By Mela Debiase
Have you ever lost your sunglasses and searched your entire house only to find that they were on top of your head the whole time? That’s how I have felt studying Pilates with Jay Grimes.
“Maybe you are searching among the branches for what only appears in the roots” - Rumi
Jay Grimes began his Pilates studies with Joseph Pilates himself back in the mid-sixties, making him one of the very few first generation teachers still alive. After Joe passed, Jay continued to work with Clara Pilates for another 10yrs until her death. Jay is appreciated amongst the Pilates community for his experience and integrity in maintaing the work Joe did. I have had the pleasure of learning from Jay at Vintage Pilates in the Masters Program “The Work”. Studying with Jay and the Vintage team has opened my eyes to the simplicity in the Pilates system.
There are hundreds of exercises already in the Pilates system, and yet many teachers create new exercises and variations hence the evolution of Pilates and all the variety of styles we see today that all call themselves- Pilates. We like to complicate things, but Joe carefully refined his exercises over his lifetime to give us exactly what we need. Before we start changing the way we do an exercise, perhaps we should truly understand it first. The answers are right under our noses if we actually look. Just like those sunglasses on your head, it’s a much more obvious place so did I really need to look under the sofa for them first?
“Life is really simple but we insist on making it complicated” - Confucius
Saying Pilates is really simple, and searching for the simplicity that is in the Pilates system doesn’t mean it won’t take a lifetime to master and understand it though. That’s also partly what makes it such an amazing workout as if you really try to master it, you will never be bored! It also takes a good teacher to help guide you to see what the Pilates system is and how to use it, how to connect the dots and see that there aren’t really hundreds of different exercises, but 1 exercise done a lot of different ways! Ultimately you are the one who has to feel it though and understand how it works within your unique body.
“A teacher, a good teacher that is, functions as a pointer to truth, but not a giver of truth” - Bruce Lee
Now you might be saying “what are you talking about!” right now. So here’s a great place for you to start to dive deeper into understanding the simplicity and brilliance in the Classical Pilates system, with the single most important exercise - The Double Leg Pull (also known as The Double Leg Stretch). Jay talks about “the two way stretch”, and The Double Leg Pull is the the two way stretch in it’s simplest form. You are reaching in two oppositional directions with an equal pull both ways.
Stretching out in these 2 directions will create more strength and stability in your center. Now take a moment to go through the first 4 exercises in the mat work (or just the ones that you know) and see if you can find the 2 way stretch or double leg pull in each of them. You heard me, get up away from your computer/phone and do these:
1. The Hundred
2. Roll Up
3. Roll Over
4. Single Leg Circles
Could you find the Double Leg Pull in each of these exercises? Can you feel how by finding the 2 way stretch in each exercise gets you deeper in your center? Some exercises may be more complicated to find the 2 way stretch in, and some exercises may have more than one 2 way stretch within them. Like the Spine Twist, how many 2 way stretches can you find in this exercise?
As you move through your matwork you will have to find your 2 way stretch while lying on your stomach, sitting up, kneeling to standing. With the change of the gravitational pull, so will your efforts to find the 2 way stretch change but essentially it is still the Double Leg Pull. Lets look at how you prepare for your Push Ups, press your feet into the ground and pull your center in and up and reach through your fingertips to the ceiling, it’s your Double Leg Pull just flipped up 90 degrees. It’s the same exercises but it will feel different, there’s a different effort required from your body. Now can you maintain this 2 way stretch through your body as your round over and walk out on your hands into the Push Up position?
I challenge you in your next workout, whether its on the Reformer or the Mat, or the Cadillac or any of the apparatus, to see if you can find your Double Leg Pull in each and every single exercise. You may find that exercises you found impossible before, might become more doable by using this 2 way stretch to get into your center, it may just be exactly what you need to make it happen! Can you let go of all your other ideas of what this exercise is for and just find your 2 way stretch?
I'll leave you with one last quote on your journey to brilliance......
“It’s not the daily increase, but the daily decrease. Hack away at the unessentials “- Bruce Lee