The chaptering on the DVD isn't acceptable. The entire hour is a single chapter. I liked the chaptering on the earlier Winsor videos much better.
The exercises are very challenging and many are new to Mari's series. That's both good and bad. Good because it's a new challenge. It's bad because the queuing is scarce and the camera angle often obscures the moves. You need to watch the video very carefully to figure out what's going on.
Be prepared to be a bit frustrated the first few times through the workout. Also, while you're waiting for the mailman to bring your tape it would be a good idea to do some other Pilates tapes focusing on perfect form. This isn't the video to attempt if you are out of practice.
However the frustration of learning the workout is well worth it - it's amazingly effective. It's similar to the intensity of a live class. If you find most Pilates tapes to easy, then you've been waiting for this one. Even advanced students of Pilates will feel this one working. I think this is a video that I'll be using regularly for a long time.
Typical Mari - if you've liked her in the past, you'll like her in this one.
I’m reviewing this workout after doing it once or twice in the months I’ve had it.
General workout breakdown: This approximately 50-minute workout combines two traditions of Pilates matwork exercises: traditional moves and moves adapted from the reformer and other such machines.
The workout starts with a controlled sit down. The moves include footwork (4 variations), the hundred (doing 5 inhales / 5 exhales, 4/6, 3/7, 2/8, and 1/9), roll up (normal and double time), rollover, coordination, single leg circle with climb a tree, rolling like a ball, single leg stretch, double leg stretch, single straight leg stretch (normal and then double time with no arms), double straight leg stretch, criss cross (normal and double time), “advanced criss cross” (which involves rolling all the way from one side to the other), “little piece of heaven” (i.e. shell stretch or child’s pose), spine stretch forward, open leg rocker, jackknife, rowing (5-6 variations), neck rolls, swan dive, “little piece of heaven,” pulling straps, double leg kick, swimming, “little piece of heaven,” backstroke, teaser (4 variations), short box (3 variations), side leg kick series (front & back, bicycle, rond du jambe, little circles, up & down, scissors), heel beats, frog? (not sure what the name of this one is, but it’s done prone and works the hamstrings and buttocks), “little piece of heaven,” elephant, (triceps) push ups, leg pull front, leg pull down, stomach massage (3 variations), butterfly stretch, overhead, chest expansion, kneeling side kick series (little circles and front & back), mermaid stretch, snake and twist, neck pull, boomerang-teaser series, saw, and seal.
Mari leaves time to get into each exercise, but she moves through the exercises quickly once she has set them up. Her double times are very quick, so you need to know what you’re doing or else you’ll feel like your limbs are flailing about. She does a decent number of repetitions, more rather than less.
Level: I’d recommend this to someone who’s practicing at least at a solidly intermediate through a low or maybe even mid-advanced level. Mari assumes you’re familiar with Pilates and have quite a bit of strength and flexibility, so she doesn’t spend on instruction, form tips, and breathing cues, nor does she provide modifications. I consider myself almost a solid intermediate; I have about three years of Pilates experience but am still working on improving my flexibility and strength. This workout was a bit much for me when I was a low intermediate.
Class: 3 “gals” perform the moves as Mari walks around.
Music: upbeat repetitive instrumental stuff that’s barely audible.
Set: Bright interior space with neutral-colored columns in between dark window frames with paper or some sort of similar material forming the panes. The exercisers are on raised platforms on top of the neutral carpet on top of wood floors.
Production: Clear picture and sound, with helpful camera angles.
Equipment: mat (or equivalent). All participants are barefoot.
Space Requirements: You should be able to lie down with arms and legs extended as well as to sweep your limbs to each side.
DVD Notes: There are short Guthy-Renker and Winsor Pilates intros you can’t skip. There’s another intro with Mari telling you how challenging the workout and reminding you of Pilates principles before the workout starts; this is in its own chapter. The workout itself is not chaptered, which is too bad.
Conclusion: This workout would be great for someone who devotes all or a significant part of an exercise session to Pilates alone. It’s too long for me; I prefer to do shorter sessions of Pilates daily.
Combining the traditional mat routine with reformer moves is a great idea, adding interest and variety to the usual Pilates routines. This is a great way to “cross train” within the traditional Pilates canon. Personally I prefer the More than Mat Pilates series, which only uses reformer moves. I feel there’s more explanation there about how to execute the reformer moves (plus demos of how the moves actually look on the original equipment), and Sarah Picot’s personality suits my taste a little better than Mari’s. You can find some reformer exercises also in Ana Caban’s Energy Boost Pilates 1 and Liz Gillies’ Progressive Pilates for Weight Loss (most of which are also on the bonus section on her Target Tone video).
As mentioned, Mari focuses on cueing the moves rather than instructing. She does talk about how the moves are good for your “stomach,” buttocks, and thighs, so this has more of an appearance focus than on strength, for example. I don’t know why, but Mari’s voice and snapping bother me. OK, maybe that’s partly due to the fact both come off as shrill on my a/v equipment. Mari does have her own way of putting things (e.g. telling you to put your arms out “as if you’re sleepwalking” or your knuckles “above your third eye”). Anyway, she is encouraging, positive, and cracks some jokes (mildly amusing, like telling you not to drown during swimming), and I can’t help but think that she might be a better instructor in person.
March 7, 2006