by Pamela Debiase
Some people hate it, some people love it! For me I fell in love the first time I took a mat class, but sometimes it takes us time to learn why and how to appreciate something before we fall in love with it. Matwork is unforgiving, you have no assistance from the springs or straps, it’s just you and that darn mat having it out. So I get why people may tell you they hate it….because it’s hard! After all, Joseph Pilates developed all the apparatus to help you learn to do your Matwork better.
But this is why I love the Matwork:
1- You can do it anywhere
At home, at the beach, in your hotel room, at the park, in your office, I’ve even done it on a mountain top! Next time your teacher says “we’re doing mat today!”, get excited, because she/he is giving you the exercises that will help you be more independent and never have to go without Pilates again. Whatever exercises you can remember from class, do them by yourself! Or have your teacher help you make a list of the exercises she recommends for you, so you can ….do them by yourself.
2- There’s a flow to it
There is a flow to the Reformer exercises too, but the set up of the equipment does break it up a bit. Using the classical order and transitions will help you create flow, but setting up for the short box series is always just clucky steps before you get back to the flowing series of exercises. In matwork with no equipment to set up, each exercise can flow from one straight into the next creating one long seamless exercise.
3- It gets your heart pumping
If you know all your transitions and can really get the flow going, it gets your heart rate up. The Matwork will probably take you under an hour, maybe somewhere closer to 1/2 hr BUT because there are no breaks between exercises your heart starts pumping a little and I personally work up a great sweat! It’s not the same as doing cardio exercise like running, but will give you the feeling of a very well rounded workout and a well spent 1/2 hr. When I’m in the studio, I like to use the Matwork as a warm up before going to the Wunda Chair for example. I feel well prepared and warmed up for the challenges the chair will present me.
4- You can make the most out of 10 minutes
If you don’t have a lot of time but want to make sure you get some Pilates or movement in for the day, or you need to just get off that office chair and away from the computer for a few minutes to wake yourself up, you can do a 10 min mat workout that still hits all parts of the body and leaves you feeling strong, stretched out and invigorated. You could just to the first 5 exercises in the Matwork or my favorite way to do this, is to do just 2 repetitions of each exercise. Now you might be saying “just 2 reps, sounds way too easy!” TRY IT! If you know your exercises well and you can get that flow going you can complete the full advanced version of matwork in just 7 minutes. Man oh man is it hard and oh so good!
5- Easy to spice it up with small props
Props like the magic circle, theraband, 2 lb weights or a small ball can be easily added into your workout to spice things up, challenge you in a slightly different way or offer you some assistance in certain exercises. For example if you’re nursing an injury, your teacher can advice you on which exercise to use a prop to give you the support where you need it to keep your mat workout safe.
Are you ready to fall in love now?!
Here is a list of the mat exercises as given to us by Joseph Pilates in his book “Return to Life through Contrology”, and a phrase from the book to get you started on your Matwork journey, as the journey will not always be smooth sailing.
“Remember, too, that “Rome was not built in a day,” and that PATIENCE and PERSISTENCE are vital qualities in the ultimate successful accomplishment of any worthwhile endeavor. Practice your exercises diligently with the fixed and unalterable determination that you will permit nothing else to sway you from keeping faith with yourself. “
The Pilates Mat Exercises in Classical Order
One Leg Circle
Rolling Back (rolling like a ball)
One Leg Stretch
Double Leg Stretch
Rocker with Open Legs
One Leg Kick
Double Leg Kick
Leg Pull - Front
Side Kick Kneeling