Mari Winsor is a Pilates instructor who gained fame, in part, by teaching Pilates to the famous. Winsor is well-known for the star-studded client list at her California fitness studios, but she’s also made her own name by developing a workout featuring selected Pilates exercises performed in a specific order, which she terms “dynamic sequencing.” Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned exerciser, learning Winsor’s methods may help you gain more from your Pilates workouts.
You can do numerous Pilates exercises on a Reformer machine, but many of Winsor’s preferred activities are floor exercises. To maintain your comfort, and help you use proper form, Winsor recommends doing Pilates floor exercises on a 1/2-inch-thick mat. Winsor specifically warns against relying on a thin yoga mat to cushion your back. Indeed, it takes at least two yoga mats to equal the thickness of a proper Pilates mat.
The No. 1 mistake among Pilates devotees is “rushing through the movements,” according to Winsor. Each part of every exercise must be completed, using correct form. Winsor particularly cautions against relying too heavily on exercise tools to do the work for you. Book a session with a certified Pilates trainer to be sure you’re performing your exercises correctly.
Use an exercise band to make your Pilates workout more challenging. The exercise band can help further strengthen your target muscles, and can bring new muscles into play as stabilizers. For example, you can place the band around both ankles when you perform leg circles. Lie face up on the floor with one leg raised vertically, then rotate the raised leg in circles while pushing against the band’s resistance. Again, it’s important to maintain correct form to reap all the benefits the band can offer. Resistance bands are much like weights. Using a band that’s too small or stiff is similar to lifting a weight that’s too heavy for you, which can do more harm than good. A band that’s too large or too loose, on the other hand, won’t hurt you but also may not provide any benefits.
Correct breathing techniques are important for all exercises, because your muscles need a constant supply of oxygen when they’re working hard. Winsor stresses the importance of breathing deeply while you’re performing Pilates to give your muscles the oxygen they require, and to breathe in through your nose. Winsor calls the nose “a natural filtration system” that keeps toxic particles out of your lungs. Breathing through the nose also warms the air a bit, which, Winsor says, further helps to supply oxygen to your muscles efficiently.
M.L. Rose has worked as a print and online journalist for more than 20 years. He has contributed to a variety of national and local publications, specializing in sports writing. Rose holds a B.A. in communications.