Back in the early 2000s, when no one knew what a Pilates was or even how to pronounce it (Pi LAH teez), Mari Winsor knew this was her time to bring the legend and his fitness program mainstream.
If you suffered from insomnia any night in the year 2003, you probably saw her infomercial for Winsor Pilates, the workout system responsible for Hollywood’s hottest bodies. Sharon Stone, Daisy Fuentes, and Minnie Driver were just a few of the A-listers raving about Mari and Pilates. And her celeb roster hasn’t diminished post-infomercial. Emma Stone, Miley Cyrus, and Steven Spielberg are now frequent clients at Mariâ€™s studio.
Thanks to Mari, people learned about the legendary Joseph Pilates and his workout program, and they flocked to studios opening up across the country to get in on the action.
About three years ago, this powerhouse of an instructor — with two studios, three books, and thirty videos with over 50-million copies sold — was diagnosed with ALS.
News such as this would probably stop most of us in our tracks. But Mari has continued being Mari. In fact, she attributes Pilates with slowing down the progression of her ALS.
We have long known that Pilates helps people with neurological illnesses — like Parkinson’s, stroke, and Multiple Sclerosis — because it stimulates the mind/body connection by continuing to reinforce and even reintroduce neuropathways to keep us strong, mobile, and balanced. And now Mari is shedding light and bringing hope to those suffering from ALS.
This past weekend, I was so fortunate to go to Pure Pilates in Asheville, NC to take a workshop from Mari — one of her final workshops she is planning on teaching.
To say I walked away inspired is an understatement.
Her charisma and passion filled the room.
In honor of Mari and her bringing Pilates matwork into homes across the United States, I want to give you a quick mat workout you can do anywhere, anytime that targets your entire body.
Enjoy, my chickens! (That’s Mari’s nickname for her students)
1. Lie face up and hug your knees into your chest.
2. Lift your head neck and shoulders off the mat, bringing your nose toward your knees. Come into a crunch position.
3. Extend your legs out to where the ceiling meets the wall, squeezing your heels together so you have a slight turnout/V-shape with your feet. Stretch your arms six inches off the floor, reaching your fingertips across the room.
4. Start vigorously pumping your arms 6 to 8 inches up and down. Inhale for 5 pumps and exhale for 5 pumps.
5. Do 10 rounds.
SINGLE LEG CIRCLE
1. Lie face up with you legs straight across the floor and together. Press your shoulder blades, upper backs of the arms, and palms strongly into the floor.
2. Lengthen your right leg so long that it lifts off the floor and winds up perpendicular to the floor.
3. Draw a big circle with your right leg. Inhale as your leg crosses your body and circles down toward the floor. Exhale as it reached out to the right and back to the top.
1. Lie face up and hug your knees into your chest.
2. Lift your head, neck, and shoulders off the mat, bringing your nose toward your knees. Come into a crunch position.
3. Stack your hands behind your head, keeping your elbows wide.
4. Extend your left leg straight out to where the ceiling meets the wall as you twist your left armpit toward your right knee.
5. Come back through center with both knees bent. Stay in your crunch.
6. Switch. Extend your right leg straight out to where the ceiling meets the wall as you twist your right armpit toward your left knee.
7. Return to center, staying in your crunch. This is ONE repetition.
8. Do a total of 10 repetitions.
1. Lie face down with your legs straight behind you and as close together as you comfortably can get them and hands directly under your shoulders so your elbows are lifted alongside your ribcage.
2. Slide your shoulder blades as far away from your ears as possible as you inhale to lift your head, chest, and upper ribs off the floor. Keep zipping up your tightest pair of pants and buttoning up your tightest shirt across your ribs. Your collarbones stay broad and reaching across the room as if you were showing them off. Your neck stays long.
3. Exhale to lower back down. As you lift and lower, think about getting more and more length. Continue to reach your feet back and your chest forward.
4. Do 3 repetitions.
1. Stay lying face down and stack your hands behind your head like you did for criss cross. Elbows continue to reach wide to the sides of the room.
2. With hands stacked behind your head the entire time, inhale to lift and exhale to lower. Keep the same alignment as your did for Swan I.
3. Do 10 repetitions.
LEG PULL DOWN
1. Start in a plank position. Hands directly under your shoulders. Legs straight and together. Feel like your head and heels are being pulled in opposite directions and keep your tightest pair of pants zipped and your tightest shirt buttoned across your ribs.
2. Lengthen your right leg back behind you so far that it lifts up. Place the foot back on the floor. Switch legs.
3. Do 5 lifts on each leg.
LEG PULL UP
1. Sit on the floor with your legs together straight out in front of you.
2. Place your hands 6 – 8 inches behind you, fingers slightly turned out.
3. Press down through your hands and heels to lift your body up to a plank position but you’re face up. Keep the same idea for your alignment as your did with your Leg Pull Down.
4. Lift your right leg off the floor as high as your can keeping your chest and hips lifted. Lower the right leg down to the floor. Switch legs.
5. Do 5 lifts on each leg.
1. Start in a plank position. Bring your left hand to the center of the mat and spin your heels to the left. You will open into a side plank facing the right. Feet, hips, and shoulders are all stacked. Your right arm is resting long on your right side.
2. Inhale and lift your right arm and leg to the ceiling. Exhale to lower.
3. Do 5 repetitions.
4. Come back to your plank position and switch sides.
You should now feel energized and ready for whatever comes your way!