This Week’s Actual Pilates: The Language and a Few More Things You Should Know as a Consumer.

In the Pilates methodology, you may hear language used such as Pilates -V (heels together, toes apart), spinal flexion (forward bending), spinal extension (a movement that lengthens the spine upwards and backwards), side bending, and what is referred to as the “C-Curve” (a rounded forward (flexion) movement of the spine the looks like the letter ‘C’, that strengthens the deep abdominals while stretching the muscles of the back. All of these words have likely been used in the cueing or positioning of the body in practice of Pilates (Contrology).

Having an understanding of what is being said or asked will eliminate confusion when you are trying to learn a new exercise. With every movement, we BREATHE. In traditional Pilates, as a general rule, with very few exceptions, we always begin with an inhale and complete with an exhale.

The Pilates Method was created as a whole system, the mat and reformer with optional apparatus which includes the Cadillac, Ladder Barrel, Small Barrels, Spine Corrector, Wunda Chair, Toe Corrector, Foot Corrector, Ped-A-Pul, Guillotine Tower, Baby Arm Chair, (Tower- a modern piece 1/2 Cadillac created more recently to save studio space & attaches to reformer), Bean Bag, Breath-a-cizer, Magic Circle.

The typical session consisted of some mat and reformer work, with some added optionals chosen according to the personal needs of the body that was performing the exercises. A highly trained teacher should know exactly how to recommend the specific optional(s) and appropriate exercise(s). Classes that you now see offered that are isolated to either mat, reformer, tower, chair are typically 55 minutes long and were created for studio/gym business structure and organization to keep things flowing. One of the perks of seeking out a smaller studio or personal session is to have the time to experience the whole system as it was intended and enjoy the very rapid appearing positive results of the practice.

It is important to ask (and or do some verifying on your own) where and by whom your Pilates teacher was trained. It does matter, because the method is preserved through the lineage of the original teaching. When verifying, it is helpful to know that a Pilates teacher’s training should include a minimum of 450 hours with of all the apparatus, mat, observation hours, anatomy, internship with supervised teaching, the history of Pilates. Be sure that the school the teacher attended was a PSAP (see Pilates Method Alliance) approved school. PMA has established industry standards for the teacher’s training that you should be aware of for the consumer’s benefit when you are searching for classes and private sessions.

The school and program I last attended was over 950 hours. Previously to that program, I attended various other teacher training schools and programs that were supposed to be inclusive at 450 hours, and though I was already certified by the PMA and teaching for quite some time, I realized I still had much to learn from the teachers who came from the original lineage. I sought them out, they are my mentors. I will always be a student on a learning journey thirsty for knowledge and experience.

There is no substitute for experience, gained by putting many years of continuing education, personal practice, continued observation, listening and learning into what you do.

Here’s to your good health, look for my new PILATES exercise posts coming up in the next few days!

This Week’s Actual Pilates: The Sequence of Joseph Pilates Mat Exercises

The original sequence of exercises as written in his book titled : “Return to Life Through Contrology” by Joseph Pilates.

Students who participate in my classes often ask me for the list of exercises we do on a twice weekly basis. I think you should have this list exactly as written by the creator of the actual Pilates exercises.

The sequence in which they are to be performed was created with the intent that each exercise prepares the body for the next level of difficulty. The original name for this sequence was Contrology.

In recent years, there has been much confusion about what Pilates actually is, and unfortunately within the industry itself, you will find a wide variety of things being taught in Pilates studios and gyms being labeled as ‘Pilates’ that are in reality just a compilation of core based gym exercises. It is my passion to help you understand what actual Pilates is, to bring a higher level of health and renewed energy to your body. Within the instructions, photos and video clips provided throughout my posts, it is my sincere hope that people will learn to differentiate between the classes that are titled ‘Pilates’, those that are and those that are not following the methodology of JP originally intended or created. Experiencing authentic Pilates will influence your mind about this amazing modality, it will definitely change your body for the better.

Therefore, I encourage you to locate of a copy of the book, “Return to Life Through Contrology, By Joseph Pilates”, read and keep it around for your own personal reference and discernment to the original methodology and science behind the creation of this marvelous work.

The sequence doesn’t change, the sequence is not to be mixed up, we don’t use huge fitness balls, we don’t include ‘planks’, or other ‘gym exercises’. His methodology changes the body when done in his named order of sequence on a regular basis and can be done daily without harm. Below you will find the list and in future posts, you will find instructions with photos and video clips on how to properly perform these exercises.

Here is the list in the Joseph Pilates mat exercises order of sequence:

The Hundred, The Roll Up, The Roll Over with Legs Spread (both ways), One Leg Circle (both ways), Rolling Back (like a ball), One Leg Stretch, The Double Leg Stretch, The Spine Stretch, Rocker with Open Legs, The Corkscrew, The Saw, The Swan Dive, The One Leg Kick, The Double Kick, The Neck Pull, The Scissors, The Bicycle, The Shoulder Bridge, The Spine Twist, The Jack Knife, The Side Leg Kick (Series), The Teaser, The Hip Twist with Stretched Arms (Hip Circles), Swimming, The Leg Pull Front, The Leg Pull, The Side Kick Kneeling, The Side Bend, The Boomerang, The Seal, The Crab, The Rocking, The Control Balance, The Push Up.

You may notice that a magic circle (the Pilates ring), very light 1-2lb weights could be used for some of the exercises or a weighted bar for the roll up, and on a classical mat, you would have the foot strap, side boxes and optional handles. As a modification, you might find a small squishy ball, wedge, extra pads or theraband used. No other equipment is used in a traditional method Mat Pilates Class.

Here are quotes taken directly from the book titled “Return to Life Through Contrology, By Joseph Pilates”

“The only unchanging rules you must conscientiously obey are that you must faithfully and without deviation, follow the instructions accompanying the exercises and always keep your mind wholly concentrated on the purpose of the exercises as you perform them.” (page 20)

“The benefits of Contrology depend on solely upon your performing the exercises according to instructions — and not otherwise.” (page 20)

“BE SURE NEVER TO REPEAT THE SELECTED EXERCISE(S) MORE THAN THE PRESCIBED NUMER OF TIMES since more harm will result than good by your unwittingly or intentionally disregarding this most important advice and direction. Why? Because this infraction causes muscular fatigue-poison. There is really no need for tired muscles. Judicious selection of special Contrology exercises will accomplish more for your health and body condition, in conjunction with the foregoing advice, than all else combined.” (page 31)

Natalie Shook PMA-NCPT is a graduate of Advanced Program at The Pilates Center in Boulder and a Host Advisor for the TPC Teacher Training Program. Strategic Pilates is located in Somerset Meadows, Longmont, CO for more information regarding schedule, classes, One-on-One Private Sessions, Duets, Rates etc. Email Call or text Natalie @ 831-241-8097

This Week’s Actual Pilates: The Hundred

The Hundred is the first exercise seen in the Return to Life through Contrology book by Joseph Pilates. This is the exercise that follows the footwork on the apparatus and the advanced mat. The Hundred is done in the Pilates session to warm and prepare the body for the exercises to follow, increasing fitness and detoxifying the body.

At first you will notice that the Pilates Hundred focuses on the breath but is without a doubt, a full body integration exercise that wakes up the body by getting the blood pumping and oxygenated, stimulates the nervous system, uses frontline activation, increases dynamic stability, leg strength, and encourages control of body, mind and spirit through deep focus and mindful movement.

Though the Hundred exercise appears to be something relatively simple to look at, there are many muscles active and involved throughout the entire body. Here is a list of some of the major players in this wonderful exercise:

rectus abdominus, rectus obliques, serratus anterior, deltoids, trapezius, latissimus dorsi, transverse abdmoninus, iliopsoas, scalene, rectus femorus, sternocleidomastoid, tensor fasciae latae, gluteus maximus, extensor digitorum, biceps brachii, triceps brachii

Let’s discuss the importance of correct breathing. Breathing is the first and last thing you do when you are born and when you die. Joseph Pilates put a great emphasis on the breath in his methodology of exercises. The capacity to efficiently use oxygen is dependent on the respiratory system’s ability to collect oxygen and the cardiovascular system’s ability to absorb and transport it to the tissues of the body. When we exercise, we must breathe well. Abnormal and difficult breathing patterns can affect the normal response to exercise, human movement patterns, circulation, stress and sleep.

How to do the Hundred: Place the body supine on a flat padded surface such as a Pilates mat. (The current photo is showing the Hundred exercise done on the reformer) Inhale and lift the head so that you are resting on the tips of the shoulder blades, bringing the chin toward the chest. Lift the legs, toes are ideally at eye level, the arms long and straight and start to pump vigorously 5 arm pumps for one sustained deep inhale, 5 arm pumps for one sustained deep exhale. Repeat this sequence for 10 cycles until you reach a total of 100. Modification Options: Knees bent, less reps, support legs, support head.

Natalie Shook PMA-NCPT is a graduate of Advanced Program at The Pilates Center in Boulder and a Host Advisor for the TPC Teacher Training Program. Strategic Pilates Studio is located in Somerset Meadows, Longmont, CO for more information regarding schedule, classes, one on one, etc. Email Call or text Natalie @ 831-241-8097

This Week’s Actual Pilates: The Side Kick Leg Series

Side Kick Series

The side kick leg series in the traditional Pilates mat sequence is something I will never omit when I teach my Pilates mat classes. This series always shows up in it’s proper place in the exercise order according to the level I am teaching. This delightful exercises series teaches hip differentiation, offers sideline activation, improves dynamic stability, and encourages uniform balance and development of the body.

This series offers the basic few and then several enjoyable variations to add as the body’s level of precise movement ability and strength increase. Today I will just post the basics with very simple instructions, but I will keep editing, expanding and adding more variations for you, so keep checking back to this post and more as you progress within your workout. Stay committed and you will see progress.

How to do the side kick leg series: Align your body side laying on your mat, bring the legs slightly forward, do not bend the knees. Support the head with one hand and place the other near the belly on the mat. Be sure your hips are stacked, nothing falling forward or back. Keep eyes looking straight ahead, not at the feet.

FORWARD & BACK: Lift the top leg with a flexed foot (standing position) at hip height, inhale deeply and swing the leg forward and then a little further. Point the toes and exhale fully as you now swing the leg behind you keeping the limb long and strong without bending the knee. Keep your torso stable, strong and aligned as you move with your breath. Repeat 10x each.

UP & DOWN: Heel’s together toes apart (that famous Pilates ‘V’ Pizza shape with the feet) The top leg is slightly turned out from the hip, begin with a pointed toe position. Inhale as you bring the leg up, flex foot at the top before you exhale to bring the leg down. Repeat 10x each. Tip: Make sure you are staying aligned as in the set up, where are your eyes looking while you are moving? Are you breathing?

Here is some recommended reading, but it is not as fun as this blog: “Return to Life Through Contrology by Joseph Pilates”

Natalie Shook PMA-NCPT is a graduate of Advanced Program at The Pilates Center in Boulder and a Host Advisor for the TPC Teacher Training Program. Strategic Pilates Studio is located in Somerset Meadows, Longmont, CO for more information regarding schedule, classes, one on one, etc. Email Call or text Natalie @ 831-241-8097

Happy Thanksgiving 2019, A Look Back with Gratitude & Tribute to TPC

I will always be deeply grateful to the Taylor Sisters, (Amy and Rachel) at The Pilates Center in Boulder, CO and their entire senior staff and to Pace who works in admin and keeps things so amazingly organized for everyone who is involved during and after as a Host Advisor.

Who I am as a teacher is credited to TPC and their senior teachers who patiently and wonderfully mentored me through their Advanced Teacher Training Program a few years ago. I had completed several other Pilates teacher training programs before arriving at the decision to completely wash away old information and daringly begin again. In fact, I was already teaching for years prior and had my NCPT (PMA) certification. None the less, I felt I was missing key information on what “actual Pilates” really was.

Amy and Rachel and staff have designed the TT program at TPC with a very positive, encouraging and informative content. The atmosphere at TPC offers welcoming supportive interaction between an assigned Host Advisor to guide you through any questions, a wide variety of classes for embodiment (including an online offering for those at a distance), observations, personal instruction (including online offerings and also worldwide TPC graduates to assist you) and several other learning aids. I spent many hours teaching as a trainee under supervision of senior teachers who helped me learn how to see the body in front of me and also understand the actual Pilates movement skills. I learned why Joseph Pilates created his method of exercises to placed in a specific order to develop strength and skills in each body to safely advance to the next with optimum health results.

It is because of my wonderful experience at TPC in Boulder that I decided to become a Host Advisor for their Teacher Training Program. I strongly believe that TPC is one of the best programs available, I support The Pilates Center in Boulder, CO and hope that you will take the opportunity to experience Pilates taught in the traditional method one day.

Thank you Amy and Rachel, you were a big influence and had an impact on my teaching style, while firing my passion to look further into this method. You generously shared your knowledge in such a wonderful way, and goodness as human beings.

More information about The Pilates Center of Boulder, CO or for requesting me as your Host Advisor can obtained by contacting TPC directly, @ 303.494.3400.

Contact information regarding scheduling lessons or classes, Strategic Pilates Studio location or general questions including questions re: Host Advising for TPC for Natalie Shook NCPT: 831-241-8097 (call or text) or by email :

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