Ready or not, it’s time for March Matness. It’s hard to believe that last year at this time, we were beginning our annual celebration of the original Pilates Mat work, with no inkling of the way our lives would be turned upside down by the time we reached say, Open Leg Rocker or Swan Dive, depending upon your location. By the time we got to Push-Ups, the global pandemic was in full swing.
Having endured a year of pandemic shutdowns, incalculable grief, and lots of anxiety, the international Pilates community will come together virtually this year to mark March MATness. Pilates Anytime is celebrating the occasion on social media and with special programming on our site, as we have in the past, but we’re doing things a bit differently. This year, we’ve decided to think big, as in the whole world big. Read on to discover Pilates Anytime’s plans for March MATness, global pandemic style.
The brainchild of Pilates teacher Benjamin Degenhardt, the month-long event has grown into a worldwide celebration of Joseph’s original Mat work. Each day in March is dedicated to a specific exercise, following the order shown in Return to Life. For example, March 1st is dedicated to the hundred, followed by the Roll-up on March 2, Roll-over on March 3, and so forth, winding up with the Push-Up on March 31 (three days in the month pull double duty to showcase two closely related exercises).
For 2021, our theme is “Pilates Around the World.” We’ll be showcasing some of our Pilates Anytime teachers on our Instagram story and feed. You can follow along and post your own March MATness pics. Remember to tag us on Instagram @PilatesAnytime so we can repost and share your images.
The original 34 exercises form a kind of lingua franca (or universal language) for the Pilates community, which includes people with a variety of movement backgrounds and Pilates lineages. During March MATness, the Pilates community is encouraged to focus on what we have in common, rather than what separates us. The foundations of Joe’s work, on full display in the 34 exercises, are the building blocks of Pilates movements, which continue to inspire creative instructors to this day. Paring down, peeling back the layers, and looking to the past for inspiration can rekindle our appreciation for the creator of this unique system of exercise.
“Teaching so many Mat classes over the past 11 months of lockdown has challenged me to make even more connections between the mat work and the equipment,” says instructor Carrie Macy Samper. “The shapes and concepts of each mat exercise are found on the apparatus. It’s really amazing how the whole Method is so intertwined.”
In a crazy time, doing the original Mat exercises can be grounding, something we could all use right about now. “I love that in a world where nothing is certain, when I do the original Mat order allows me to know I will start with the 100 I will end with Push-Ups,” says instructor Lesley Logan.
With studios closed and lockdowns in effect in many places, March MATness will look different this year. Instead of groups of friends or co-workers, expect lots of solo shots, with cameo appearances by puppies and babies, as we’ve come to expect in COVID times. We’re hoping to see some participants channel the spirit of noted outdoor exercise enthusiast Joe Pilates, who was famously photographed throughout his lifetime exercising outdoors wearing only his underwear (feel free to participate fully clothed). Taking March MATness outdoors is a natural progression in a year in which fitness has migrated outdoors, both because it allows for physical distancing and because we could all use a little more Vitamin D.
The experience of doing an exercise a day, in order, or of watching the parade of social media images creates a new appreciation for Joe’s original order. “It is true perfection in how each exercise builds not only on preceding exercise, but on a pattern that creates one continuous flow of movement,” says instructor Kathryn Ross-Nash. “One exercise melts into the next, repeating with different constraints and orientation in space- the series is not many exercises but one continuous.”
“There are no wasted or unnecessary movements,” says instructor Amy Taylor Alpers. “It leads you through an ideal set of exercises that progress your body through warming up, building skills and strength and flexibility, flushing toxins, pumping fresh blood and oxygen to every cell, and leaving your feeling refreshed, revitalized, and fit!”
Making the familiar new can be a challenge, but it’s a good challenge. “My process of finding something fresh or unexpected in my Pilates practice is to simply take the original objective of an exercise and then start asking questions like, ‘What if I put my foot here instead or what if I tried this standing? Can I still do the exercise with its original objective yet find it this way?’” says instructor Leah Stewart. “Asking simple questions like this as I play with movement variations and modifications has led to some really fun, challenging, and even silly movement experiences, and that always keeps it fresh.”
If you’ve been having trouble prioritizing your own wellness during this crazy time, March MATness might be just the thing you need to put yourself first. Anyone can find a few minutes in the day to do just one exercise.
Practicing virtually, together, during a pandemic is an extension of the kinds of adaptations we’ve all made in the last year as more and more of life has migrated to screens. It’s now possible for Pilates practitioners to study with instructors from anywhere in the world without getting on a plane, provided they have good wifi connections.
We hope that you will find inspiration and community through Pilates Anytime’s celebration of March MATness. Keep an eye out for our Instagram features (#MarchMATness). We’ll be looking for your posts, too.
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