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Circular Pilates by Joan Breibart

Circular Pilates by Joan BreibartPerhaps because the Pilates Method encompasses so much material and is ancient relative to traditional fitness, some individuals feel that nothing in the Method needs to change. Maybe that’s why we framed Standing Pilates® as “What Joe would have done if he were alive,” when we launched a few years ago. When Joe was teaching, osteoporosis was not epidemic; today weight bearing exercise is critical. Standing is a natural evolution of the Pilates mat work but now we have gone even further with the development of Circular Pilates.

What is Circular Pilates?

Circular Pilates teaches a continuous 25-minute routine of moving through rotational exercises in sitting, kneeling, supine, prone and standing configurations. Some of this sequence incorporates standard Pilates exercises such as Saw, others are new movements. But this is not just choreography; the process of repeated rotation helps individuals to feel the sequencing in their own bodies. As teachers we know that people often injure themselves when they twist doing everyday tasks such as parallel parking or reaching high or low to pick up something. Most people are weak in rotation. They don’t know how to move the upper body off the lower parts. Circular Pilates addresses these issues while building strength and improving coordination and balance. And at the end, you feel and look taller! And there is more . . .

Although we do have isolated rotational exercises in Pilates, it is liberating and informative to move non-stop within these spirals. In our original testing of the exercises, our student testers experienced two other results. One good and one not so good! The first result was an unexpected increase in extension which led us to measure each student’s “before and after” in extension. The working “half” of the upper body allows one to go deeper so that afterwards extension is facilitated. The second and undesired result was a little spaciness! We asked Clinical Advisor, Marika Molnar, PT what to do and she solved the problem.

The Brain Connector Fundamental

Marika determined that we needed an exercise to connect the right and left sides of the brain and soon we had a new Fundamental which we call the Brain Connector Fundamental. It uses specific eye movements to increase connection. This in turn led us to incorporate “eye tracking” into the workout. Then we realized that we could intensify the experience by s-l-o-w-i-n-g down the routine. Now we teach it at regular speed and also in half time, but always moving.

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Angela Sundberg, Certified Pilates Teacher and owner of Bodyscapes, explains:

“Circular Pilates makes the body feel alive. The flowing, spiraling movements, fueled by breath, frees the body and the soul. But, most of all, Circular Pilates provides opportunities of movement to many of my students who were restrained by the linear precision of conventional Pilates.”

If this sounds like a lot of material for a one-day workshop, it is. But we are known for not being stingy with information. And in the case of Circular, I felt that a second day would be a brain—not body—overload.

The Process

The well-known saying, “By your students you’ll be taught,” is intensified when you attempt to create a new exercise or sequence or product. Any Pilates teacher can experiment and who knows where it will lead. With Standing Pilates, we began with the need to make the mat work more weight bearing and ultimately we found that our technique needed to evolve too. The result was greater emphasis on the breath and attention to more real estate, from the arch of the feet moving up through the pelvic floor, the diaphragm and then the dome inside our mouths. With the Pilates Chair, now called the MVe, I started with the goal of making the spring changes easier and the box lighter but more stable. I never thought that my thinking “outside of the box” would lead to a new Chair that has twice the range of motion; allows one to position the body closer to the apparatus; a fluid ride since the springs move as a unit; and more exercise variations resulting from the open frame.

Getting Started

In our field, most innovations start with observing clients and determining what they need. Once you have an idea to explore, find yourself a partner or two! Working alone is lonely and harder. For Circular, in addition to Marika Molnar, I worked with Kristin Hapke, a very creative person, also certified in Pilates and Bartenieff, a dancer and a choreographer. Her point of view and experience greatly amplified my ideas. Innovating is fun, but whatever your motivation, know that you personally will benefit from the exploration.

For more information about course registrations see zp8497586rq

By · Posted on November 18, 2008 · Topic Product Reviews

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8 Responses to “Circular Pilates by Joan Breibart”

  1. Helen Landalf on November 18th, 2008 5:18 pm

    The idea of Circular Pilates is very attractive to me. I’ve done a lot of dancing in my life, and though I love Pilates, I always bemoaned the fact that it can be so two dimensional. It sounds like Circular Pilates addresses that.

    I have one point of confusion though: It’s my understand that, though weight-bearing is great for clients with osteoporosis, spinal rotation is not. Am I incorrect about this?

  2. Beth Begelman Beth Begelman on November 18th, 2008 8:26 pm

    Helen, You are not incorrect. Spinal rotation is contraindicated for clients with osteoporosis. I believe Joan was saying that Standing Pilates is an evolution of the matwork which they felt addressed the weight-bearing issue. Circular Pilates is, as I understand the article, a further evolution of Standing Pilates which just expands the repertoire and isn’t necessarily targeted towards clients needing weight-bearing work. I too am intrigued with Circular Pilates and will get to a workshop as soon as I’m able.

  3. Dawnna M Wayburne on November 19th, 2008 6:04 am

    Any sense that some of this work may have a relationship to the Gyrotonic work?

  4. Deborah McKeever-Watson Deborah McKeever Watson on November 19th, 2008 12:48 pm

    I would have to say at first glance this looks inspired by GYROTONIC EXPANSION SYSTEM. But, then again we have, yogilates, cardiolates,standing pilates, waterlates, and dogalites to name a few, so it doesn’t surprise me. Being certified in GXS, I probably won’t be taking the workshop, so I guess we will just have to wait to see what participates think.

  5. Lesley Powell on November 20th, 2008 6:57 am

    A lot of great work is happening in the Pilates community bringing 3-D to Pilates. I have had the great fortune to be attending the PMA conference and the BodyMInd expo. There has been many exciting presentations about bringing the spiral to Pilates.

    At the PMA conference this year, Deborah Kolwey presented Finding circular Movement in Pilates. Her workshop was sold out. I heard rave reviews about this workshop.

    Last year at the Bodymind Expo 2008, M.Valentin presented a workshop, Arcs & spirals and Dr. Martha Eddy & I, Laban’s space harmony: bringing 3-D to your session.

    One of the richest systems in understanding how the body moves 3-dimensionally is Laban’s Space Harmony. Laban addresses how the body moves different in our movement loves such as golf, tennis, basketball, karate and tai chi. Hopefully Dr. Martha Eddy and I hope to teach 3-D workshops in NYC and other venues. Irmagard Bartenieff, the founder of the Laban Institute of Movement Studies, had tremendous influence on Eve Gentry. Much of Eve Gentry’s fundamentals has roots in Bartenieff fundamental.

    Dr. Martha Eddy, Kristen Hapke and I are certified in the rich system of Laban. The Bartenieff fundamentals has rich applications to get the body moving in sprirals, which are so applicaple to the Pilates work. Kristen Hapke, Tara Steppenberg and I are also Pilates teachers.

  6. Erin Mohr on November 23rd, 2008 4:07 am

    As a certifying teacher for PMI, we were able to preview Circular Pilates and try it out for ourselves and on our clients before the workshops were promoted to the public. I have been using elements from this routine in my mat classes and private sessions ever since. These exercises are fantastic for getting people with rigid spines to feel a fuller range of motion and to challenge stronger clients to move with fluidity through spirals. Definitely take this workshop to keep the creative juices flowing!

    Erin Mohr
    Paris, France

  7. Margherita Shaw on November 25th, 2008 12:08 pm

    It’s inspiring to read aboput the developments in Pilates, keeping abreast of the needs of our students and our own bodies.
    Thank you for this email abour Circular Pilates. When will there be a workshop near NE Connecticut ? (the Quiet Corner)

  8. doug lewis on February 4th, 2009 7:01 pm

    Do we think circular pilates might help the golf of middle age men? Is there somewhere I could buy some
    circular pilates flash card to incorporate into my routine when I don’t do a class?