The Shape of All Things Pilates: Twist!

pilates twist move

Welcome to the fifth and final installation of The Shape of All Things Pilates. We have been exploring the organization of the Pilates exercises into Body Shapes, as taught by Karen Frischmann and Sandy Shimoda of Vintage Pilates in Los Angeles.

Previously we have discussed the Tall BackRound BackArched Back and Side Bend.

Hang on to your powerhouse and get ready for some rotation!

5. The Twist

In your study of the Pilates Method, you may initially encounter the Twist in the Stomach Massage Series and the Short Box Series on the Reformer. These two groups of exercises give us wonderful places to perfect our twists with foundational exercises that are also challenging to do well.

The Shape of All Things Pilates: Twist!

Trust me on this one 🙂

Now what’s in your Pilates toolbox to better your Twist?

– In with the Air and out with the air

Yes, keep breathing!

In Return to Life, Joe outlines his philosophy on breathing.

“To breathe correctly you must completely exhale and inhale, always trying very hard to ‘squeeze’ every atom of impure air from your lungs in much the same manner that you would wring every drop of water from a wet cloth.”

The exercises that include Twist enable us to physically embody this wringing action and effectively empty the lungs with a complete exhalation.

Another fine feature of the ‘internal shower.

 – A case for the Tall Back

Okay, you will keep breathing and keep your lift! Remember our old friend the Tall Back?

The lift of the Tall Back is inherent in all the other Body Shapes including the Twist.

It’s nice to have a friend for this one.

 – No pole, no problem

Got it. Breathe. Lift! And sacrifice that pole if necessary…

Just like in the Side Bend, it may help your Twist on the Short Box if you lose that pole for a while. Simply place your fingertips lightly onto your shoulders to find more connection to and awareness of the sides of your back. When twisting, notice if your shoulders decide to initiate the twist and try not to let them.

The Shape of All Things Pilates: Twist!

Use your lift (!) to encourage the twisting action to begin in your waist so you can foster a long tall twist of your entire back.

Sans pole you can feel if the upper body, the shoulders, arms and hands, are working so hard they want to do your twisting for you. You’ll gain awareness and strength in the sides and eventually you will reclaim your pole with greater ease in the arms and shoulders.

 – What’s going on here anyhow?

Twists are very challenging indeed for myself and many other practitioners of Pilates. They are less straightforward than some of the other Body Shapes, and suddenly there can be a lot of moving parts…but first things first:

What’s twisting?

And perhaps more importantly, what’s NOT twisting?

Now you’ve got a plan.

In the exercises Twist on the Short Box, Saw and Spine Twist on the Mat, the lower body is stationary and the twist reaches from the center and up through the upper body.

The Shape of All Things Pilates: Twist!

Conversely, Corkscrew on the Mat, Tic Toc and the Twist (of Snake/Twist) on the Reformer have stability in the upper body while the twist is reaching from the center to the lower body.

The Shape of All Things Pilates: Twist!

So as Jay Grimes would say, “Know where you’re going and get there.”

Lock down the anchoring portion of the body even more securely to help maximize and facilitate your Twist and wring yourself out. Lift tall and exhale.


P.S. If you’re not a big fan of the Twist, persevere.

Your twists will improve and you will soon count twisting exercises among your very favorites 🙂 

The Shape of All Things Pilates: Twist!

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Andrea Maida

Andrea Maida

A native of Pittsburgh, Andrea began her study of the Pilates method in 2000. She holds two comprehensive certifications from Romana’s Pilates in New York and Excel Movement Studios in Washington, DC.  Andrea continues to study with numerous world-class instructors including Romana Kryzanowska, Jay Grimes, Sari Mejia-Santo, Junghee Kallander, Cynthia Lochard, and Kathryn Ross-Nash whenever possible. Andrea was privileged to be in the inaugural class of The Work at Vintage Pilates under the direction of Jay Grimes, 1st Generation Master Teacher and student of Joseph Pilates.

From the Community

  1. Andrea Maida

    Andrea Maida

    Member since 2012

    Hi Debbie,

    Thank you so much for reading and sharing your comments – yes, I find the shapes to be really effective in teaching exercises and concepts to clients. If you are ever in Los Angeles, Vintage Pilates is a great place to refine this learning. Keep up the good work. Cheers!

  2. Avatar

    Debbie White

    Member since 2013

    Loved this whole series of posts, definitely gonna take these into my teaching. Thanks

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