The Pilates Primer

  • 8 Minutes Read

The Pilates Primer Guest post for MyNetDiary by Brooke Siler , owner of re: AB Pilates Studio in New York City, author, famed "Trainer to the Stars" and longtime MyNetDiary member. How can I convince you to try authentic Pilates? For those who've never tried the Pilates method it certainly can be an...

Guest post for MyNetDiary by Brooke Siler, owner of re: AB Pilates Studio in New York City, author, famed "Trainer to the Stars" and longtime MyNetDiary member.

How can I convince you to try authentic Pilates? For those who've never tried the Pilates method it certainly can be an intimidating prospect. Between the torturous-looking apparatus, the perfect celeb bodies endorsing it and the personal training price tags, it's a workout just to explore any further. The best thing about Pilates is that you really don't need any of the above to create your own Pilates practice and reap the majority of its wonderful benefits - which include amplified energy, improved posture, added strength, increased flexibility, better balance and coordination and injury prevention.

The Pilates Method is based on Joe Pilates' ideal of muscle control. He originally named his method the Art of Contrology and created hundreds of movements meant to stretch and strengthen muscles simultaneously so there were no thick, bulky muscles or isolation of some muscles over others. Joe's credo was: "It is the will that controls the body!" And he asked society to reclaim responsibility for themselves. You are the one who makes results happen! I find this incredibly empowering. Joe Pilates created the moves in the method, but you bring them to life.

Pilates is interval training at its best. The choreography moves you through every single muscle and direction of movement the body can make. All Pilates exercises work the body uniformly, meaning that even when you think you are doing an exercise mainly for the abdominals you are actually recruiting every muscle in your body to help with the task. It's the ultimate multi-tasking technique, and whereas yoga might be best associated with the spiritual, Pilates is best connected to intelligent body mechanics. Not so sexy in print but life-changing in real time!

Pilates in its most authentic form, often called "Classical," is very athletic, taught on spring-resistance based apparatus and - when taught at a steady pace - should put an average intermediate student in the 400+ calorie per hour range. However, the calorie burn of a Pilates workout depends on whether you are on the apparatus (spring-resistance loaded equipment) or on the mat (your own body weight as resistance). Also, the level of experience and pace of your individual Pilates workout will change the calorie expenditure significantly.

At its core, Pilates is a methodology of movement. Its principles can be translated to every area of your life. The key to Pilates is not so much in the duration of your workout as it is in learning to gain control over your muscles; to keep conscious of the way you move throughout the day and be aware of maintaining proper posture; to use your everyday tasks as exercises to stretch and tone your body into the shape you desire.

At my Pilates studio, re:AB, we teach our clients to make the best use of their gym cardio workouts by teaching proper Pilates form and alignment while using the cardio equipment. Becoming your own trainer is the best advice for achieving the most effective and fastest results. Don't simply rely on someone else to know your body better than you do. Get all the necessary information from the all best possible sources and then take the initiative to stay interested in your own progress everyday. The rewards are endless!

I've created a routine specifically for MyNetDiary members so you can give it a little go without having to invest too much to start, and I added some body-conscious tips for you to incorporate into your day.

If you already have a favorite exercise method and thinking about straying from it makes you sweat, I suggest flipping through a copy of my book, Your Ultimate Pilates Body Challenge, where, despite the title, I actually lay out the way to infuse any workout with Pilates-consciousness to up its efficiency. The more muscles you use, the more calories you burn.


MyNetDiary Pilates Primer:

Single-Leg Pull (Flexion)

a. Lie on your back with your knees pulled in to your chest.

b. Bring right hand to right ankle and left hand to right knee. Extend left leg straight out at about 45 degrees (your back remains FLAT on the mat). Elbows bent slightly outward.

c. Lift head over chest and look to your abs. Exhale and sink your navel toward your spine.

d. With head lifted, inhale and switch legs and hands. Continue switching until you've completed 3 - 6 sets.

Single Straight-Leg Stretch (Flexion)

a. Extend your right leg to the ceiling holding right ankle or calf with both hands, as you stretch your left leg straight forward, a few inches above the mat.

b. Exhale and press your spine deeper into the mat beneath you.

c. Inhale and quickly switch legs (keeping them straight), holding the left leg at the ankle or calf and pulling it toward your face with a gentle double bounce. Continuing switching until you've completed 3 - 6 sets.

Swimming (Extension)

a. Lie face down on the mat with your legs squeezed together, heels together, toes apart. Stretch your arms out in front of you with fingertips extended.

b. Draw navel up into your spine as you lift arms, head, chest and thighs off the mat.

c. Lift your left arm and right leg higher and then switch arms and legs, continue switching, inhaling for five counts and exhaling for five counts. Repeat three sets of five inhales/exhales each.

Kneeling Side Kicks (Side Flexion)

a. Kneel on the front edge of your mat. Place right palm (or fist) on the mat under your shoulder and in line with your hips and left palm behind your head, elbow up.

b. Straighten your left leg out along the mat and lift it as close to hip height as possible.

c. Inhale as you kick forward, keeping your waist strong and aligned.

d. Exhale as you swing your leg back as far as possible without moving hips or belly. Repeat four times; then switch and repeat four times on the other side.

Pilates Pushups or Planks (Flexion)

a. Stand at the back of your mat with heels together, toes apart. Inhale and draw belly in and up spine.

b. Exhale and walk hands down your body to the mat.

c. Inhale and walk hands out until they are beneath your shoulders.

d. Exhale and lower your hips until they are in line with your body. (Plank position)

e. Hold there OR Perform three pushups with elbows pressed to your sides.

f. After your third pushup, from plank position, fold up bringing chest toward thighs. Exhale as you press your palms and heels firmly into the mat and deepen the connection of your navel to spine.

g. Inhale and walk hands back to your feet, keeping legs as straight as possible. Exhale.

h. Inhale as you roll your body into a standing position. Repeat three times.


All of the above too much for you? Remember it's the small changes we make that add up to a whole lot more in the long run. Here are six of my favorite small changes that make big differences. By the way, I give these as homework to all my students (including the celebs), and they create the most long-lasting changes because they go after bad habits and raise one's body awareness.

1. Consciousness through Observation: Stand in front of a mirror and study your standing form. Is one hip higher than the other? Do you favor one leg more then the other? Is one shoulder raised? Do you roll to the inside or outside of your feet? Ask yourself "What habits do I have that create these effects?" "What can I do to re-create balance in my body?" (e.g. carry my bag on the other shoulder, walk evenly through each step, cross my opposite leg over the other when sitting, etc.) These questions alone can begin to reeducate you to simple resolutions for slight aches or pains.

2. Remind yourself to sit and walk tall creating "perfect posture." Imagine pressing the crown of your head upwards toward the ceiling or balancing a stack of books on your head. Do not allow bad habits to create muscle imbalances. Instead, begin to create awareness by listening to your body.

3. Before getting out of bed in the morning bring your knees into your chest to stretch out your lower back. Upon sitting up, reach forward and try to touch your toes. Make sure to breathe and don't push the stretch (especially if you have any notable back problems, such as herniated discs or chronic back strain). Stretch your arms above your head and take a moment to let your body catch up to your brain before rushing off to work.

4. Tense? Lean up against a wall with your feet about a foot in front of you and slowly roll your upper body down toward the floor. Think of "peeling" each vertebra off the wall as you go and stopping at the bottom of your low back. Let your arms hang loosely by your ears and take a deep breath. As you begin to roll back up the wall imagine you are placing each vertebra back on the wall, an inch higher than where it was originally, and create an imprint of your spine into the plaster behind you. Remember to ‘soften' (unlock) your knees to avoid any muscle strain in your back.

5. Stand tall with your heels together and your toes about a fist's width apart. From the connection of your heels begin to feel you are "sewing" your legs together into one unit without gripping your knees. Feel the muscles of your inner thighs and buttocks working to create a stable base from which you can pull up in your waist and balance. Press the crown of your head upward toward the ceiling. Try to rise onto your toes without your heels separating and hold this balanced position for a count of three. Slowly begin lowering your heels back down to the floor feeling as though you are resisting gravity's pull downward. Make sure you are not gripping the muscles around your knee joints. Repeat 3 times.

6. When sitting (especially during meals) – remember not to slump backwards in your chair. Instead sit at the front (or very back edge if it is a straight-backed chair) with your legs uncrossed, and pitch your torso slightly forward until you feel you are sitting on top of your "sit bones" (these are the ischial tuberosities). Remember that your pelvis is part of your torso and that you should not simply bend forward from the waist but instead lift up out of your waist take the whole unit forward with you. This simple move can help with digestion by allowing circulation to flow throughout your center.

Last but not least are my resources for creating a Pilates practice for under $20 and the recipe for my favorite Pilates protein shake.

Ways to create a Pilates practice for under $20:



Audio CD & Flashcards:

I'm also a huge shake fan! If I can pack a lot of nutrition into one delicious shake that I can drink on-the-go, then I'm a happy camper.

Here's the recipe I use for my favorite pre/post Pilates workout shake:

The Siler Shake

Handful Ice

1/2 c. Soy Milk (40 cal)

1/2 medium Banana (50 cal)

1 c. Berries (I usually choose between blueberries, raspberries and blackberries, but sometimes I mix all three!) (90 cal)

1/2 (16g) scoop organic Soy Protein Powder (vanilla) (70 cal)

1 scoop (5.9g) Rainbow Vibrance Superfood Powder (22 cal)

2 tsp. Flaxseed Oil (70 cal)


Total: 342 calories

Brooke Siler began her Pilates career in 1994 under the tutelage of Master Instructor Romana Kryzanowska (Joseph Pilates' protégé for more than 30 years). After receiving her national authentic Pilates certification in 1996, Brooke Siler began training her celebrity friends on floor mats in their homes. In 1997, she created and opened re:AB, which has grown to become New York City's most successful studio for authentic Pilates. Brooke also offers a Pilates Teacher Training Program and C.E.N.T.E.R. Workshops for Pilates teachers and enthusiasts.

To find out more about re:AB or to order Brooke's books, audio CD or DVD, visit

Exercise->Pilates / Yoga / Core
Apr 7, 2011

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