Find Your Mo-Joe! – Amy & Rachel in Pilates Style Magazine

The renowned founders of The Pilates Center in Boulder show you how to bring balance to your body – Joseph Pilates’ ultimate goal – with a mat series that will work your fingers all the way to your core.


By Rachel Taylor Segel and Amy Taylor Alpers • Edited by Amanda Altman

As we all know, bodies come in many shapes and sizes, and are often categorized in certain ways: in fruit metaphors—apple, banana or pear shaped; geometric forms such as rectangles, triangles and circles; or scientific terms such as mesomorph (naturally muscular), ectomorph (thin, non-muscular) and endomorph (plump). In Pilates, our mission is to help “uniformly develop” the body, to bring it into ideal balance and alignment, no matter its type, so it can move with ultimate efficiency and effectiveness. This enables detoxificaton and reoxygenation through enhanced breath capacity and power, and unhindered circulation and oxygen absorption.

Regardless of gender, genetics or lifestyle issues, it is possible to enable any body to be more uniformly developed through Pilates. However, this doesn’t always happen automatically. It requires that the teacher truly acknowledge all the essential facts about the body in front of her/him, and realize that the Pilates method will need to be applied in such a way that it will very intentionally accommodate its unique needs. It’s basically a physics problem. How do we make the Pilates exercises fit each person’s specific design to help achieve our ultimate goal of uniform development?

It’s important to remember that all the Pilates exercises came from a single mind/body—that of Joseph Pilates himself. Joe was a classic mesomorrph (naturally muscular) with exceptional upper-body strength and mass. Having been a boxer, he was particularly powerful in his chest, arms, wrists and hands. The vast majority (although it’s certainly changing) of Pilates clients and teachers today are women, and this is usually not the case for them. But men struggle, too, as not all men are like Joe was. Not to mention that our lifestyle today doesn’t often ask much more of our arms and hands than to push buttons. So we immediately run into one major, undeniable issue in making the Pilates exercises work effectively: Our upper-body strength is sorely limited. So it’s time to find your Mo-Joe.

Mr. Pilates created a number of wonderful exercises specifically for building upper-body strength, and particularly, hand, wrist and forearm power. You could argue that all of his exercises require and utilize this strength, but many clients manage to get through a lot of the repertoire without truly building this essential element of the work. In fact, often exercises are simply modified and/or eliminated because of shoulder, arm and wrist weakness, injuries or struggles.

We are going to look into several key exercises in the Pilates method that focus on building essential fist, wrist, forearm, shoulder and chest strength: The Bean Bag exercise, Hand Weight Series and Clara’s Castanets. Although the latter may not have been developed by Mr. Pilates himself, clearly his life partner and co-teacher saw a need and created it to continue his mission of building full-body uniform development. Except for Around The Clock, these exercises are for all levels and can be made easier or more difficult as needed. Mo-Joe, you’re about to be putty in our hands.

Read the whole article here