Class #3709

Reformer Essentials

50 min - Class


If you are new to the Reformer or you're thinking about adding this work to your practice, then this workout by Amy Havens is perfect for you. She teaches the "essentials" which includes the traditional exercises that you might see in most classes. She finds links to the Mat repertoire that you already know so that you can start to expand your knowledge of the work.
What You'll Need: Reformer w/Box

About This Video


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Hi everyone, I'm Amy Havens. I am going to give you an essential, reformer workout today. What I mean by essential is somewhat basic and really building from the basic spine position. So spinal flexion, spinal extension, one or two in some side band or lateral flexion and just one or two in rotation of the trunk. So this might be a class for you if you've been going through your mat work and you're getting efficient and proficient with your mat skills.

Maybe you're actually a mat teacher out there and you're kinda tinkering on, well what would it be like to do some reformer work, and maybe take a reformer course somewhere. I'm not saying I'm doing a teacher training with this class I would like to just say that this is some material that's fairly essential, steeped from the traditional list, kind of classical list or traditional list. And you might see these things in other schools as well. But this is kind of a home-grown like essential reformer workout, okay? Only prop I'm gonna have you use, I seem to be squeezing it, is a little sticky pad.

And you can use the kind of a drawer liner sticky pad stuff. You've seen us use that in classes too, you've probably used it at the studio. Or something like that. For right now, just take it out of the way. I'm on a balanced body reformer.

Any reformer will do for your workout. And we'll start with some foot and leg work, all right? So any good reformer session really does start with foot and leg work. So I want you to lie on your back, and I have three red springs on. So what about the spring tension for the beginning of a reformer workout?

Pilates Stance

I'm gonna suggest that you play with it. You're gonna see what, definitely nothing too heavy, where you feel like right away is, you'll see when we push, that you get uncomfortably pressed up into those shoulder blocks. These are here as little indicators, sometimes and helpers to talk to the shoulders, give them feedback to lower them and start using some muscles in your shoulder girdle here to keep the shoulders away from the blocks, all right? Neutral pelvis, we all know what that is. Hips and pubic bone are on the same plane as the reformer bed.

Heels are pulled together, knees are no wider than your shoulder blocks. And let's work on the concept lesser here, staying within the frame of your body, within the frame of the reformer. Nothing too outside of that, all right? Okay, so if you've done your mat work, which you have, you would've already done all of that, and you're prepared, let's go ahead and stretch out, elongate the body, you're on a Pilates stance position to begin, take a quick peek down at your feet, see that all five toes of each foot are up on the bar, heels are together, your knees are supported. You're long, you're already feeling taller.

And we'll just continue. And for this workout, I'm not gonna specify so much about breath, where's the inhale, where's the exhale, I tend to do an inhale as I go away from the foot bar, and I exhale as I come to it. We're going for 10 repetitions. (breathing) Last two, nine, and in, and last one, and in. Okay, changing position, I want you to take each leg and come into parallel, metatarsals of the feet over the top of the bar, and holding on to it like a bird would hold on to a branch.


So your foot is very active, knees together, hips pulled together. And again you're moving, in neutral pelvis. Pulling awareness into your center body, that's your spine. Your muscles and your breath. (breathing) Now how would this kinda relate to your mat work?

Well, not so much in footwork but as we progress and get a little warmer, many of the reformer exercises really are kinda layers from the mat. And let's take one more extension and you'll see how we get through that in just a minute, all right? Now heels come up onto the bar. I like ankles together, toes together, the big joints, and the knees. Here we go, pressing out.


And in. (breathing) So if you've been, and learn in your mat work about the box, your body is a box, your hip, hip, shoulder, shoulder, and that torso there, work a stable box right now, work an even box. If that's not language in your wheelhouse, don't worry about that, I'll talk about that more in a minute. But in essence, we're really trying to stay as lined up as we can across our girdles, our hips and our shoulder girdles, and all the way the sides. Okay last one.

Now I'm gonna have everyone just step down again to the balls of your feet. You can go back into a smaller Pilates stance. Maybe barely open with the knees. Press the carriage out. We're going in to do something called tendon stretch.

Tendon Stretch

Let's work on the tendons of the ankles, achilles, the back of the leg. So we're stretching them by lowering the heels, and working them as you lift the heels. Let's go for eight only of those, so lowering and lifting. And lowering the achilles tendon, stretching them, and lift. And also the tendon at the knees, but not so stretched that you're losing some control, okay?

So there's still a sense the knees are supported with the muscles in the back of the legs. And down, and up. Last two, lower, and lift. And last one, lower, lift. Now sometimes you'll hear an exercise walking in place, or running in place, sometimes happens now.


Some people teach it later. I'm gonna give it to you now, have you do it with me now. So one heel goes down as the other knee bends, and you're switching, alternating from foot to foot. Now as you progress, I want you to contract your buttock muscles just a little bit. Think about that effort, pulling your hips narrow, across the center here, okay, that you're not doing salsa hips or scooching your hips side to side this way as you work your ankles.

This is really more about again staying within the frame of the reformer, within the frame of you. Let's take one more each heel, everyone, one and two. And that is it, we'll bend our knees to come in, okay? So that's your footwork, it's a great way to warm up. Now, let's take the springs down and we'll move into the one hundred.


The exercise of the one hundred. I'm moving my springs down to one red and one blue. Or if you wanna a different reformer that doesn't have colors, something lighter than your legs that you just did, all right? Pretty standard on most Pilates equipment is one and a half springs. Lie back down, okay.

Reach behind, pick up the straps. So this reformer has loops, you might be on one that has handles, little triangle handles, all is good. Come down a little ways across so you're less bunched into the shoulder blocks. And I want you to pick your knees up into tabletop. Reach your arms up, lower your arms and just test the springs there, okay?

Now let's come right up to the position of the hundred. Whatever that is in your body memory, in your mind, here we go, just make the position, okay? Now let's start moving the arms, let's do the one hundred. In, 4, 5, exhale, 3, 4, 5, 2. (breathing) So if you're still new to the reformer work, you might be feeling your neck getting tired already.

If so, this might be your choice, just lower your range of movement down a little bit, okay? Come back up when you're ready though, let's build some endurance. Heels are together, toes apart, relaxed. The abdominals aren't relaxed, the lats aren't relaxed, the inner thighs aren't relaxed. Remember, pull into your center.

Two more breaths, in, 4, 5, exhale 3, 4, 5, and last, exhale 3, 4, 5, bend those knees, lower and lets everybody just set the feet down for a moment. Okay, great job, let's move on. To now, exercise called supine arm circles. So supine, we're in the position now on our back. Arm circles, down you learn how to rotate the arms from your fundamentals so arm rotation that's gonna, you know, just quarter turn your arm bones, thumbs face up.

Arm Circles

Now open the arms out toward the walls of your room. Make sure you can see your hands in the visual system of your eyes. Bring your arms back up, okay? Continue down, rotate those arms, reach them wide, bring your arms up. (breathing) So if you're doing this and you're saying and feeling, oh my gosh my back is arching.

So how do you get out of that arched back? You can bring your thighs closer. You can also demand a lot more work in your abdominal muscles. Pull those against your back, okay? Try that rather than changing your legs if you can.

One more time. Sometimes it's nice to start with three to five repetitions of these exercises. That was five, so now we reverse it. Just slice out to the tee, make sure you can still see your hands, use the side chest muscles, pull your arms in, palms face down, arms come up. You just repeat that, four more times.

Slice out to a tee. The lats lead the way, pull the arms in. Palms face down. Arms come up. So you're building on that fundamental of rotating arms.

Then last two. Exhaling. (breathing out) Inhale as you open. And last one. (breathing) And lift those arms.

And then we'll move on to a nice wonderful back stretch, or an exercise we call short spine massage. The headrest comes down. Now place your feet in your straps. You can do one foot at a time if that's your preference. I like to do, often, well both feet at the same time.

Short Spine Massage

But today like this. And I want you to start with your frog position, okay? Or plié, if that's what your language is. So let's do a modified approach to this exercise today. I'm gonna have you lift your feet just a little bit.

From your mat programming, think of the exercise roll over. That's exactly what we're about to do except the feet in this design for the first few repetitions, okay? Here we go. So thinking of your roll over, the pelvis comes up and over your torso. Now on the reformer, the wheels come into the stopper, that allows you just to stop and feel safe about going any further.

Let's just roll down from this position, okay? Now just do that maybe one or two more times. You're just learning how to move this reformer. Exhaling. (breathing) Roll the spine, you're coming up onto those shoulder blades, just like you would in roll over.

Except today our legs are bent. Inhale here. And roll down. And I think you can probably feel the stretch in your back body, right? Let's go one more time.

(breathing) So the legs don't change shape at this time. You change into a flexion, you roll up your back, it's an articulation. Inhale and come back down, okay? And today, that's all we're doing. We're just gonna do a modified view of that exercise.

Leg Circles

Eventually there's something different. Reach behind, pick up your headrest again. And then I'd like you to extend your legs into long leg, make them parallel. We're gonna learn our legs circles. It's different from the mat legs circles.

In mat, you have one leg that's doing the circle, and you all know that. This is two legs, so let's take our legs a little more toward a 90 degree angle, at the hip. Holding here. So right leg is gonna do a down and out circle. Left leg does a down and out circle at the same time.

So we come down, open, here they go. And it's really fun. (chuckling) If this is your first couple of times doing legs circles, think you'll probably enjoy them. It can get a little bit, you know, like, whooo, legs get away from you. So you're working on the principle of control, concentration, precision, of course all the principles. So we're coming down the mid-line, each leg takes an external rotation.

We're going just above the width of your shoulder frame here. Twice more everyone this way, down the mid-line. See how each leg does a little quarter circle or half circle actually. One more time. All right, what goes one way usually goes the other.

So now we reverse, at the top, they move away from each other. Move your legs down from right here. Contract these muscles on the back of your thighs. Really work that. The legs arch together, and they're together at the mid-line.

Opening. Right from here. Press. Sometimes the back of the knees like to do more of the work, and that's not where this work should be coming from. We wanna work here.

Three more in this direction. (breathing) So from mat work single leg circle, you can see how it is, the same idea. It's really articulation in the hip joint, right? Okay, pause when your legs are low and together. Flex your ankles, and we're doing an exercise known as frog.


And depending on your mat training, you may have learned some abdominal work. We're doing footwork this way. Frog is really a nice place to work hip joint, flexion and extension, using the back of those legs. Okay, about three to five frogs. In and out.

And this frog shape, I'll just kinda come into this shape again, is deep as you can squat but make sure the pelvis is staying on the mat, not taking it where you went for short spine, which is lifting it that way, all right? And this shape, this position of the body, shows up several times in the apparatus work, especially on the reformer and a few exercises. But for now, we're done with frog. Reach on, take the straps off. Place them back and just put the straps on the post, and we'll get up off our back now.

Pulling Straps

So you can come all the way up. And I want you to take your foot bar down, out of the way completely. And take off your blue spring, now that you've taken your bar down, all of the way. So we have one red spring left. We're working on a sequence next on the box there.

And we'll put it up on this reformer in a long style. And you're gonna hear it defined as long box, okay? Up we go. So in your mat training, maybe you can kind of think, okay the prone work of darts or flights or the basic back extension where your hands are down and you're on your stomach, it's that theme, but now you're pulling some spring on, and hands-on straps, and this is actually called pulling straps. So here we go.

Howe we set up, on our stomach, shoulders and collarbone are fairly well fleshed with the front of the box for now. Reach up, grab the straps. You might choose to hold up just past the hardware. Okay, bring your legs together with some energy in the inner thighs and the back of the legs. Stomach engaged to hold your back nice and supported.

And then your arms are long. I like to look slightly, not low low, not up up, but somewhere between. Okay? So you know the shoulder blades down the back cue. Here's what happen.

Use that now. That precedes this pull of the straps, you're raising your arms about the height of your pelvis, and you're trying really to extend the length of your spine forward at this point, not too high, but forward, okay? And then you lower. Let's do a full breath cycle to do that again. So shoulder blades, and lower.

So we're definitely strengthening our back. And down, lift. Lower the arms. Now if this is enough for you, and your neck is getting tired, it's fine to lower it down. Take a little moment, or three more repetitions, at least two.

Pull and lift. And down. It's also kind of the body position of single leg kick, in a way, from the mat. All right? So let's call it good on that fifth repetition.

Take a little break. Now next exercise is called t-pull or t-press. Hands need to come some place different. They're coming down, right at the edge of the strap, you can hold with a fist, or you can hold inside the strap with the open palm. I'm gonna show that today.


That's fairly common too, okay? But we don't want our palm facing completely flat because it could ... Take the shoulders and keep them rolled forward. All of this pulling straps work is to strengthen the upper back and the rotator cuff at the back of the shoulder. So if you kinda karate chop angle, it's a better environment to do this exercise.

Okay, low is fine. A little higher is what we're looking for. And you keep your arm the height of your back and you're slicing like a karate chop. Remember shoulder blades start first, right? They go down the back, and then pull.

And open. Let's take three to five times. (breathing) Keep even tension on the ropes. (breathing) And the last one. And rest.

Okay. Hang the straps up. So we're probably feeling, you can step off, how much exercise you've just got in your back body. That's exactly what it's for. But we flip flop.

Round Back

We work front body, back body, side body, through the reformer, right? And all the equipment. So we're moving on. We're moving the box. We're turning it sideways.

Now we're into the category called short box. All right. For short box, this is a lot about the abdominal muscles again. I'm gonna have you pick up the strap that's underneath your reformer, all right? We need more springs attached, so that the reformer doesn't move.

We don't want the carriage to start moving underneath us, so this keeps us steady. Climb aboard. Now I'd like you to try this set-up today. I think most of your reformers will allow you to do this. If you sit back on your box, flex your ankles, lift your feet up against the strap but not resting your feet forward on the wood.

Okay, I really want you to try to flex and pull the ankles out. I have my knees bent and my calves are right against the reformer bed, and that is fine. So in mat work, let's think about this. The roll up, the roll back, neck pull. Uh those two right now.

Just anything that's rolling you backward, rolling you forward, okay? Or leaning you back, leaning you forward. This is a great place to help you with that skill, or take those skills and put them here. So, your legs are integrated. Hug your body.

And I want you to put one hand right at the base of those ribs, between your pelvis and your ribs, and create more space. So this hand, what I think about, is it's helping lift me up. The other hand is doing the same thing. Creating more height. Ahh much better.

Now you've got more length in your lower back, to roll with, okay? We don't wanna start rolling squished. So, lifting tall, legs are integrated, take a breath in. Think of roll back from your mat. Pelvis leads the way underneath.

You don't need to go far. I want you to keep thinking about the space, use your hands, create that length. Ideally getting back onto the sacrum, the lower end is fine, the middle of it is fine, the top of it is fine. Pause. Control your position.

It's a lot of intensity here. Can you breathe in? Exhale. Dive in deeper with those stomach muscles, try to bring yourself forward, shoulders over hips. And roll back up to sitting tall.

Let's take it just two more times. Inhale, lift. Exhale. Hold your body position back there to breathe in. Exhale, come forward.

You can use your hands, help lift your body, stomach back. Keep your bottom engaged, keep your legs engaged. Can you sit taller? Lift the ribs off the pelvis. Last one.

And C-curve, so we're in the forward flexion. Flexion of the spine. Inhale there. Exhale. (breathing) Use your hands, it's okay.

Sitting up tall. Don't let yourself rest. Keep your legs integrated. Okay. Next one is the flat back.

Flat Back

So you did that with short box, round back. Now we're on short box, flat back. For today, place your hands behind your head. Elbows forward, make sure you can see them in the corners of your eyes. We don't want the head forward and shoulders too wide like that.

Not great Pilates form. So think of your neck pulling your mat. Okay? That's all it is, the very beginning phase of it. So it's the hinge in your back.

Don't go too far. Notice your feet, really hold that strap and pull it wide. And then bring yourself back up. All right. A little more intense, isn't it?

So this is a lot about stomach and back together. And trunk. Inhale. Exhale. One more, inhale.

And exhale. Keep your legs active. Moving on into something called side bend. We're bending to one side, and you're opening the other ribcage. But I want you to think this is more about a reach, as if there's something up in that upper diagonal here, that you're reaching to.

Side Bend

But your sitting bones are still plugged down on that box. You really can't reach that far. Okay? Come back to center. Lean forward a little bit.

Side reach. Let's reach for that top shelf. Come back, and return. We'll do three each sides. So here's our second round.

Side bend, give yourself a little reach. Notice how involved the legs are. And reach to the side. Stretching one side open, contracting the other side down. You are not losing ground with those sit buns.

They're still down. And reach. This is your lateral flexion. Last time, the first one in this workout. And reach.

And hands behind. And now let's everybody take a much deserved rest. Reach forward, try to touch your toes. Stretch things out a little bit. Roll yourself back up.


And we are gonna move on, taking the box away. So just unloop your feet, make sure that strap goes below the reformer. All right, so you can see how some of the mat exercises are linked very easily to the reformer. Okay, all right. Kind of bear some weight on the hands.

So I need us to do less spring, pretty common to do one spring on the on the light setting. And one spring on the medium setting. So red on a blue. The bar in its higher position. This is the elephant.

Okay. So elephant, let's think about mat for a minute. Think a standing roll down. But a longer curve. All right?

One hand comes on the reformer, step up, second hand, walk your feet back. So each heel gets a place right by the shoulder blocks. You're on your hands. The thumbs and hands are all looped together here. Now, I like an elephant with a fairly rounded back.

I think the animal itself, in nature in the jungle, has that rounded back. Okay, head between the arms. Stomach up in the body, not hanging down. Pull that up. So the back of you, your spine here, reaching to the sky.

But the tail, down. Okay, you hear those cues a lot. So here's the position, I want you to look at your toes, and see if you can pull the toes up. Okay? Hold them there.

Remember that feeling you had in your legs, with the foot in the strap on the short box? Try to feel that now. You'll probably feel some engagement in your upper legs. Now the elephant has a change of rhythm, and it's small. Out, in, out, in.

(breathing) So you can't move very big on this tempo. See if you can keep your bottom muscles pull together your butt. Pull it together, pull your stomach up. Four, three, two, one, and everyone hold. Relax, put your knees down on the mat.

Round Back

Hope that went okay. I didn't wanna turn my head and look at you because it's better if you just do it with your head in one position. Great job. We're moving on to something called knee stretches, okay? I'm gonna ask you to up the spring tension just a little bit.

So in my reformer, I've got two red springs now. Make sure it's a little heavier than it was for elephant. This exercise is more about leg power. Leg power. Gluts, quads, hamstrings, okay?

Hands in the same place. Feet relatively in the same place. Now, think of the elephant shape you just did. And make it again in your spine. Let's keep it simple.

Backbone is pulled up. Bottom is pulled down. Stomach is pulled up. All the same shapes. Now the head is not quite between the arms.

It's a little more above the arm length here, or height. Now, push your arms back away from the bar. But you're still at the stopper. See how much negative space you've got between you and the bar? Okay?

Now move the carriage back, by pushing your legs back. Hold. My knees have just gone back just a little beyond hips. And then bring the carriage back underneath your chest. Do that again.

If you wanna watch you can. Or just listen. Push the carriage, then heels push. Knees go just back underneath the pelvis and bring the carriage in. You're still in flexion.

Let's take the tempo up a little bit. We go out, we come in. Out, and in, that's all we do, back and forth. Concentrate and keep your butt muscle contracted. Just naval pull up.

Out and in. Three more. (breathing) One more. So that's your knee stretched with your round back. Let's do knee stretch with a flat back.

Flat Back

Not an arch. It's a neutral spine. So I've flexed in hip joints, I'm almost on my achilles tendons, now the focus with the eyes is a little more forward and out in front of us. The legs do the same thing. There's still the same negative space, there's lots of it between your chest and your bar.

Now your legs will probably be able to go a little further. They don't need to. Let's work on control. Out and in. If there's a way for you to feel, can you pull your butt together, your sit buns toward each other?

Push. Keep that negative space. Out. In. You're probably feeling your thighs and your backside. That's good.

Three. And nice flat back. Two. Last one, and everyone come in and hold. Go back to flexion, just to feel that shape.

That's your flexion. Knee stretch round. And knee stretch flat. Way to go, all right. We're moving on to another sequence called stomach massage series.

Round Back

Okay? For stomach massage, this in your mat programming, think rolling like a ball. Think of that. You know it's sometimes not as easy to roll back and forth. You might get stuck coming up.

This exercise is really good to help us stretch and get more width and length in the back, stronger stomach, stronger hip flexors, okay? So it's a great exercise. All right, we need a low bar. Lower bar. You can keep two springs.

If you really wanna go up, you can put three springs on. I'm gonna stay at two. I'm gonna have you sit on your pad. Okay? Now what I've done with that pad, is I've left a little space here.

We're gonna endeavor to sit our tailbone, relatively here. Relatively (chuckling) okay? So, there's lots of ways to learn how to get on the reformer. Today, just sit on your pad. We put our feet up, just like we started footwork, in that Pilates stance.

So the heels are together, and the toes are away. And for right now you can place your hands on your shins. And just transfer your brain into mat work for a moment. And get your rolling like a ball on. You can see how that is pretty well like the rolling like a ball?

But what's gonna be a little bit different here, instead of holding your shins, place your hands on the front edge of the carriage, okay? And, for right now everybody, press yourself back, away from the front, just to get some space for a second. Okay, now remember the short box exercise we just did? And the round back, and I had you hold yourself and you lifted and created space? If you can do that real quick, just for yourself, try to get a little more spacious between pelvis, ribcage.

That's effort, that's hard. You're gonna lift, now flex your spine more forward, just like you did at the top of that exercise, place your hands, okay, hold, still holding. Now think about this also as you've just done a roll up in the mat. You can see how it's kind of got the same shape? Same muscle focus, same shape of the spine?

Now all we do is change it a little bit. We do frog, I told you it was gonna come back, and here's frog. See how all the exercises link together? So right now, I'm gonna teach you basic stomach massage. Just back with the carriage, in with the carriage.

Think of those fundamentals, think of the roll up, the rolling like a ball. Frog legs. Space. Three more times. Out.

So we have got strong abdominals, there are long abdominals, there's a long spine. One more press. And in, okay. So that's stomach massage with flexion, or with round back. Now there's stomach massage several ways. (chuckling) The next one is with a flat back.

Flat Back

Or straight up and and down spine. My gosh, that's a lot to request. But let's start the same way. So if you push it back. Okay?

Hmm mm. What would you think in mat class? I'm gonna have you think spine twist, real quick. Okay? Well that's coming, actually, in just a second. But right now, how vertical can you sit?

Hold on to the front for a minute. Use this, use this apparatus, help you sit up, okay? You technically could do stomach massage flat back this way, but traditionally the hands move out here. You can put your fingertips behind you. In fact, let's all just learn it this way.

Press the shoulders back. You're still up tall. Okay? Now here go the frog legs. The challenge now, we wanna get all the way into the stopper without changing our high spine, the tall spine.

You've gotta keep lifting, okay? It's definitely like it would be in mat for spine twist. That vertical sit. Or fundamental long sit. Let's take three more.

Press. Pull. Press. Pull. Hold here, okay.

Think of spine twist in the mat. Reach your arms like you're in mat class, okay? But right now, turn one, your chest either toward me, or away from me. Turn your chest, your arms can open as well. Do your spine twist from mat.


And there it is, okay? Do it to the other side. Now this is not really the true exercise. I'm just teaching you something, okay? Do it again.

Notice your feet haven't moved? Your heels haven't come apart? They're glued together. Heels are together. It's gonna be a really fun challenge in just a second, guys.

Okay, so, try your best, keep heels together. Come closer to the stopper. Here's your frog. Now, spine twist from mat. Push the carriage, spine twist from mat.

There it is. And back in. Do the other side. You don't have to pump the arm. Just turn the chest, trunk rotation.

All right, heels are together, right? Turn, you can look at that hand if you want. Return. You're strengthening your hip flexors, I know some of you are probably saying, oh my gosh I'm getting tired. You have to strengthen them, they're good for you to have a better teaser.

Better open leg rocker. Ooh, that's plenty. We deserve a stretch. This is called monkey stretch. Feet go open, hands on your monkey branch or your tree branch.


And just stretch. Okay? Take a few moments and breathe. You can maybe envision the spine stretch exercise from mat. (breathing) Doing well with this is essential reform, everybody.

So moving on. We're moving into chest expansion, okay? We don't need this pad. You can just take that away. Chest expansion, we need lighter springs.

Chest Expansion

I'd like everybody to just to take one spring off, so that leaves us with one red. Get yourself on your knees. Today, bring your knees right up against these shoulder blocks and we'll lean into them a little bit. Take your hands, grab the straps. Walk your hands again to that place you held on for that pulling straps on the long box.

Basically the same exercise, now you're up on your knees. That's all it is. Okay? In mat class, you were prone doing the arm pulls, here you're doing it up on your knees. All right.

Let's inhale and move the arms behind us just slightly but think about opening the upper portion of the lungs, the collar bone, strengthen those shoulders. Arms can come forward. Just slightly in front of your legs. Pull toward your thighs and maybe just slightly behind your thighs. Let's keep a conservative movement range.

Focus on your balance, okay? Now that you have the pattern, stay looking forward. You don't have to turn your head, trust yourself. Pull the arms, slow and steady. Return your arms, slow and steady.

That's the key. Twice more. Pull. The name of the exercise is chest expansion. That's what you're doing.

Do one more, really expand the chest. Open it up. Do feel pretty good. And then return. Great job.

Chest expansion. Okay. We're winding closer to the end of this essential reformer. The next exercise, we get down on our back again, Two springs back on, the two red springs. Your bar is fine where it is.

Pelvic Lift

Lie on your back. I'd like you to place your feet out on the corners of the foot bar. Balls of feet is fine. Arches is pretty good too, okay? This is called the bottom lift, or pelvic lift.

Pretty much the same thing, your bottom, okay? Or anatomically it's your pelvis as well. So I'm gonna move my arms out of the way just to allow you to see something better. So today I'm gonna have us do a little tiny pelvic tilt. Just this, just that much.

So that there's a hollowing kind of quality going in the abdomen. And I want you to feel like you engage your buttock muscles again, sit bones together, pelvis narrow. Anything where you feel this engaged, and this hollow, okay? Maintain that. And then elevate off the mat a little.

You should be able to get your hands underneath there easily. You're not very high. That's it, just like you kinda, you know, brushing some space there. Now move away from the bumper. Don't plop your booty down.

And definitely don't straighten your knees all the way. You should still feel like you're picking up your butt. And come back in. Or picking up your pelvis. Bottom lift.

It's not only lifted off the mat, quite literally it is, but you're toning those muscles up your body, lifting your bottom, so that you don't have a saggy bottom, okay? Really toned, let's pick up the tempo a little bit. Out and in. Out and in. (breathing) Try not to touch down with your bottom yet, you're still lifted.

Three more. Two more. Your last one, hold at the stopper and now you return down. Should feel really nice to come back to the ground. Okay, guys we're nearing it.

Eve's Lunge

We've got two more exercises. Bring yourself up. We've got a stretch and then we have one more balance and hip exercise. This is called Eve's lunge. Or a hip flexor stretch.

Go to one spring. Okay? You can move your bar a little higher. Might feel nice to have it slightly bit higher. Now, we place the foot down, just like you had it in the knee stretch sequencing.

Knees down. I'm gonna show it this way first, you can have a better view. Okay, the outside foot is, the toes are fairly close to the leg of the reformer. And that knee is bent over the ankle, and it stays there. It doesn't have to do any extra stuff, right.

Setting up, shoulders are over hips, not shoulders in front of hips. This might be a stretch already for some of you, in your hip flexors. Okay? It is for me. But let's move the machine a little bit, move the carriage. So trying your best to keep shoulders over hips, take the carriage out a couple of inches, that's it.

And bring it in. And bring it out. And bring it in. Your stomach is in. You haven't moved that knee out of that position, I don't think.

You've kept it there. We're trying to increase the length of the other leg, hip flexors and quadriceps. Hmm mm, shoulders are open. And relatively, shoulders over pelvis still, keeping that boxed. One more, and let's hold it this time for three breath cycles.

(breathing) One more. Some good standing balance on this leg too. Bring it all the way in. Walk around the front of the reformer. Like you're dancing a little bit.

And then change sides, okay? So again, same set of toes forward. You're on your knee. Sometimes we hear people ask, or they'll say, ow it kinda hurts to be on the knee. That pad's there if you need it, and/or it's not about leaning all your weight on the knee.

In fact, more of your weight is actually on the outside leg that you're standing on. You're dividing the reformer perfectly in half. Your nose, your navel, right above the wood, okay, right there. Here we go. So you're increasing the length in these all important hip flexor muscles.

They got a lot of work in the stomach massage series. So it's your chance to stretch them out. Okay? Once again, trying your best to keep shoulders over pelvis. Looking forward.

The small ranges are okay, guys. This is the essential work. Eventually changes. Couple more times. Real light contact point on the knee.

Let's hold it for three cycles of breath. (breathing) I feel so good. Essentials are good. Like multi vitamins. Okay?

Side Splits

The last exercise, this is called standing side split. We need this bar out of our way. So in this reformer, comes in here. One red spring is pretty good. Now we get to stand up on this.

But mindful how you stand. Most times you stand on the solid side first. So get on there. You can use your hands and step up. For today, let's put this foot about three to four inches away from that edge.

Hold yourself steady, your toes should be on the same line, the big toes. Pelvis in neutral. Hold your arms either kind of a low vee, or a tee position. Okay. You're gliding.

We're hoping that the pelvis stays aligned across the top of the pelvis there. I'll show you a little asymmetry. Might be this. Or this, okay? Not really Pilates, so we're trying to have that symmetry.

I like to think both legs are pushing into the surfaces there of the feet. You're hoping to feel the work in the side hips or your side glutes, okay? Arms have energy. Pull in. Nothing really in matwork, oh that's not true.

They're very in the traditional mat, the twist and things. This is a great prep for that. And in. A couple more time. And feel free to go fairly wide.

You just don't want to tilt your pelvis into an anterior or posterior tilt. And then all the way in, lower your arms. This carriage foot has to step behind you onto the floor. Walk around the front of the reformer again. Same route, platform foot, up you go.

Put about two to three, four, inches away from the platform. Toes on the same line. Pelvis in neutral. Either low arms, elevated arms or you could combine them. I'll show that way.

You can lift the arms as you open, lower as you close. Inhale. Exhale. So again you're trying to keep that pelvis line even here. Not allowing one hip to push out or elevate, right?

Open, close. Let's take three more. (breathing) Now you've done the three, place weight on the standing foot, step back with the carriage foot, let's just turn and face each other. So that is an essential reformer. Layering in for mat, right?

You can see how they work together. As you increase your reformer skills and go to intermediate or advanced, these will repeat themselves. You'll see these exercise, these forms, maybe increase range of movement, tempo will change for sure. But keep kind of practicing this as you're getting ready to step into the other reformer exercises and levels. Always come back to this if you want.

It's a great sequence. And let me know what questions you have, but happy to answer them, happy to help you see how the mat and the reformer can thread together. Carry on, folks. Have a good time on your reformer journey, and thanks for taking class with me. I'll see you next time.


9 people like this.
Great cues, as always! Always nice to have just a basic class to slip into. I’d like to see this class either continued for intermediate and advanced or else linked to your other essential classes in these levels. I’d also love to see this type of essentials class on chair and tower or links to basic, intermediate and advanced on those apparatus.

Thanks Amy! I always get so much out of your classes.
2 people like this.
I agree with the comment above me! All of it!
Oh and I’m glad to see more videos back on the more traditional studio equipment. I was afraid we were going to be seeing the other more generic ones.. (no offense to them) but I appreciate the quality and professionalism the instructors & PA have.
Love your classes! Thanks
3 people like this.
Amy this is masterful! Thank you for such attention to detail, and such a smooth, effortless transmission through your voice. Quite stress relieving! I hope there will be more of this. Maybe the first of a series, building up to the more demanding work or perhaps on other equipment? Simple and fabulous!
2 people like this.
Awesome fundamental review and linking to mat work!
1 person likes this.
Loved the faster tempo of elephant. Great set up great cues. Thank you Amy!
Carli Taylor
1 person likes this.
I really love your cueing throughout this class. It challenged me and readjusted me at all the right times. Thank you!
1 person likes this.
Great c;ass and excellent cues. Thank you Amy!
Always a pleasure watching you teaching :)
Needed the essential exercises to develop my intermediate reformer class. Perfect cuing and transitions!
1 person likes this.
Always love your ques and your classes.  thank you.
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