Advanced Pilates Mat Workout Sonje Mayo

Best or Nothing Mat

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When they arrived for class with Joe Pilates in the 1960s looking tired, Joe Pilates used to say to Sonjé and her ballet friends, "Das Beste oder nichts!" which means 'the best or nothing.' With their overly flexible bodies, long limbs and keen body awareness, Joe gave them extremely specific alignment cues to create stability in the most important area of the body for a dancer: the pelvis. Sonjé leads this workout with a blend of her own and Joe's cues along with variations of exercises and rhythms that she remembers from Joe. Enjoy forgotten exercises done as originally taught, including several variations of Mermaid and Neck Pull and stay tuned after the workout to hear answers to questions about Joseph's teaching of dancers vs. regular folks and to hear her explanation about why the deep core is the key to pelvic stability. For teacher training, lessons and Schroth work, visit Sonjé Mayo at http://Sonjé

What Others Are Saying


  1. juliechi 5 months ago

    Wow! Incredible insight from a direct source. @sonje, you’re my new favorite teacher. I love your way of teaching which is clear and concise. And, I appreciate your humor and your approach to your students.

    • Sonjé Mayo Author
      Sonjé Mayo 5 months ago

      Thanks for your appreciative comments……you have made my day!

  2. TracyWCorvo 7 months ago

    It really is a privilege to learn from you. Thank you so much for sharing your extensive knowledge of Pilates with us. I truly share in your passion for the true Pilate’s method.

    • Sonjé Mayo Author
      Sonjé Mayo 7 months ago

      Thank you Tracy. I can sense that you really appreciate the finer details that define the genius of the Pilates method!

  3. alexandranogueira21 3 years ago

    Amazing video!
    I wish you can do another video talking about neutral pelvis to learn more about this subject!
    About big circles on the side kicks, do you recommend in which cases? It is not dangerous to the trucanter when you lift the leg?
    Thanks 🙂

    • Sonjé Mayo Author
      Sonje Mayo 3 years ago

      Hi Alexandra,
      I will be doing another video on this subject on Pilatesology soon! I am pleased that you found this informative.
      As to your question, I am not sure what you mean but I assume you are referring to the greater trochanter, which is the bony notch on the lateral side of the femur?
      Big circles will not affect the greater trochanter but it may affect the muscles that insert on the trochanter, notably the gluteal group (gluteus maximus, medius and minimus).
      As an exercise, big hip circles are very strengthening for the gluteal group and helps to prevent piriformis syndrome, which is very prevalent.
      However, if this exercise causes pain, you would have to lessen the range or externally rotate the leg more.
      If the client does have a trochanteric bursitis, this exercise will be very painful and therefore needs to be omitted. Always bear in mind that we stay in the pain free range.
      Having said that, big circles is advanced and the range depends largely on the shape of the pelvis and how the head of the femur articulates in the socket….sometimes weakness causes discomfort. I certainly find it very demanding and not comfortable!
      I hope this has answered your question?
      I hope that has answered your question

      • alexandranogueira21 3 years ago

        Thank you for your answer and sorry my English!
        I thought that I don’t learn Big Circles but Small Circles after Front/ Back and Up and Down. And I learn that Pilates position is very important mainly in Up and Down to not affect the Trochanter.
        However I have Ankylosing spondylitis, and I have my sacroiliac joints inflamed. Is it good when I’m not in crisis or not? Normally I do my side kicks with a spring. I need no reforce my gluteus but I have my good and bad days…
        Thank You again!

        • Sonjé Mayo Author
          Sonje Mayo 3 years ago

          Hi again,
          My advice is that you do as much as you can on the good days, but stay in the pain free range.
          Remember ‘change happens through movement and movement heals” but you must be guided by your ankylosing spondylitis.
          My best wishes to you,

          • alexandranogueira21 3 years ago

            Thank you 🙂 hope see you soon!

  4. kerander
    kerander 3 years ago

    I love this workout, the cues, and the conversation at the end. We are so lucky to have Sonje!

    • Sonjé Mayo Author
      Sonje Mayo 3 years ago

      Great! I am so happy that you have found this of value!

  5. Mimi43 3 years ago

    You are so generous Sonjé! Thank you thank you thank you!!!!

    • Sonjé Mayo Author
      Sonje Mayo 3 years ago

      It is with the greatest of pleasure Mimi……

  6. yumi-ho 3 years ago

    Thank you so much Sonjé for making it clear that it was all about a neutral pelvis with Joe! I’ve spent hours (well even months) searching about that matter and eventually came to that same conclusion but pretty much no one in the classical or contemporary world make it as clear as you do! Glad to know I’ve been on the right track!

    I come from a contemporary training but after a few months watching videos on Pilatesology, I’m really considering switching to a classical training where I find there is more understanding of what Joe’s intentions were for every exercices.

    Looking forward to that pre pilates video!

  7. What a beautiful session. Thank you so much for sharing it. Please Sonje consider coming to Australia, we need your knowledge and inspiration x

    • Sonjé Mayo Author
      Sonje Mayo 3 years ago

      Thank you Sam.
      If the Australian Pilates community can organize it, I will be happy to come and teach you all I know

  8. Miguel Silva
    Miguel Silva 3 years ago

    amazing workout!!!

  9. Victoria Sommer 3 years ago

    Absolutely loved it…great cues, really tempo..looking forward to see more !

  10. AngelicaRose
    AngelicaRose 3 years ago

    I would love a video of the pre pilates exercises Joe taught and how he taught them! I feel like this key part of his method has been forgotten or misunderstood but is so integral. Would love to see how he instilled neutral pelvis in his students!

    • Alisa Wyatt

      I love that you asked for this Angelica and I’m happy to say it’s coming up next! Stay tuned this week…

      • AngelicaRose
        AngelicaRose 3 years ago

        Yay! I’m so happy to hear that. I will be waiting with bated breath!

  11. Marco0621
    Marco0621 3 years ago

    Thank you for sharing this. A great workout, proof of Joseph’s cleverness in adjusting the exercises towards the people in front of him. Complacency does happen with clients and with teachers for sure. Also loved the variations; they are vicious but still lovely lol. And of course thank you Sonjé teaching this fabulous class. Regards from New Zealand.

    • Sonjé Mayo Author
      Sonje Mayo 3 years ago

      Dear Marco,
      I am such a fan of the “All Blacks” seeing that I am a South African Springbok rugby diehard!!
      Thanks for your comment and you are so correct in saying that Joe adjusted towards the people he faced. We dancers, brought new challenges and excitement to his approach and even at 81 years old, he kept evolving and growing! May this be an example to all of us…..

  12. Sonjé Mayo Author
    Sonje Mayo 3 years ago

    Hi Martin, Joseph called Mermaid “side bend” and he usually taught the side lift on to one arm. We Graham dancers often added extensions to make the exercise more challenging and Joe allowed this as long as we maintained the integrity of his work.. He understood that we were using his Pilates technique to make us better and stronger dancers and he found our creativity interesting. However Joe never taught these Graham variations.

    • Martin 3 years ago

      Ah, ok wonderful! I think the variation is fantastic and I’m sure I’ll keep using it. I just wanted to be clear in my own mind what comes from where. 🙂 Thank you!

  13. Madhavi Abuja 3 years ago

    Fabulous !! And all this while I have been unknowingly tucking 🙁 Can’t wait to see her other videos

    • Sonjé Mayo Author
      Sonje Mayo 3 years ago

      Isn’t it wonderful when one understands this simple concept … takes some adjustment but you will feel more grounded and you will soar!

  14. MindfulBodi 3 years ago

    Fabulous!!!! Thank you so much for the fantastic class and wealth of information!!!

  15. Mary
    Mary 3 years ago

    Wonderful class and commentary
    . Looking forward to more w Sonje

  16. ewapilates
    ewapilates 3 years ago

    The Lady is a genious in explaining what Joseph had taught her; I felt so in love with her when I watched the two first episodes; she is like fresh air:) I have watched the workout twice aready and am like wanting to watch a dozen times more:) Alisa – you are like a Pilates Treasures Guard! Please please please give us more soon:) THANK YOU:)

    • Sonjé Mayo Author
      Sonje Mayo 3 years ago

      Thanks you for your enthusiasm. I always felt that Joseph was like ‘fresh air’ even at 81 years old when I met him.
      I am so grateful to Alisa for giving me this opportunity to pass on Joe’s valuable information.

    • Alisa Wyatt

      ewapilates thank you, that is the highest compliment I could receive! It’s my mission in life I think ;).

  17. Martin 3 years ago

    Wow! This is phenomenal! So wonderful to hear Sonjé explain the fundamentals so clearly and logically. Some of these concepts are so genius in their simplicity that they can be difficult to explain or understand, but she did it spectacularly well here. So excited to see and learn more in coming videos!

    • Sonjé Mayo Author
      Sonje Mayo 3 years ago

      I am so delighted Martin that you grasped these concepts so clearly. People tend to confuse ‘neutral spine’ with ‘neutral pelvis’ and as we know, the neutral spine is NOT a guiding factor in the classical method. Perhaps I should rather concentrate on using the terms ‘vertical pelvic plate’ or ‘ASIS and pubic symphysis alignment’ to avoid confusion. You however got it and I am grateful that I could pass on some of Joe’s genius.

      • Martin 3 years ago

        Thank you so much for responding, Sonjé! You did a fantastic job explaining all of these concepts. I do have one quick question: During the last portion of the mermaid where Alisa and Kelly extended their legs to elongate their side body, did you mention that it was a Graham thing that Joe loved at 26 min 13 sec? I couldn’t quite make out the audio and just want to be sure I’m not misunderstanding you.

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