that she had weakness in her right hip and trunk and Pilates would help improve her static and dynamic posture. As with all conditions and injuries, it is only when we actually meet and see the client that we can fully understand and consider their exercise programme as no written referral notes can fully detail the extent and effect on the individual.

Sam was driven to the studio by a friend as she was unable to drive herself. She walked with a stick as she suffered from a lack of strength and mobility in her right leg with paralysis in her right arm. Both her right foot and hand were tightly curled with a complete lack of sensation. Sam could not move either limb unaided. Due to the stroke, Sam found it difficult to speak and express herself. As Sam had led an incredibly active life, swimming, horse-riding, tennis and running, the limitations she now faced made her  feel extremely frustrated, angry and helpless.

Pilates was obviously going to be highly beneficial for Sam. Nobel prize recipient Dr Roger Sperry said that the spine is the motor that drives the brain. According to his research,

“90% of the stimulation and nutrition to the brain is generated by movement of the spine”

Not only would the moves stimulate the brain’s function and improve her strength and mobility but just as importantly, Pilates would encourage her to trust and appreciate again her body and mind.

Using the Reformer and closed kinetic chain exercises has been excellent for Sam as it allows her to push and pull against the apparatus, giving her enhanced feedback and deeper connection with her body. Constant reassurance is needed as Sam has lost confidence in her body and its movement.

After just a few sessions, Sam’s foot and toes began to uncurl. By the end of each session the foot would be glowing with warmth and blood flow whereas at the start it was white and cold. Over the months Sam  stopped using the stick and began to drive herself again, which was a huge step in her independence. She was able to now move the leg unaided into positions.

With increased confidence Sam’s progress has been fantastic. Her speech is much more fluid and spontaneous and her gait more balanced. She is incredibly strong in her abdominals and back and each session I am continually inspired by her dedication and determination. I hope one day soon Sam will join in the group sessions.

Working with Sam has been a truly incredible experience for me as an instructor, further proving how Pilates can and does help everyone regardless of injury, age or medical conditions.

Be a little more serious and a lot less solemn!

This week I found myself flicking through a gardening images-15magazine in a waiting room, (not my usual reading material but there was not much else on offer!) and I came across an article which really struck a chord with me and my thoughts on some aspects of the Pilates industry.

The writer, Monty Don, was proposing that gardeners should be more serious and much less solemn  and I could see how his thoughts could definitely be also applied to some Pilates instructors, especially those who are incredibly vocal on various social media sites and forums.

“Seriousness underpins any endeavour worth doing and every life worth living. But whereas seriousness can be worn lightly, with grace and wit, solemnity carries with it the dead hand of the pedant and killjoy”

This is no more true when reading some of the comments and criticisms of those instructors who see themselves as being superior either in their training or knowledge to other fellow instructors. Sometimes Pilates just takes itself far to solemnly!

As Monty says,

“There is a time and place for solemnity. It is appropriate for births, funerals and grand occasions of state.”

whereas being serious in our work shows a mark of respect for the Method, our clients and each other. It  still encourages discussion, healthy debate and (fingers crossed) a little  humour without producing the fear of reprisal and ostracism from the very community which should inspire and encourage us.

It is important to remember that as human beings we live in pursuit of happiness, of enjoyment. For us as Pilates instructors, this means encouraging the joy in mindful movement, the sense of well-being and health in a vibrant yet serious environment not only in our classes but in the Pilates world we live in.

So the only question now is do I subscribe to Gardeners World!

The Pilates Bean Bag Roll-up Device

IMG_0053Joseph Pilates was undoubtedly an inventor and a genius! He was definitely at least 50 years ahead of his time as so many people say. How did he know to create a piece of equipment to alleviate stressed out wrists, fingers, elbows and the upper body from hand-held devices and everyday living? This simple piece of equipment is fantastic for targeting those issues from carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritic fingers, tennis elbow to frozen shoulder.

Instructions on how to use the Bean Bag Roll-up Device

1. Stand in Pilates stance, heels pressed together, toes pointing slightly outward or parallel with big toe knuckles together, depending on the needs of your client.

2. Stand tall, lengthening through the spine, focusing on each body segment being lifted and correctly placed over the one below.

3. Roll up the bag so it hangs just below the dowel. Hold the dowel in both hands straight out in front of you at shoulder height. Do not lock your elbows. Relax through the shoulders having a sense of the arms originating from the mid back.

4. Open the fingers of one hand, and point them toward the ceiling, wrist flexed backward as far as you can. The opposite hand grasps the dowel, fingers wrapped around it, wrist fully extended with knuckles facing the floor.

5. Slowly unwind the bag toward the floor, alternating the hand grasp between (a) open fingers pointing upward with flexed wrist and (b) grasped hand reaching downward in full wrist extension. Maximize the full flexion and extension of each wrist, and maintain good whole-body form from head to toe. Don’t forget to breathe fully in and out.

6. Once your bag reaches the floor, reverse the process and rewind back to the start position. Maintain full wrist flexion and extension on each move, and also maintain the correct body stance.

Note: If the exercise is too difficult, reduce the starting weight, and/or limit the length of the cord, so you unwind and rewind over a smaller distance. Concentrate on perfect whole-body form.

To increase the challenge, stand on a stair or a stool so you have to unwind and rewind over a greater distance. Begin with one full repetition, and then gradually add more weight. Work up to three full repetitions over time.

Here is also a short video demonstrating its use.

The JPilates Bean Bag Roll-up Devices are available to buy for £20 each (+postage). Please contact for more details