Category Archives: Exercises

Mat Exercise – Swan

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… true rhythm and control is observed both in domestic pets and wild animals – without exception.”

~Joseph Pilates

Swan - Setup

Swan – Setup

Joseph Pilates was intrigued with the movement of animals. The agility of a cat and the flexibility of a seal, have inspired exercises in the Pilates repertoire.  As we move into the next exercise of the Mat workout, we are introduced to the first extension exercise…Swan.

Repetitions: 3-5

Set Up:

From Saw lie back and roll over onto abdominals

  • Legs parallel together
  • Place hands under shoulders with elbows reaching for the floor
Swan - Lengthen & Lift

Swan – Lengthen & Lift

  • ŸInhale push palms into the mat while lifting upper body off the mat keeping the abdominals in and up, until arms are straight.
  • Exhale lower upper body to the matŸ


Press back into an active rest post to stretch the spine.

LOVA Tips:.

ŸŸThis exercise is great for those have the slouchy upper back and for those who have osteoporosis. However this and any exercise where lying on the stomach is not recommenced for those who are pregnant. Thoracic extension exercises are great for pregnant women because of the body changing. I advise working with a certified instructor for exercises that best suit your changing body.

If you have or experience issues with the lower spine, keep the navel to the mat or completely omit the exercise. As I teach this exercise to clients, I educate them on keeping the length through the lower back. To accomplish this, anchor the pubic bone to the mat and the higher your lift deepen that connection by using your Powerhouse.  Lift from your center and work the opposition through the spine, collarbone and neck. To do this reach out through the tailbone, draw the shoulders on the back and reach through the back of the head like turtle coming out of it’s shell.


Enjoy the stretch!


Previous exercise – Saw

Mat Exercise – Saw

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This exercise is another stretch for the spine and a continuation of Spine Stretch Forward that includes rotation of the spine.

Saw Setup - Reach Out

Saw Setup – Reach Out

Repetitions: 3-5

Set Up:

From Corkscrew roll up or rock up to a seated position.

  • Open legs as wide as the mat with feet flexed
  • ŸSit up tall with active arms in a “T” position  – keeping finger tips in the peripheral
  • Palms face the floor
  • ŸInhale twist the spine in one direction
  • ŸExhale reach pinky finger towards opposite pinky toe 
  • ŸReach back arm in the mid-line – palm faces back

    Saw - Twist Reach

    Saw – Twist Reach

  • Pulse pinky finger three times past pinky toe – “saw off pinky toe with pinky finger”
  • Ÿ Inhale sit up tall and exhale back to center
  • Switch sides


Lengthen spine in the center, bring legs together and roll back on the mat

LOVA Tips:

ŸŸSaw is a great exercise to focus on opposition – energy reach out in different directions. For example, lengthen the spine by pulling your abs “in and up”. Reach your tailbone to the floor and the crown of your head reaches for the clouds. Your arms are long and active through the fingertips as the shoulder anchor towards your mid-line. Rotate from the Powerhouse as your hips are “anchored’ to the mat. Grow taller each time you come return to center – work the opposition.

If you have tight hamstrings, sit elevated with soft or slightly bend the knees. This exercise is not recommended for individuals with osteoporosis or other bone density conditions and is not suitable for those with neck issues.

Click here for the next exercise in the mat repetoire – Swan

Previous exercise – Open Leg Rocker



Rise of the Barre Method Workout


Ballet Barre

The stationary handrail commonly utilized for ballet warm-up exercises was initially for the dancers themselves.  Over the past few years an exercise craze using this common dance fixture has exploded into one of the hottest workouts being added to Pilates Studios and elite fitness centers around the world. Today, Barre is toning, tightening, chiseling bodies and changing lives. The evolutionary journey of this workout is a unique story in itself.


Lotte Berk

Lotte Berk

Barre as is it commonly referred to was an exercise method developed in the late 1940’s by Lotte Berk. The famous European dancer was severely injured in a car accident that left her to rely on a wheelchair.  The determined dancer rehabilitated herself by developing her own exercise method based on her formal dance training.  She made a full recovery by focusing on strength and flexibility in the hips, pelvis, abdominals and lower back, commonly referred to in Pilates at the Powerhouse.  With her new formulated exercise method for rehabilitation, Lotte berk began teaching her work to others out of her London studio.


lydia bach

Lydia Back

In 1969, Lydia Bach a physically fit American began taking Lotte’s classes. Lydia had a hard time completing the movements but was amazed by the workout. She decided to study under Lotte for a year.  Returning to the United States in 1970 Lydia purchased rights to the Lotte Berk name and technique.  She combined the work with her own knowledge of dance and yoga to open the first Lotte Berk Method Studio in Manhattan. There this core focused, strengthening, cardio method which transformed bodies all in one workout was born.


Today, Barre can be found perfectly integrated with Pilates. The unique similarities of controlled movements which result in elongated muscles. The flow and precision of each exercise becomes a focus on the individuals mind body connection.

Have you tried a Barre class?

Simple Healthy Tips while Traveling

LOVA On the Go



Summer is finally here and for many of us that means time for getting away. Whether you planned a family vacation, a little weekend getaways or you simply travel for work.  It is always a challenge to stick with a workout schedule when you are in and out-of-town. No need to sweat, you have so many workout options available that this blog post would be very long. So here are some simple tips to get this series started.  Stay tuned for more LOVA on the Go! I have ideas, tips, meal planning and some workouts to share.



WHERE ARE YOU GOING? Do a little research on your destination. Knowing what is available to you will help in planning your trip.

  • Contact the hotel or facility where you will be staying. Is there a workout gym? Ask what type of equipment they have i.e., treadmill, bike, weights, etc. That way you know what to expect.
  • Take your workout outside – find out if there are any public parks with hiking and running trails.  If you like to bike, see if there is a bike rental close to your hotel.
  • Some gyms may accommodate you if you have a membership at a participating gym. For example, if you have a Bally’s membership you may be able to utilize another Bally’s facility. Check your existing membership for information.
  • Another thing about gyms and fitness centers, you may be able to get a week pass for free or for a small fee during your stay.  Inquire with gyms near your hotel.
  • Check out Groupon or Living Social websites for deals from your destination.  You may find a classes like yoga, Pilates, barre, Zumba, bootcamps, etc. you can take at special coupon rates.
  • Are there any interesting “tourist” things to do? Just seeing the sights for a day will get you exercise. If you are on a tropical beach vacation, there may be volleyball, surfing and other water sports.  When I traveled to Boston, I walked everywhere including the Freedom Trail. I got my history lessons during that trip.



TIME TO PACK! Yes I know not only are there clothes, toiletries to pack but don’t forget your workout gear.  Depending on where and what you have planned you need the appropriate workout clothes.

  • If you plan on hiking or running you are going to need the appropriate clothes (jacket, pants, and shorts) and foot gear.
  • Hitting the gym your plan you will need gym bag along with clothes and your gym membership.
  • Small props travel easy.  Resistant bands, light hand and ankle weights do not take up much room. A yoga mat may fit in your suitcase or bring it as a carryon in a mat bag. (You might be able to get some items in that bag too!) Even a small ball that can be blown up and deflated makes a great workout prop.
  • Don’t forget your MP3 Player!!!

Healthy Salad


EATING HEALTHY…I feel this is the biggest challenge when traveling. Eating out makes it so easy to lose sight of maintaining a healthy diet.  For starters, we have no idea what goes into preparing the food we order.  Salt and non-healthy oils, not to mention some restaurant food is processed, so you can be consuming empty calories.

  • At the restaurant, request dressing and sauces on the side for dipping your bites instead of being poured all over your food.
  • Order fruit or vegetables instead of fries, pasta, etc.
  • If your hotel room is equipped with a small refrigerator, make a trip to the local grocery.  This will allow you to make healthy food choice and keep some money in your wallet.

These simple tips will help keep unwanted pounds off during your travels. You may even return home a little lighter.  But wherever you may go I know there is always an adventure and with new adventures may come new workouts!

Mat Exercise – Corkscrew

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This intermediate exercise is a great challenge for the abdominals, especially the obliques. Similar to Roll Over but with a ‘twist’, Corkscrew is a challenge for maintaining stability in the shoulders. I strongly recommend working with the beginner steps first then progress to advanced.



Repetitions: 3-5

Set Up:

From Open Leg Rocker – Bring legs together and reach arms to a high diagonal (Teaser) Roll upper body back to the matŸ lengthen legs up to 90 degrees

  • Arms active by the sides of the body or place hands under sacrum
  • Lengthen legs to the ceiling


  • Beginner – Pull both legs into the Powerhouse then circle legs down and around in one direction then reverseŸ while keeping tailbone anchored into the mat
  • Intermediate  – Pull both legs into the Powerhouse and lift the last 4 vertebrae off the mat. Lower with control towards one hip, circle the legs around. Repeat to reverse direction
  • Advanced – Pull both legs into the Powerhouse to bring legs overhead parallel to the floor.  Roll through the spine towards one hip, circle the legs around with the Powerhouse. Lift hips up and over to reverse the circle.

    Corkscrew - Circle Legs Around

    Corkscrew – Circle Legs Around


Pull knees into the Powerhouse

LOVA Tips:

ŸThis exercise is all about control while articulating the spine to the mat while challenging the Powerhouse with asymmetrical movement. You will feel the obliques (side abs) ont  this one.  This is the first exercise to incorporate slight rotation of the spine. Try to keep the legs straight and hugging into the midline.  Maintain shoulder stability by keeping the blades anchored to the mat towards the hips. Make sure you advance the exercise with progression. Master each variation before taking on the next challenge. As you circle the legs away from the body deeply engage the Powerhouse to stabilize the spine. Refrain from allowing the lower back to arch.

For tight hamstrings, slightly bend the knees. This exercise is not recommended for individuals with osteoporosis or other bone density conditions and is not suitable for neck issues.

Click here for the next exercise in the mat repertoire – Saw

Previous exercise – Open Leg Rocker

Mat Exercise – Open Leg Rocker

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This intermediate exercise is a great challenge for the abdominals.  The Powerhouse controls the “rocking” movement which is a massage for the spine. The main key of this exercise is control, one of the main principles of the Pilates method.

Open Leg Rocker

Open Leg Rocker

Repetitions: 3-5

Set Up:

  • ŸFrom Spine Stretch, bend both knees into the chest and place one hand on each ankle
  • Engage your Powerhouse to lift the feet off the mat and balance between your sit bones and tail bone
  • Lengthen both legs and open to hips width apart
  • Round into the abdominals creating a c-curve while still balancing


  • Inhale to roll back to the tip of the shoulder blades
  • Exhale roll back up and balance – hold for 1 count – repeat

    Open Leg Rocker - Roll Back

    Open Leg Rocker – Roll Back


Lower feet to the mat and lie back in the center of your mat

LOVA Tips:

This exercise is all about controlled movement.  The Powerhouse pulls the spine to the mat and with deepening the abs ‘in and up’ will provide the power to rock back up. If you have tight hamstrings hold behind the knees.  Lengthen through the arms and legs with opposition. For beginners and spine issues, hold the balance position.  This exercise is not recommended for individuals with osteoporois or other bone density conditions.

Click here for the next exercise in the mat repetoire – Corkscrew
Previous exercise – Spine Stretch

Mat Exercise – Spine Stretch Forward

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Sit up Nice and Tall! Now it is time to lengthen and stretch the spine in the first seated exercise. This exercise focuses on the stretch between each vertebra of the spine in addition to stretching the hamstrings.

Spine Stretch Forward -Setup

Spine Stretch Forward -Setup

Repetitions: 3-5

Set Up:

ŸFrom Criss Cross – Roll up or Rock up

  • ŸSit up tall on the mat and center yourself
  • Extend the arms in front of body shoulder height
  • Extend legs out in front of body feet open mat width apart
  • Feet flexed


  • Ÿ Inhale sit even taller and stretch the spine up
  • Ÿ Exhale as your body rolls forward creating a deep c-curve and deeply engaging the abdominals
  • Ÿ The height of the arms do not change throughout
  • Ÿ Inhale start to roll back up into tall spine position – Exhale sit tall
  • Repeat

    Spine Stretch Forward C-curve

    Spine Stretch Forward C-curve


Sit up nice and tall

LOVA Tips:

Because this exercise will re-teach you about correct posture, the focus should be on the length of the spine to sit up tall from the sit bones while reaching the head to the clouds. Keep the arms reaching in opposition while keeping the shoulders on the back.  Movement of the spine comes from the Powerhouse. If you have tight hamstrings or feel a pull in the lower back, bend the knees.

Click here for the next exercise in the mat repetoire – Open Leg Rocker
Previous exercise – Criss Cross (5 Ab Series)

A Method Focus – Matwork!

LOVA Pure MatMatwork…the most versatile workout in the Pilates Method.  All you need is a floor and a mat. This workout can be done anywhere and everywhere.   This is the order I teach which is considered the Classical format, just as Joe taught it!

Each week I post an exercise of the week. I am currently working my way through the Classical Mat work. As we work through the Mat repertoire, I will update this list with links to the selected exercises.  I recommend to my clients to incorporate at least two Pilates workouts each week.



Roll Up

Roll Over*

Single Leg Circles

Rolling like a Ball

Single Leg Stretch

Double Leg Stretch


Lower /Lift*

Criss/ Cross*

Spine Stretch

Open Leg Rocker*




Still to Come….

Single Leg Kick*

Double Leg Kick*

Neck Pull*


Side Kick Series

Ÿ Front /Back

Ÿ Up/ Down

Ÿ Small Circles

Ÿ Inside Leg Circles

        One of the following for grand finale

Ÿ Large Leg Circles*

Ÿ Bicycle*

Ÿ Scissors*


Hip Circles*


Leg Pull – Front Support*



Push Ups*


*Intermediate Exercises

Mat Exercise – Criss Cross (5 Abs Series)

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Here we are the last of the Pilates 5 Abs Series, and now it’s time to add a ‘twist’ to the work.  Criss Cross is the first exercise in the mat work to place emphasis on the obliques.  The obliques are important as they facilitate rotation of the torso and provide spinal stability for posture.  Time to “widdle away the middle”…love saything that!

Criss Cross

Criss Cross

Repetitions: 5 sets


Set Up:

  • Lie back on mat
  • Knees are pulled into the Powerhouse
  • Place hands behind the head for support
  • Engaging the Powerhouse, lift the head, neck and shoulders off of the mat


  • Inhale twist torso reaching shoulder towards the opposite one knee
  • Extend the opposite the leg away to 45 degrees angle (straight leg)
  • Hold for 2-3 counts
  • Switch legs and twist to the opposite side

    Criss Cross Switch Legs

    Criss Cross Switch Legs


Bend knees into the Powerhouse, lower head, neck and shoulders.

LOVA Tips:

Twist from the waist. Use the Powerhouse to anchor the hips into mat and to stabilize the pelvis. Keep the elbows wide into your peripheral vision and shoulders on the back.  Work the legs in opposition, as one knee pulls into the Powerhouse the opposite leg reaches out. Keep head on the mat if you have a neck injury and work the legs to towards the ceiling. Congratulations! You have completed the Pilates 5 Abs Series.

Click here for the next exercise in the Mat repetoire – Spine Stretch
Previous exercise – Lower/Lift (5 Ab Series)

Mat Exercise – Lower/Lift (5 Abs Series)

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Almost to the end of the 5 Ab Series, is now moving those straight legs together. I teach this exercise with a focus on lengthening the legs from the Powerhouse. There is a lot of opposition in this exercise.  Use the Powerhouse to anchor the tailbone and stabilize the spine and pelvis while the legs are in motion.



Repetitions: 5 sets

Set Up:

  • Lie back on mat
  • Place hands behind your head for support
  • Engaging the Powerhouse, lift the head, neck and shoulders off of the mat
  • Extend both legs to 90 degrees


  • Inhale to lower both legs to 45 degrees
  • Hold for 1 count
  • Exhale lift legs back to 90 degrees

    Lower - Lift

    Lower – Lift


Bend knees into the Powerhouse then lower head, neck and shoulders.

LOVA Tips:

Lengthen the legs at the same time you stabilize the pelvis with the Powerhouse. Draw the shoulder blades on the back. If you have lower back issues, place hands under your tailbone. Keep head on the mat if you have a neck injury and work a smaller range of motion.

Click here for the next exercise in the Mat repetoire – Criss Cross (5 Abs Series)
Previous exercise – Scissors (5 Ab Series)


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