“I don’t like Pilates mat classes.”
I’ve heard this phrase probably dozens of times from Pilates instructors and students alike. Every time that I hear this phrase I cringe a bit inside because I feel that they are missing the biggest jewel that Pilates has to offer.
Most of us constantly complain that we don’t have enough time to do anything, especially when it comes to exercise. But Pilates matwork is a total body workout that can be EASILY done in 30 minutes. Every time after I complete my workout I feel invigorated and ready to take on the world (or my 4 kids at least 🙂 For me the easiest way to get moving is to pop in my favorite Classical Pilates Technique: The Complete Mat Workout Series DVD but lately I’ve been also enjoying mat classes on PilatesAnytime.
Do you know one of my favorite instructors on PilatesAnytime? Benjamin Degenhardt – he is so precise with his cueing and attention to detail. I discover something new in my body every time after I follow his class.
Benjamin is a renowned Pilates teacher and educator and the inspirational power behind “March MATNess.” (check out #MarchMatness on FB) He infuses his love for the classical Pilates work with the contemporary understanding of movement, health and fitness training.
I asked Benjamin to share WHY he loves Pilates matwork and how anyone can create a successful Pilates mat practice at home.
What part does Mat work play in your personal and professional Pilates practice?
To me, the Mat work is the ultimate goal of a Pilates practice – being able to move well in absence of the support of the apparatus is a true test as to whether the practice has seeped into our bodies. In my work I am dedicated to teach the value of the traditional sequence to students and other Pilates professionals, and I do my very best to complete at least part of the Mat work every single day.
What is your goal/inspiration behind March MATness?
I was inspired by Joseph Pilates’ call for daily movement when I came up with March MATness. He promoted that a few minutes of daily, constructive exercise would create greater vitality. I wanted to showcase the beauty of his original exercises from “Return to Life through Contrology” and use March MATness as a way to introduce a new audience to the man and his original work.
If you were to give your most daring result that March MATness would produce, what would it be?
If March MATness inspires one new person to embark on a regular Pilates practice then that would be an incredible result!
What is your favorite mat exercise to teach?
In my understanding of the Mat work, and Joseph Pilates’ method in general, the individual exercises are less important than the sequence they are performed in. Movement patterns are repeated and escalated into new movements with increasing complexity and challenge, so in a way “the Mat work” is 1 exercise with 34 different movements in it. That said, I do think the Hundred is the most important of all movements on the Mat – even before the pumping action, simply unweighting the body off the ground against gravity with central axis and breath control is at the heart of almost every movement we make in everyday life.
Most of us have days when we don’t feel like or don’t have the energy to do Pilates or move at all. What motivates you on days like this?
Just yesterday I had a near-slip on the ice with one hand in my pocket, the other holding a coffee cup. In what felt like a lifetime, I somehow managed to move my free leg, arm, and torso in ways that kept me from falling backwards. It took long enough for me to realize that if I fell I’d hurt myself really, really badly. I eventually found my balance, was back on two feet, and didn’t get hurt – despite some wicked spine, hip and shoulder movements. To me, THAT is what a daily practice of controlling my movement ranges is about – establishing coordination, balance, and good timing in the way my body moves. So that I can feel strong and healthy, live a good life, and trust – own – my body. I don’t practice movement to “exercise”, and that’s why I think I don’t ever feel unmotivated to move. It’s too much fun!!!
Can you share some tips that Pilates instructors can use to encourage their students to maintain a personal Pilates mat practice at home?
- Start simple. Get students in the habit of carving out time for self-maintenance first, by giving them something that doesn’t even require a Mat: a breathing exercise perhaps, or a seated exercise they can do at the desk, etc.
- When giving them homework exercises, choose exercises your students no longer need instructions for in their sessions. They’ll be less likely to attempt exercises they don’t fully grasp yet. Make a stick figure drawing, write down the exercise name and repetitions, and hand it or email it to them. Or better yet, buy them a copy of “Return to Life through Contrology”.
- Participate in March MATness and get your students crazy excited about the Mat work. Showing them what they can accomplish all on their own is probably the biggest gift you could ever give them.
If you were to create your own version of Joseph Pilates’ famous quote “Above all learn to breathe correctly”, what would it be?
… move well every day.
Connect with Benjamin Degenhardt:
- Learn from Benjamin Degenhardt at http://benjamindegenhardt.com/
- Take a class online at PilatesAnytime
- Get inspired for your Pilates matwork with RETURN TO LIFE ON THE MAT
What motivates you to get on the mat? Share your answers in the comments!