#MMMM, week 5: Finale

By Benjamin Degenhardt

March 31. Last day of March. Last day of March MATness 2014. Sigh…

Why does something so good have to end? Yes I know – there always needs to be balance in all things, the good and the bad, the happy and the sad… but still. Saying goodbye is never easy.

Of course I hope that the end of March MATness is not the end of your appreciation for the Mat practice you found here, and I hope you continue to come back to revisit your favorite articles, videos, tutorials, and pictures. But more on that a little bit later. Let’s focus on what we have accomplished together this month!

MM world

This is a heat map that shows where people were doing Pilates Mat work today. Nah, that’s not true, but the image shows where you visited us from all month. I like to think this is pretty amazing (and Greenland, we’ll get you in 2015…)!

If I had to bring  the entire experience down to one word – it wouldn’t be ‘Pilates’. Not even ‘movement’. It would be…


Seeing the map above and knowing that on all these screens, in all these different parts of the world, we shared a common goal – to be better (moving) versions of ourselves. When Joseph Pilates referred to his work as “universal” and “global”… is this what he had in mind perhaps?

But other than just in spirit, March MATness got to connect us in real life, too!

photoOn a personal level, I got to connect with a very special group of people – my MMbassadors. To say this dream team touched me with generosity and talent is an understatement. If it wasn’t for their zip-files full of pictures, new article ideas, and videos that continued to suddenly appear in my inbox, this would have been nowhere near as fun. And the same is true for the many contributors and supporters of MM I found online via Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and who shared their stories and musings in comments and messages. Remember Kevin & Jon from earlier this month? We actually got to meet in person this weekend!

But the most meaningful connection is the one you made with your own body, mind, and spirit. We may have given you the resources, but at the end of the day: you did it all on your own - with a little bit of floor space, and a desire to connect.

So while the sad news is that it’s over, the great news is that it’ll only be another 334 days until we can begin all over again. And by far the best news: you know exactly how to keep going and growing into your practice until then.

Forever zest and pleasure,

I’m no fitness model: Hip Twist

By Anula Maiberg

Hip Twist

We couldn’t end the I’m no fitness model series with a better suited picture – thank you Anula for bringing us a “hip twist” on the Mat work all month!

“I’m no fitness model. I can’t and won’t compete with them. So I decided to just be myself. My style. My personality. With all my imperfections. My love of the Method gives me the confidence to move every day. Often times folks doubt I’m a Pilates instructor. That doesn’t bother me. I’d rather they just see me on the Mat.”

Backbone & Will

By Karen Ellis / Pilates Nerd™

Now that we arrived at the end of March MATness and you have fallen in love with the Mat work – for the first time, or all over again – maybe you asked yourself at some point:

Why did I ever forsake the glorious Mat work in my daily routine in the first place?

It’s possible that ‘will’ may have something to do with it.

When you see a baby progress from infancy to toddlerhood, you’ll witness the physical manifestation of will in a big way. Lifting the head and neck, rolling over and sitting up all require massive effort. Watch out when kids begin to walk – there’s no stopping them! This innate will is a catalyst for the type of determination we use throughout our formative years to accomplish our tasks.

Did baby need a personal trainer to get here?

We all possess will, albeit in varying degrees. By design, there is an incentive and a reward for your effort, and that is the greatest starting point to acquire any new skill. Baby needed to see, so she figured out how to lift her head. When she needed to get somewhere on her own, she had to figure out how to walk. Noteworthy is that her neck got stronger and so too, did her legs with walking.

If we want to use our body – move it and strengthen it in the way it was designed – we need to find methods that encourages this outcome. It can be as simple as getting on your Mat where you can work on managing gravity, cultivate focus, and  will.

What’s the reward?

If we can move better and more efficiently we’ll get stronger, feel better and stand taller.

Backbone and will are synonyms. To live life well, we have to have both.

So be strong, stand tall, and keep going!

Return to Life on the Mat: The Quadruped

By Benjamin Degenhardt


The Quadru-what? We don’t mean to leave things on an awkward note, but before you roll up out of your last Push Up, keep your arms and legs long and walk around as the beautiful human animal that you are. Walk up your Mat and back, walk in circles, walk slow, walk fast. Why?

Well… why not?

Congratulations, you now officially returned to life!

The Return to Life on the Mat series is an homage to the original photography of Joseph Pilates’ Mat exercises in his book Return To Life Through Contrology. The pictures were the centerpiece of March MATness in 2013, its inaugural year. Interested in a poster of the series?

To see this exercise demonstrated please browse our video section!

Once Upon a Time, Chapter 3: Innovation

By Benjamin Degenhardt

We have learned a little about where the Mat exercises originated in Chapter 1, seen how Joseph Pilates evolved and integrated these as a part of his original method, Contrology, in Chapter 2… but, how exactly did the Pilates Matwork become a staple in modern fitness?

Joseph Pilates at Jacob's Pillow
Joseph Pilates teaching at Jacob’s Pillow

Well, it didn’t happen while Joseph Pilates’ was still alive, and it actually didn’t happen for almost another two decades after, either. During those years, the studio was maintained by Joseph’s widowed partner Clara, and later by one of their original students, Romana Kryzanowska. Despite grand hopes for the establishment of Contrology training facilities and the preservation of his method, Joseph Pilates did not transcribe his method other than filming parts of his work, and photographing his exercises for display at the studio (so his students could reference them during sessions).

In short, his efforts were left unfinished, “Contrology” was renamed to “Pilates” and taught based on the memory of his disciples, and the work itself remained unknown to the larger world.

Mat work in 1963Mat work in 1963

But in the late 1980’s, with a little help of celebrity endorsements that lead to heavy media coverage, Pilates was in the spotlight. Only a few years later, out of a small Pilates studio inside the West Village Workout gym in New York City, Pilates icons Jennifer Kries and Alycea Ungaro began to introduce Pilates Mat-only classes to fitness enthusiasts. With skepticism from some purist Pilates peers, but curiosity about this “new workout” from within the fitness industry, they began to bring their popular classes to various other New York City gyms. It didn’t take long before the Mat work spread like wildfire.

“These first classes were packed”, says Alycea Ungaro. “We were hoping to generate greater interest for the full Pilates method by bringing them a taste with the Mat work, but people really enjoyed practicing just the bodyweight exercises. Then all of a sudden a lot of people wanted to get certified to teach the work, so ultimately we did see more people coming to the studio to get exposure to the full method.”

It wasn’t long until the first videos and books for Pilates Mat work suddenly hit the market. As people all over the world now had access to the Mat exercises and practiced “Pilates”, they became less and less aware that in fact the Mat work is part of a comprehensive method of physical culture – developed by a man named Joseph Pilates.

Pilates Mat classes, in the context of modern fitness, continued to develop as a separate entity, parallel to the full Pilates method. Today, chances are you won’t have to walk very far to find a Pilates Mat class on a local gym or studio schedule.

Since the Pilates Mat work has become somewhat synonymous with “core” exercises and stretching, it is true that the label ‘Pilates’ no longer means that the class you are about to take has its roots in the actual Pilates method. Of course, as you now know there’s so much more to it than just working out your core…

I hope that the Once Upon a Time series, as well as all the other material on this website, will help you become a discerning mover, and paint a clearer picture of what Pilates Mat work really means… where it comes from, what it was designed to be, what the real Mat work looks and feels like, and how it fits into your everyday life, one breath and minute at a time.

Pilates on the Mat is…

… a path to better health through movement,

… a return to life,

… everlasting youth,

and yours to take and keep. Forever.

I’m no fitness model: Spine Twist

By Anula Maiberg

Spine Twist

“I’m no fitness model. I can’t and won’t compete with them. So I decided to just be myself. My style. My personality. With all my imperfections. My love of the Method gives me the confidence to move every day. Often times folks doubt I’m a Pilates instructor. That doesn’t bother me. I’d rather they just see me on the Mat.”

Check back every day in March for a new picture of Anula’s photography series!

MATness in Puerto Rico with Lali Diaz-McDonald

Lali Diaz-McDonald is the owner of Pilates Puerto Rico, San Juan’s first studio dedicated to instruction in classical Pilates. The studio is still young but Lali is proud to share what her students have accomplished in the first few months since opening:

“I have been working with the ladies in the video between 3 to 8 weeks. They are loving it and feeling the difference in their bodies. They were very enthusiastic about doing the video.”

And it shows! Thank you and congratulations on your new studio!!!

Find out more about Lali by checking out her Pilates Puerto Rico Facebook page.