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Contrology practice: How Joe intended it?

Posted: Sun Aug 09, 2020 3:13 pm
by Joao

I've always had this question, but I haven't found a clear answer yet. The reason I'm posting this here is because on the Mat subchapter, Javier says that too often teachers don't practice the Mat enough, or are heavily relying on it. I can relate to the latter, since due to this pandemic I'm not on the Studio everyday anymore, so the Mat - in conjunction with my Spine Corrector, which I have in my home - became my go-to workout for about 70% of my weekly workouts.

So, without further ado, what Joe recommended back then to his students? How many times a week (considering workouts at the studio plus the homework), and how much should them practice on the apparatus and how much on the mat? I've heard something on the lines of 3-4 full workouts on apparatus plus at least 10 minutes a day of Matwork. Is this correct?

Also, is it true that the Reformer were always done and the other apparatuses (including the chairs and the trap table) served only to work on "special needs"?

PS: I know the Mat itself is an apparatus, but since English is not my main language, I couldn't think of any other way to make myself clear :)

Thanks in advance,

Re: Contrology practice: How Joe intended it?

Posted: Tue Aug 11, 2020 8:57 pm
by Javier
Hello Joao.
While it may sound like a complicated question, it is simple.
Needless to say that during this time many people do not have access to their studio/all pieces of equipment so we all overdo whatever we can. It is what it is, and we try to make the most of it.
Before continuing on the question of "Joseph's intentions" I would like to point out that every major piece of equipment -Reformer, Tables (including Cadillac), Wunda, Bed, Tower (Guillotine), Spine Corrector- has an order regardless of what various schools may say
Some have more than one order because you may have a lengthy "workout" which includes plenty of exercises and also have a shorter version (like the "Daily Dozen" which is a mini workout to be done on the days 'between' workouts (You can already see where I am going with this... ;) )
Like most studios nowadays, Joseph had clients who needed attention due to their condition/injuries and clients who would come for a workout and progress naturally.
You, if healthy, started right away learning a few exercises in various pieces of equipment. You didn't learn the whole Reformer and then continue to learn the Mat... Yes, the Reformer was the hub, but Joseph would gladly sell you a Chair for you to do full workouts ("A gym in every home" was the advertising) and would install a pseudo tower in your home in a door frame if requested. Most trainers do NOT KNOW those orders, so they cover it up by describing them as "supplementary equipment". It is a normal an "accepted" thing.
You were supposed to do 3 full workouts. Supplemented with mat or "Daily Dozen" workouts like the one on the Bench Mat, Spine Corrector or Bednasium.
In my interviews it became clear that you learned as you could perform: that is, he taught you more if you could handle it or if he thought you needed it. He dared more than the other trainers in the studio, but that is normal since he is the boss. It was a long journey. As I said many times, he thought you should practice 10 years before teaching. You had time to cover the material as the material changed you. Then you could share the changes because you understood what the exercises produced. That is why you had time to cover the different pieces of equipment.
Yes, you learned the method as you personally needed it but you could end up knowing a lot if you stuck with it.
Nowadays most people go the other way around: they become trainers while still not having experienced the full "Pilates experience". It is ok but it does raise two problems: lack of knowledge because one hasn't really grasped certain aspects and, the bigger problem, way too many become teachers of trainers before finishing their own trajectory. Then they cover the fact that they don't know -or worse, they don't want to share- something by saying really uneducated and unfounded things like: "there is no order on the Wunda/Table/Guillotine" and they are just to work on "special needs" like the clients are sick or something.
The Reformer will always be king in terms of "moving" because it moves the most. Clients fall in LOVE with the Wunda because it is the workout where they stand and feel active the most (the workout with the most varied positions and the least prone) and the Table is the king in sheer number of exercises.
Joseph wanted you to achieve a lot but most people -and there is nothing wrong with this- are not so interested or want to spend the time and energy on it. It is not a question of what Joseph wanted but what do you want? If you want to cover the whole method is going to be very different than if you just want to 'get fitter'. Most importantly, you have to have very clear that what you want is not the method itself but what is the method going to help you achieve?
Sorry for the long answer: the short version: Joseph wanted people to work out. Some love it every day, some just once a week. He believed in moderation (no muscle pain, for example) but he also believed, as do I and any person who ever achieved anything of worth, in patience and perseverance.

Stay healthy but above all stay happy!!!

Re: Contrology practice: How Joe intended it?

Posted: Wed Aug 12, 2020 3:18 pm
by Joao
Hello, Javier!

Thanks for your welcome and your very throughout answer!

If you don't mind, I wish to continue with a few more questions about the way Joe trained his clients.

Recently, a man called John Howard released a book of his own memories of Joseph Pilates. The book is called "Caged Lion", and the introductory part is available at Amazon. In this part, he described how was the first class he took with Joe. He was very specific at certain moments, and one of these caught my attention: he said that Joseph guided the breathing patterns of various exercises, and basically he insisted on inhaling while opening the chest and exhaling closing the chest. However, in my training I was told that there were certain "breathing" exercises (like Breathing on the Cadillac, or the Double Leg Stretch on the mat) that had the breathing pattern within the choreography, and all the other exercises should be executed with natural breathing, with an emphasis on a deeper breath cycle.

So, how does the breathing works on Contrology? It was something that was learned in conjunction with every movement? It was part of choreography?


Re: Contrology practice: How Joe intended it?

Posted: Wed Aug 12, 2020 3:44 pm
by Joao
I am sorry to post twice in a row, but I don't think I answered you sufficiently! :lol:

Honestly, I think 10 years of disciplined training is fair for such a complete Method/System of exercises. I think the "Pilates Body" (weird expression, but I couldn't think of anything better :P) shows up when you have more or less that much experience. I don't know any teacher out there that "has" the work within his/her body with less than about 10 years of training and teaching.

There is also another problem I personally face, which is investment that is required for having a Full Studio. I chose to be fully trained in the method (I finished my Teacher Training on March/2020) before having lots of equipment. Currently, my partner and I are proud owners of a pair of Reformers, portable mats, Wunda chairs, Spine Correctors and a few accessories. We were talking this very morning of how difficult it is to have under your belt the full repertoire, because most people (including us) cannot have all the apparatus right away. So, we'll probably forget a few things, which will have to be reviewed/relearned through continuous education.

I wholeheartedly agree with you regarding being teacher of trainers. For example, I don't see myself teaching other people too soon, and I always felt that there is a lot to be done in my own body and in my students' bodies before attempting to prepare other professionals to take such responsibility. And I don't rush: I'm taking my time, training and teaching as much as I can. When the time to pass the knowledge forward comes, I will know.

Like my Teacher says: you have to love the path, not the finish line. I think he is onto something, isn't he? ;)

Kind regards,

Re: Contrology practice: How Joe intended it?

Posted: Wed Aug 12, 2020 5:04 pm
by Javier
Hello Joao,
Yes, I know the book and John, and I have had the pleasure of commenting the book with him too.
While you may be surprised that Joseph asked him to breath precisely with the movements it should really not come as a surprise to you. We all learned those breathings patterns. I am a little in shock that you found it to be 'news'. I don't mean anything against you! Really. But I didn't know how low the educations have gotten.
I can think of 2 things: you didn't pay attention to your trainer when they specified the breathing patterns in the exercises (which your trainers should have picked up when they examined you) or, you are due a full refund of the money you paid for your education, because that statement is nothing short of scandalous.
Seriously, that is what I meant with "teacher trainers" not being up to the task... Only one exercise in the Mat has "natural breathing" and that is the Swimming (and it makes total sense because you are on your tummy with your arms seriously hampering your breathing ability) anyone who states that the exercises in general don't have a breathing pattern should not be educating anyone -even for free- until they commit themselves to actually learning what they claim to know. They shouldn't even be training clients, let alone, train others on how to train. Same goes for equipment. No one should really host an education unless they are providing the students with every piece of equipment. I don't think you should have to go to a continuing education for it. Not for the breathing patterns or to finish learning the method. You either teach something or you don't... (do note that I am talking about educations -trainer students/apprentices- not studio clients)

The 10 years that Joseph suggested have more to do with personal gain that with knowledge. People think you can teach the method to trainers in less time and yes, you can teach the choreographies, settings, orders, ideas in a shorter time but you cannot teach the 'benefits': trainers would be much more secure and happy if they 'knew' what they were teaching. They would have compassion when the clients find it hard because they know about the difficulties, and they will be able to guide them through because they themselves conquered them (not because they went to endless workshops about it) but most importantly, a trainer who has achieved something trains from the perspective of how great the benefits feel and not from some anal brainy version of what they have been told the exercises should be. You want to teach from the perspective of a person who has profited from something rather than a person who has been deemed qualified to 'know' what they are teaching. This is not mathematics. Unless you want to teach it that way. My usual comment: "Virgins should not become sex therapists"

It is ok that you can't afford everything when you start. Is an economical issue. Make sure that one day you have the studio that you want.
I hope you don't mind me disagreeing with your comment: "you have to love the path, not the finish line" but it couldn't be more wrong... only by having a crystal clear view of the goal can the process unfold before you. Only by knowing where you want to go and never loosing sight of it you can be sure that you are walking the path that leads to what you want. The goal defines the process: when you choose where to go you define then what is it that you have to do. Love? yes, you love yourself and you focus on what you want. Then you work for it. Don't waste time convincing you or other into loving what you have in front of you. You should appreciate that it leads you to where you want to get but the focus is still on the target. You should not love a process that leads nowhere just because is "a process". In that sense 'everything is a process'. People want you to believe that you have to love the process, but that would lead you astray. Love yourself so you know where to go, which in turn will define what it is that you have to do to get there. Enjoy doing what you want to do because it will provide you with what you seek.
Remember: we share with our trainees/clients our knowledge of our experience of Pilates. They are not students nor we are teachers. We do not teach the clients anything new: we restore what they lost, the old Pilates say: "return to health".
Keep your eagerness and your curiosity and you will be just fine and super happy. But don't worry so much about what you don't know but focus on what you want to feel. NEVER let anyone define what the method is supposed to be for you. Do your best to learn it well but don't let anyone tell you what it is for.
Now... that was a lot of ranting.
I hope you don't think I am negative or something like it. While I am amazed at the comment about the breathing, I only mean to give you positive feedback.

Re: Contrology practice: How Joe intended it?

Posted: Wed Aug 12, 2020 5:49 pm
by Joao

I learned breathing patterns for various exercises. Some examples: Backstroke, Hundred, Breathing on Cadillac, Coordination, Double leg Stretch, Chest Expansion, etc. These movements have: 1- deep inhaling, 2- apnea (closing the glottis and maintaining the lungs with air helps the oxygen reach more alveoli, due to natural expansion of the molecules that composes the air) and 3-forceful exhaling (not to "work on TrA", but simply to provoke a subsequent deeper inhaling).

Now, let's talk about the "non-breathing" exercises which DOES get some "help" from the breathing pattern. Rolling exercises closes the chest, so I learned to exhale on spinal flexion. Like on the Roll Up, Neck Pull, Roll Down and many other exercises alike. Exercises that opens the chest, usually coupled with spinal extension get a big help of inhaling. So, the Swan on the Barrel, for example, has 4 distinct moments that includes the inhaling while extending the spine. It is not meant to be an "respiratory capacity" developer exercise, but it does have a breathing pattern that assists the execution. I believe, however, that these exercises WILL develop the respiratory capacity, but inhaling, holding an apnea, and exhaling (and sometimes holding the lungs "empty" - they do not empty completely, of course) is much more powerful for that goal.

Then, there are exercises I've learned that doesn't have breathing within the choreography, and that should occur as natural as possible, but focusing on deep and large breath cycles. Some examples: Footwork (both on Reformer and Wunda Chair), Running, Single leg Stretch, One leg Circle, etc... These are normally (but not always, of course) movements done for more than 6 reps. They require a fluid execution, therefore the breathing wouldn't be natural. Just imagine someone pairing inhaling and exhaling on every rep of the Footwork: If he/she are doing the reps as they are meant to be done, it is faster than a deep, complete breath cycle. So the breathing here will be an obstacle to movement, as opposed to something that would help the practitioner accomplish the benefits of the exercise. From here came my original question regarding breathing, because for me, John made clear that EVERY exercise had a breathing pattern.

Another thing that is important, is the moment when I talk about breathing to my students. Usually, I don't talk a lot about it until the student knows at least the choreography. Then comes the technical part, which includes breathing. Exceptions apply when someone is so tense that the breathing is severely compromised. These people usually hold the breath a lot, until their faces turns purple... Then, breathing comes soon. Breathing exercises (like the ones I cited) are usually taught with the breathing pattern. But eventually, everyone will be breathing like the way I told you above.

I like this way of teaching because it is very natural, and it's not rocket science. Still, I am always open to other POVs.

PS: I edited this part, because I thought that I possibly didn't made myself clear the first time, and in my previous post as well.


What you told me about the goal and the process was very powerful. I never think that way, and I promise I will reflect very carefully about this. Again, I don't felt anything mean about your disagreement! We are having a dialogue, and a very profícuos one. And I am thankful for you insisting on having a clear goal and working towards it. Maybe that's exactly the independence and autonomy that Joseph wanted for us, right?

Kind regards,

Re: Contrology practice: How Joe intended it?

Posted: Sun Aug 16, 2020 1:31 pm
by Javier
Hello Joao,
In the following paragraph, when I write 'you' I mean 'one', 'anyone'...

A few things to point out -and this is not only how Joseph did them but how I also learned them:
- Rolling exercises are NOT necessarily done EXHALING. Certainly not the Roll Up, the (Simple) Neck Pull orthe Roll down(not a real exercise but more of a preparation for those who must loosen up): you are supposed to exhale on the stretched that follow the rolling motion. The rolling motion is done either inhaling or holding the breath to prevent the 'rounding' to be 'deflated' or 'too rounded': they are 'power rollings' with the chest inflated (as is done also for example in the Rolling Back -Rolling like a ball for most- when rolling back)
Many cannot perform it this way so we may have to let them exhale for them to be able to lift their stiff ribcages up. But they tend to sink in the lower back when doing so AND, probably worse, articulating the spine TOO MUCH, which ends up in an overly stretched lower back. Most perform a 'roll forwards' rather than a 'roll up'.
The exhale should be reserved for the moment of stretch over the legs in the 1st breath or back into a long line when extending the whole body over the floor on the 2nd part: 2 stretches = 2 exhales.
In cases like the Teaser, people are nowadays 'exhaling' to roll up (because everyone insists on carrying every concept -'exhaling as you roll' in this instance- along for every damn exercise ) This exhale presents us with a few problems, especially when done in the Reformer. When you exhale as you 'bend' your torso, you overuse your stomach (stupid core concept) pushing your insides (all organs) downwards into your pelvic floor creating a problem (which some would like to think they solve by 'closing' the pelvic floor) and you end up on a deflated Teaser. If you inhale as you roll up you don't have to 'solve' a problem because you haven't created it.

Everyone wants quick concepts that they can stick everywhere. Very LAZY!!! People should learn how to move properly and how to roll up as a MOVEMENT. The fact is that in nature you would NEVER exhale as you do it. If you are too stiff or lack movement ability: work on it. It won't take long. You can exhale but for as long as you do, you won't improve either your movement or your stiffness AND, probably worse of all, if you do it long term, you will be training your body to do it unnaturally.

- Swan on the Barrel (not really an original exercise and just a quick preparation for Swan Dive in the Reformer -hence the name Swan 'on the Barrel', as in 'not the original place') is done with exhales as you arch and inhales onto the line: again you inhale ('stuff your self with air' ) on the moment where you need to 'solidify'.
Like I said on the introduction the whole method revolves on EXECUTION, do the exercise and then the exercise will change you. Then eventually you will also be able to do it well. If you tinker with the way the exercise is, its execution may get harder to achieve finally, you also change the purpose and thus its benefit (though you always get the new one) and worse, the exercise fails to play its role in the system.
Swan on the Barrel is an exercise for..... learning how to go into an arch to open the chest (in the Barrel: also the front of the body: from the thigh to the armpits) While the breathing will assist, specially rhythmically, to learn to move beautifully -2nd major goal of the exercise- we mustn't forget the 1st goal. Breathing is a tool here, not the purpose.
The movement in the Swan must be taken back to the Reformer and solved there again. You then will have higher chances of succeeding later ( a couple of minutes after, in fact) at doing the Breaststroke alone.
Yes, you could stay in the Barrel and inhale as you arch ... but you may be making the Breaststroke impossible. Most trainers will then tell you, rather than solving the problem, that the Breaststroke is for a few 'dancer' like clients. Joseph perform it well into his 60's... Do you understand? it is not a question of 'does something work for this or that exercise' but 'does this change alter my "timeline" and delays or makes other exercises impossible now.

-Many exercises will have a breathing pattern because of the conditions: Long Stretch you inhale as you push out to prevent ANY shrinking of the spine. You lock ankles, knees and hips and push through them. You inhale to prevent the arms squashing the spine before their input translates into carriage movement and to prevent the torso from 'bowing' against gravity as you go into an even longer line. Most of the exercises in the Reformer we do inhale as we press.
Some will replace that with 'core' but hey, they are allowed to... again, replacing doing something naturally and learning how to do a movement with the usage of a part of the body. Highly un-Pilates.

- Some exercises, like Chest Expansion require that you teach the breathing with the choreography. But yes, most of the time, movements first.

So, long story short every exercise HAS a breathing pattern, like John Steel pointed out. A pattern which eventually will become so intrinsically weaved into the exercise that it will be most natural and, above all, transparent: you won't even notice it.
The problem arises when the patterns are artificial, only made to quickly 'solve' things and to create a 'syllabus' to be presented to students (as in apprentices of the method) When you teach a method around stupid and artificial concepts, or worse use them to define the method, such as the 'core', you will make getting into an advance routing really hard and when 'achieved' still unnatural and robotic.

Some clients will breathe the correct way when moving. Many are out of touch with their timing because they haven't trained for many years. Their brains can't cope with a breathing pattern while coping with the movements while coping with a body that can't perform the movements yet. It all slowly falls into place. Sometimes you can wait to introduce the breathing a little but sometimes, like on the Stretches in the Reformer (Long, Down, Up, Back) they are necessary and add quite a bit of safety.

In English a 'student' is someone who learns. We have clients, and they come to train, not to learn. They know everything they need to know when they step into the studio. They come to practice and remember. We don't teach them, we train them. In reality, we do teach them a tiny bit: those moments when we teach them a new exercise. But that is minimal. It really helps to see it that way. Is not a teacher-student relationship.

Enough ranting... you poor guy... :shock:

Always be very very very suspicious when you hear or read ready-made statements like: "we inhale when we arch", "we never grip in Pilates", "we never this or that, or we always this and the other"... 99% of the time not true, pretentious, and usually made up by out-of-shape trainers who haven't' spent much time being able to do the whole method, if any time at all. Worse of all, those mnemonics keep your brain busy while you should be concentrating in the MOVEMENT itself, the WHAT not the How. They take though space, when your brain needs to be in 'feeling and moving' space. My issue is that, clever as they may look at 1st sight, they actually will hold you back from being able to eventually do what people call 'advanced or super-advanced' exercises that Joseph designed for everyone, not just a few.
Like John Steele point out, not only the exercises had a breathing pattern but, the pattern helped.

The reality is that as years pass by, more and more concepts keep popping up but less and less people are able to do a Star or Breaststroke alone, High Bridges, Russian Squat. Believe, most of my -healthy- clients can do all those, and while they had to work for it, it wasn't a really hard Everest climb. The method teaches itself: you only have to do the exercises and they automatically prepare you for the harder ones. If the clients are not naturally moving into advance after a while, either the method doesn't work or the trainer/trainee is doing something wrong.

Forget everything I say but remember this one thing: for Joseph there was not Basic-Intermediate-Advanced (that was created with the educations) for Joseph there was a continuum that went from NOT FIT to FIT, so what today is Advance for him was just: fit. And while it may sound like one more anecdote from the old guy, it does help to clarify your job and purpose, and it guides you: making others fit through movement.
That is WHERE you want to go: to the place where people are so HEALTHY and FIT that they can enjoy being able to do this stuff. Clients don't come to learn anatomy, kinesiology,... they came to train. Like a beautiful concert pianist, they can play amazingly without knowing which muscles. We 'sing' the movements because we KNOW them not because we understand how the body produces them. The trainers study so the clients don't have to. Also WE MUST STUDY MORE because we will encounter many clients with issues and it really helps when we understand those issues but our job, even then, is to help them heal through good movement. For that we must understand GOOD movement because we can repeatedly reproduce them ourselves, and we have benefited from it. Only by benefiting from doing something we can begin to say that we finished the process. Just being able to do an exercise, while a great achievement in itself, does not necessarily provide you with the whole story. Roads are only useful if they lead somewhere.

BLa bla bla bla :roll: :cry: :oops:

Re: Contrology practice: How Joe intended it?

Posted: Sun Aug 16, 2020 3:19 pm
by Javier
What I am trying to say too, is that the breathing for the Roll Up that you told me is the "optional one in case the client is really stuck and you also don't have a strap or a heavy pole to help them with" and now that breathing became the standard. Worse, the original is not taught, even if just a point of information. Student trainers deserve to know what was the original. Teacher trainers should tell you why they changed it and why the change is superior and should it be the new standard... and also why you shouldn't know the other version, which is still the one that Joseph wrote down. Maybe because they couldn't figure out how to do it?
My fear is that your trainer also doesn't know, and his/her trainer neither and that no one on that education tree can perform the original either because they don't know it or because now they don't want to rewind and restart, or as usual nowadays, they belong to an association/school/brand that decides for them what they should learn and practice, and they, as little minions, dutifully continue the misinformation. The whole thing is very un-Pilates. People are passing knowledge -theories, ideas, instructions, information- instead of experience: let me show you how you do this, based on how well I do it, how much I worked on it, how easy or difficult it was, and more importantly, what did I gain from being able to do it and what did I gain from being able to do it for an extended period of time.
Virgins can tell other virgins how to lose their virginity, the theory is easy, but maybe they should not teach how 'well' to do it.
We live in a very strange world where unfit people are deciding how you become fit and how and what fit people should do...
Training makes you happy.
Happy trainers teach better.


Re: Contrology practice: How Joe intended it?

Posted: Sun Aug 16, 2020 6:52 pm
by Joao

First of all, I love your rantings! :D

I will be more specific about the breathing because some of the things you said are the things I've learned, but maybe because I'm being too simplistic in my explanation, or because I do have some difficulties to express myself in other language (or a bit of both!), I'm presenting the wrong picture.

Roll Up, what I've learned, from the first repetition:

1-) Inhale bringing the arms down (above your head, not all the way down) and back up on a vertical line, lift your head, come up in apnea, exhale at the end of the rolling motion. Thus, you exhale as you close the chest, but yes, only at the stretched position.

2-) Inhale as you roll back, then about 2/3 you hold your breath, finish rolling back and exhale as your arms reach down (above your head) again, then inhale bringing the arms to the vertical. The rest is identical as number one.

And the same idea applies to other rolling exercises, like the Neck Pull or the Round on the Short Box. They require coming up either holding your breath or inhaling.

Swan on the Barrel:

- Half of the ascent inhaling, exhale as you arch back. Inhale extending your knees and reaching a diagonal line with your body (just like a human cannonball). Exhale arching with extended legs. Inhale reaching that line again, exhale flexing your knees and rounding your spine to finish the movement.

Then, as a general line, in my apprentice book I am told that "as a general guideline, inhaling executing the preparatory part of the movement, exhale during its execution." I'll be a 100% sincere here: I am not quite sure what it means. Maybe is like you said: the inhaling part "solidifies" your trunk (which is biomechanically understandable, since it presses the diaphragm down, raising the intra abdominal pressure, which gives you much more stability).

Nonetheless, you gave me a much more thorough explanation on the "whys" than I ever had before. And thank you so much for that, it is so amazing to actually know down to the smallest detail. Well, at least for a nerd like me... :lol:

About the classification Joe used: Fit vs. Non-Fit.
First, it is very interesting, because usually the Advanced repertoire is reserved to the Pilates Instructor, and very few clients reach this level. My partner and I had a conversation yesterday that involved this very topic. We were talking on how people become "gym-rats", or how they realize grueling events like an IronMan Triathlon, but very, very few reach an Advanced (or, like you said, Fit) level in Pilates.

Do you personally teach your clients a system (i.e. Basic, Intermediate, Advanced) or the choices of exercises/sequences are a matter of "offering what's needed to this person in this moment"?

If you don't mind, I will like to ask another question: how about the external rotation of the legs? In the draft you posted on the Book's site, you said that is something highly misunderstood. I've done my own research and came up with this answer: Joe (and Romana) taught some exercises (like the Hundred, Teaser, and many others... Actually, all of them, except those that required bending the knees to the chest) first in external rotation to facilitate the engagement of the adductors (midline), and then, eventually, the trainee will evolve to a feet-together and parallel stance. Makes sense, but I still want to know from you! :)

Re: Contrology practice: How Joe intended it?

Posted: Sun Aug 16, 2020 10:21 pm
by Javier
Hello Joao,
I appreciate that you don't take it personally... really.
Now you quoted "Rolling exercises closes the chest, so I learned to exhale on spinal flexion." that was the quote that I really focused on. Was that what you learned or what you thought you learned? ;) When you describe it now it sounds more like holding the breath on the moment of "roll up"
I will answer in parts:
Roll Up.
We don't ask a client to do apneas... you may ask them to hold their breath conciously for a very explicit and determined amount of time -think Breathing or Chest Expansion-, but in this case it is not part of the exercise (they may do it while they continue learning, and we totally allow it until they can improve in their breathing) so we do not ask them to do it explicitly. Whoever wrote that obviously hasn't managed to do the exercise with flow and with natural continuous breathing, or they are still so stiff that they require such effort to come up that they have to hold their breath for a section of the exercise. Which as I said is fine but hopefully they will improve and then when they manage they should write a manual but not earlier...

Probably the writer of that manual does the Roll Up like most: they inhale like they are taking a line of coke -and not a long line at that- and then block their breathing holding their breath (which in turns blocks the ribcage in two ways: the sudden contraction of the diaphragm is jerky and the blocking the air in freezes the chest) until they get up -rather than up- and pass the point of effort to start exhaling over the legs. Something similar on the way back.
Is a Pilates exercise, therefore simplicity is implied and necessary: you inhale rolling up, you exhale stretching over. You inhale rolling back, you exhale as you stretch back. You eventually breathe as smoothly as you move and the other way around, you don't even hear it. Not a fast sniff in and explosive exhale. One flows into the other: every time you hold your breath the exhale loses its natural quality. Sometimes we want that, though, but not usually when we move.
You do not think of closing anything, you roll off the mat -that will close you, again, emphasis on what to do not in how you do it. You try to make the breathing and the moving the same, so obviously if you don't stop, you keep breathing and, if you breath, you move. That is the goal. Jerky breathing with holds, jerky movement. And vice versa. Why did people change it? I do not know, but they actually manage to sort of make it happen with stops. They lose the connection to a general way of moving and later they are going to have problems with more advanced exercises that without flow are simply too hard and painful - Star on the Mat and Reformer.

I am not going to go over the Swan on the Barrel: is a pre-Pilates exercise that got upgraded and included in the order. Again, now you say that you exhale as you arch but in your previous post you didn't: " Exercises that opens the chest, usually coupled with spinal extension get a big help of inhaling. So, the Swan on the Barrel, for example, has 4 distinct moments that includes the inhaling while extending the spine."
Exercises that open the chest and especially the upper part of the chest (think Pull Straps, coming up in a High Bridge, Standing Arm Circles with Back Bends, High Bridge in Wunda, Back Bend 2 Short Box) and are done while pulling, under pressure or increasing resistance are done inhaling. Exercises that open the WHOLE torso and work the quality of 'going into an arch' are done exhaling (Swan Dive -Reformer-, Back Bend 1 and 3 -Short Box) That is the beauty of the method: what is the purpose and the conditions under which you must work.
You seem to imply that rounding is exhaling -or holding- and, now, arching is exhaling. Depending on how, and where and how much added external pressure you are under, how fast is the movement, how much range. It is totally lazy to try to find ONE way to describe things. People want manuals and they write them too quickly and they come up with atrocious concepts like "inhale when you x, y or z" and "we always exhale when z, y and x". it is as short sighted as it is unproductive.

You state: "Footwork (both on Reformer and Wunda Chair), Running, Single leg Stretch, One leg Circle, etc... These are normally (but not always, of course) movements done for more than 6 reps. They require a fluid execution, therefore the breathing wouldn't be natural.
" Why wouldn't be natural? Don't you breath when you move? For example The One Leg Circle: exhale as you lower and inhale as you come round again. It couldn't be more natural. Why do we teach it? because his bigger brother actually needs it even more. The Corkscrew. And his even bigger brother needs it even more: the Hip Twist (maybe you call it the Hip Circles). Things sometimes are laid out in a way that while not obvious to a beginner they make sense. Sometimes you learn something that at the moment of learning doesn't make sense.
Is just too easy to dismiss the breathing when we don't find it fits naturally with the movement. Again, same old problem, the trainer didn't master it so it didn't pass it on. But maybe with a little patience and perseverance it will fit.

You say:
And the same idea applies to other rolling exercises, like the Neck Pull or the Round on the Short Box. They require coming up either holding your breath or inhaling.
I say:
Again, much the same. The client will hold their breath because their movement and breathing patterns are poor. We can't actually take that and make it a standard. We allow it because it is part of the path they are walking. We truly hope that it will not occur eventually. We don't cue it and we don't forbid it or point out that it shouldn't happen (we try to only say what should be done, not what shouldn't be done) we do our outmost to improve their flexibility and their strength, so they don't have to fight so much and "hold".
In contrast, when doing the Back Bend no. 2 in the Short Box, -you probably call it the Flat Back and do not include a back bend in it) we do ask them to inhale and hold their breath until they touch the frame, exhaling on the return.
The beauty of what I am saying is that Pilates was not created with all the silly rules that they give nowadays. It really was tested and things like breathing, reps, resistance were polished to create an effect and not to "sound" clever, consistent, schooled or intelligent.

Inhaling 'solidifies you'. And not just because, as you state " it is biomechanically understandable, since it presses the diaphragm down, raising the intra abdominal pressure, which gives you much more stability" which is part of it but also because it raises the upper back, places the shoulder the clavicles -and therefore the shoulder blades- in their ideal position for strength, lifting the upper spine places the neck in best position (exhale strongly and you get the opposite effect on the cervical spine), inhaling makes activating the back muscles way easier -as opposed to exhaling which emphasizes the stomach and if over done, hurts the back) therefore inhaling is the easiest way to have the best posture which is also the strongest one. Add to it that inhaling is the natural action humans and other animals take when going into 'action', therefore, it is the preferred one in Pilates because it is the closest one to nature.
It may sound cool to talk about biomechanics and all sort of intelligent things but the coolest thing is to be able to move really well naturally. Because then moving is easy, productive and freeing. We can then just concentrate on what we want to do with ourselves, which is the one mission the method was made for.
Yes, learn all you can because you are a trainer and you will need to help especial clients, but when you are the clients or when you have to asses a movement, don't confuse the description of what happened when someone did something -a particular muscle contraction, a joint that moved or didn't- with the reason why they did it. The clients who have a clear view of what they have to do in terms of movement will always be superior to those who know how those movements are produced. However good your description will be, it will never be complete and worse you may make a client overemphasise one part of their body over the rest, in Pilates that is a sin, often encouraged by trainers who ask about 'core', 'stability', 'center', 'c-curve'...
To quote Joseph: "do whatever you want, but do it with your whole body". Or Romana: "eventually, your whole body is your Power house"
Don't get stuck in the parts. Eat and trust that you will digest, whether you know about digestion or not.

I will answer the rotation in a short way. I can tell you is not so much for the adductors as for the bum, hips and the outside of the legs but basically when standing in the "v" it is easier for clients to find and activate more muscles. Women tend to use the inside better than men and men use the outside better. Women usually notice that with the "V" they get into their hips, bum and "handles" better, men suddenly find their inner thighs. In fact, when doing the "v" the adductors tend to bulge for many, mainly those with wide hips.
After you log in the book website got to and halfway down I explain some of it. WHy it is useful but also why it should not always be done. Again, another case of 'not always the same', more colors and more shades of those colors.

Roll up, Neck Pull, Single Leg Kick, Long Stretch, Up Stretch, Long back Stretch, Shor Box, Monkey, Tower, Pumpin Standing, Pumping, Tendon Stretch, Spine Twist, Rowing Front, Rowing Back, Rowing Back With Bending Down, Weight Lifting, Shave, Running... most exercises are actually parallel... again, you may have to rotate outwards a bit someone legs -for example a beginner in Going Up Front, to help them find their 'hips' - but eventually the exercice maybe was created parallel -again like the Going Up Front which obviously was parallel since we can see the middle strip of wood on the high chair or the moveable platform against which you are supposed to put your foot.

If a person is to be able to do the One Leg Squat they better have strong hips and an active bum. Their inner thigs won't help much or they may pull a hamsting. The "v" helps to work them. But obviously the One Leg Squat is parallel. In fact if the inner thigh is too strong it will pull the knee in at a crucial time when the hips and thigh should be lifting you up, that is not desirable.
Yes, you can 'cue' the V for the inner thigh but most clients need to hear "the whole leg" and most of them especially the bum and sides.

On the other side of the spectrum the "v" also is an intermediate stage in opening the hip. We not only go from V to parallel but from V to waaaaay more open (Like the original SIde Splits, Side Balance Control, Floor Frog, 3 count Frog, Star, Balance side Standing, Arm Frog Facing Chair...) so before you ask me, please don't tell me about the "open the knees 2 inches wider than the shoulder" because I will explode in a gazillion pieces.
It is one of the most UTTERLY AND STUPIDLY USELESS CUES TO EVER CURSE THE METHOD. And it is highly inconsistent: after all you are goin to sit a client on the Wunda for a Horseback, or make them to Going Up Side on the chairs... we do want our client to achieve more. Of course, if you have an issue is different but we are talking about the healthy not the sick.

Most manuals treat the client like it is stupid or sick and their writers fill them up with pseudo medical stuff to look better and justify their price. If you practice the method with more freedom from their 'rules' and absolutely no freedom from changes in the coreoghraphy, you will obtain freedom of movement -since you were focused on improving the movement ITSELF and not concentrating in whether you were respecting their rules- and a strong will power -since you didn't let yourself down by changing the exercise, you conquered yourself to change into the person that could do it. It is not a question of conquering an exercise. Just improving yourself.
TO be honest, too many are too impatient, chicken, lazy and with no discipline to stick to it.

Have a great week and enjoy your freedom!!!!!
Remember, the "METHOD" is not an entity. It doesn't care if you do it well or not because it doesn't exist. You do. And you use its recipes to became a better you.
The "why's" are super interesting. But once you know them, forget them. Trust the method. Doing Going Up the Mountain will strengthen your knees whether you know that it does or not, though hopefully you feel it. As you improve the shape that you are supposed to be in during the execise you find that it also strengthens your hips, shins and ankles, while from day one it made you re-use your balance ability improving your ability to stand on one leg while the other moves. You can now put on your underwear way more easily on the morning which means a lot for a client, not because they can do it better but because they don't have now a negative thought about themselves already at the beginning of their day.