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Pilates Reformer- Follow the Order Or...

Every year, void of an apocalyptic pandemic, the holiday season brings joy, laughter and The Nutcracker. Theaters across the world are filled with patrons ready to hear the same Tchaikovsky frame the same plot. From stage to stage the choreography varies, yet everyone knows they are enjoying the Nutcracker.

In ballet, this is called Theme and Variations. Pick a famous ballet and there will be at least a dozen choreographers who have reimagined it.

Is Pilates any different?

Half of you are screaming "Hell yeah it's different! We do Joe's work by following the order, choreography, and cues as Joe would have done." The second half wholeheartedly believe that variations are part of the method. The devil’s advocate in me votes yes to both. Joe's method is THE WORK, but variations are the spice that push us to new depths within the work.

What is a variation?

1. Add moving parts

Think about your client’s movement potential within an exercise like Hundred. Are they rocking the move with control and focus? So… where could this go? Try lifting then scissoring the legs while still pumping the arms. More moving parts in and out of center will challenge core strength, integration and control. This type of variation is a great way to build strength for experienced movers.

2. Play with the rhythm of breath or movement quality

Keep your movers brains firing throughout the work by adjusting the rhythm with breath and timing of the movement. For example, controlling the rhythm of the extremities lowering is a simple way to vary choreography. Lowering the extremities in thirds, smooth and efficiently, or in short bursts with the strong brakes of an exhale forces the mind and body to stay engaged throughout the exercise. Full breath will definitely become more of an effort.

3. Take exercises to new apparatus

Exercises derive from the Contrology mat work, but Mr. Pilates created the apparatus as a way to translate (these) specific movement patterns. In The Hundred on the mat, we master resisting gravity. If you add an apparatus, like The Magic Circle, we can create a feedback chain of adduction or abduction that challenges the body. (In The Hundred) On the reformer, the resistance of the straps challenges the movement while stabilizing a moving carriage underneath you. The Hundred on the chair, reformer, or the ladder barrel is a whole different beast of an exercise (than on the mat).

Modifications exist to assist a client towards a gradual increase in range, strength and successful movement potential. Variations expand movement potential once fundamentals are mastered.

Why We Need Variations

Following the classical order is one way to do the work, but not the only way the work can or should be done. Pilates learners, we engage with variations as a way to grow our teacher brains and implement exciting sequences to challenge movers. Pilates movers and healers, approach variations at your own pace with the goal is to bridge a stronger mental and physical connection with the repertoire.

My fellow movers, shakers, and educators, come join me on the reformer, Friday April 16, 2021 at 1:00 p.m. EST and to apply these insights with my #FBomb Reformer and Variations Workshop!

The Reformer & Variations Workshop uses creative variations of classical exercises that will get us thinking and moving outside the box.

Join the stream live on Zoom with the #P804crew to attend the open Q&A discussion afterwards. Ask questions to make sure you feel prepared to showcase you're developing creative sequencing skills. The workshop replay will be available for purchase with a full year to observe, work it out and improve your Pilates practice.

If you don’t have a reformer, learners are always welcome to observe and ask questions as a part of the learning process.


The Pilates 804 Online Studio has apparatus workshops, Pilates principle courses, and virtual classes all at your fingertips to help you on your movement and teaching journey.

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