15 Minute Everyday PilatesAlycea Ungaro
Year Released: 2007
Categories: Pilates/Core Strength
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I’m reviewing this workout after doing each of the workouts once.
General workout breakdown: Denise and Beth have so thoroughly described and broken down this book / DVD that there’s not much else to add. The DVD is definitely intended for you to work along with it; it’s not just a demonstration piece. The pace is controlled and steady, without any real hang time between or during exercises since Alycea assumes you’ve read the instructional information in the book beforehand and emphasizes smooth transitions between exercises as an importart part of the overall method, even if Alycea will pause to hold the position in the last rep from time to time. The focus is definitely on quality over quantity, so many exercises only have 3-6 reps, although some of the side-lying leg series go up to 10 reps.
Alycea is firmly rooted in the classical Pilates tradition, namely that taught by Romana K. I really like her approach: she’s grounded in the way many people understand Joseph Pilates to have presented his method but open to adapting the sequence and individual exercises for individual needs and abilities, rather than dogmatically insisting that every pose and sequence has to be done exactly one way by everyone. That’s my kind of take on Pilates: appreciate all of Joseph Pilates’ hard work and great ideas while making it work for you.
Level: I’d recommend this to somewhat experienced (but not necessarily particularly advanced) exercisers, whether you’re new to Pilates or not. If you’re a fairly regular exerciser looking to explore Pilates, supplementing with other instructional aids (such as Alycea’s Pilates Body in Motion and/or Brooke Siler’s The Pilates Body, also books) and if possible a live class with a well-qualified instructor will help you get even more out of this. If you’re already familiar with Pilates, you may pick up a few new tips, including how to progress some moves, and even whole exercises.
I consider myself at the intermediate / advanced level of Pilates (I’ve been practicing Pilates on average of once a week for the past 8 years) and an intermediate / advanced exerciser in general. As demonstrated the exercises were on the elementary and easy side for me; however, as Alycea writes and any serious practitioner of Pilates knows you can easily focus on improving form or find a way to tweak even the most basic exercises to produce an adequate challenge for one’s level. I actually see myself getting some use out of this book because 15 minutes of back to basics Pilates, with no to little equipment or sequences (especially since the great Pilates teacher I found locally isn’t easily accessible to me any more), is often all I want or need, especially when I’m busy. And I couldn’t argue with the price: I found this for $10 at Costco (MSRP is $17.95).
Class: either Alycea or another woman alone, with Alycea’s instruction via voiceover.
Music: upbeat instrumental that’s more for atmosphere than anything. In fact, the music didn’t even register with me until the second or third routine I tried.
Set: light gray interior space.
Production: clear picture and sound, helpful camera angles.
Equipment: Pilates mat (or equivalent), 1 pair of light dumbbells (1-3 lbs. should work for most people, although Alycea says very experienced folks can use up to 5 lbs.). Barefoot is the way to go.
Alycea recommends clothing that’s not too tight, not too loose, and she also recommends having pants / shorts with a stripe or visible seam down the side to help you better see your leg’s position.
Space Requirements: enough room to lie down and sweep limbs out to the side. Ideally you’ll also have room beside your mat to squat and lunge, although if you’re very short on space you can pause and roll up your mat for those standing sequences.
DVD Notes: The DVD is in a plastic envelope inside the front cover of the book (which has a soft cover).
When you pop the DVD in your player, after the disclaimers comes an intro from Alycea, which you can skip. The main menu choices are the four workouts (there’s no way to string them together except to come back to the main menu after each one and push play on the next), Audio Set-up (Play Full Mix, Play Music Only, Play Voiceover Only – yes, thank you!), and Other Titles (15 Minute Better Back Workout, 15 Minute Total Body Workout, and 15 Minute Gentle Yoga).
Alycea speaks clearly and focuses on cuing movement and breath, since the book provides a good deal of the basic instruction. She has a pleasant voice and uses a more conversational manner, with interjections like, “OK,” “Good,” Let’s move on,” and that sort of thing, to make it feel more like she’s there leading you in a class or even personal session rather than some disembodied voice describing someone’s movements. She does not use directional cues (as in “right,” “left,” etc.); instead, she tells you to do one side and then the other where relevant.
15 Minute Everyday Pilates is a combination book and DVD set. Both the book and the DVD offer four 15-minute Pilates routines that are taught by the author, physical therapist and Pilates instructor Alycea Ungaro. Ungaro designed the book to be very accessible to beginners, emphasizing that little is needed to start other than the desire to do so. She begins the book by reviewing the six fundamental Pilates principles as well as provides several other important tips on positioning and alignment. (A "Checklist" at the end of each chapter provides addition form reminders as well.)
Next come the routines themselves. Each routine is accompanied by simple, full-color photographs featuring either Ungaro herself or another model demonstrating the exercises. Each exercise is shown on its own page, with two photos per page. The photographs are taken directly from the routines on the DVD, and furthermore, when you use the DVD, the page numbers for each exercise appear briefly on screen to allow you to refer back to the book if needed. Finally, each routine in the book has what Ungaro calls a "gatefold," or a 2-page fold-out chart that contains an at-a-glance summary of all of the exercises included in that program.
The main menu of the DVD allows a choice of the four different practices. There are also three different audio options: "Play Full Mix," "Play Music Only," or "Play Voiceover Only." Ungaro and the model (who are in two workouts each) work out alone in a sparse, featureless studio. I have briefly broken down each of the four workouts below.
*Day by Day. This is routine that Ungaro encourarges you to learn first and to practice as often as possible. It includes many classic matwork moves such as the hundred, single leg circles, single leg stretch, and double leg stretch, but Ungaro does not always use classic sequencing, and she spends more time on preparatory moves. She ends with rolling like a ball.
*From the Top Down. This sequence incorporates many of the Pilates standing arms exercises using light hand weights. However, Ungaro encourages you to remember that every exercise in Pilates involves the entire body. The moves include front and side curls, zip ups, boxing, bug, and a breathing exercise, windmill.
*From the Bottom Up. In this routine, Ungaro incorporates the Pilates side kick series, although she also includes the teaser, and the hug (modified from Pilates equipment). I found her instruction for the Mermaid to be excellent, and she ends with another exercise modified from equipment, arm circles.
*Up, Up, and Away. Ungaro states that this last program helps to take you through moves you need for everyday life--ie, twisting, bending, leaning, and reaching. She includes a more challenging variation of the hundred, rowing exercises, classic seated matwork exercises such as the spine twist and the saw, and some additional weighted moves. Ungaro concludes this workout standing with Pilates footwork plus front/side splits.
I've been practicing Pilates for nearly 10 years, although I've sort of gotten away from in over the past year or two. The main thing I was concerned about here was that the routines would be too easy for me, but using Ungaro's tips to make them more challenging, I don't really feel that was the case. So far, I have been enjoying these practices--I especially like the 15 minute length, which always seems to go by very quickly to me. Although I do think this set is more geared towards beginners, I think this book and DVD is also likely to appeal to more intermediate Pilates practitioners like myself.
I liked Alycea; her instruction was straight-forward, and she seemed very down-to-earth.
The book is well written and easy to understand. Alycea clearly explains the proper technique and form. She explains the 6 principles that everyone should become familiar with. In depth she explains Control, Centering, Concentration, Precision, Breath and Flow of Movement.
The beautiful pictures also demonstrates proper positioning. This will ensure you get the most benefit from your practice.
The book has 4 different 15 minute practices. (the accompanying dvd demonstrates each of these 4 workouts) Each of these practices have clear pictures and each chapter concludes with extras: Checklist (where for example she'll ask questions such as "When curling up, were you able to contract the abdominals fully without allowing any pushing outward?"), Modify/Adjust (here you'll get even more suggestions to modify the poses), Challenge (includes suggestions to make the exercises more difficult as you advance) and Trainer Tips (Alycea provides additional tips to enhance the session). What makes the book even more special is at the end of each of the 4 15 workouts they have included a full color poster that demonstrates the poses in the order suggested. (very nice for when you've mastered the basics and you just need the visual to know what's next)
Day by Day is the first routine you'll learn. This routine can be performed every day if desired. This routine primes you for the other 3. You'll focus on the control and the core. The moves in this session are: Abs wakeup, abdominal curls, the hundred, the roll-down, single leg cirles, rolling preparation, single leg stretch, double leg stretch, spine stretch forward, the swan/neck roll, child's pose/pelvic lift and rolling like a ball.
>From the Top Down will begin to add weights to the routine. (many of the moves are similiar to basic weight lifting moves) You'll learn: front curls, side curls, zip ups, salutes, the boxing, the bug, triceps, baby circles, lunges, side bends, pushups, and the windmill. This routine is upper body focused.
>From the Bottom Up incorporates more lower body training. You'll learn the side kick series which will tighten and tone the entire leg area. The routine includes: Pilates stance 1 & 2, side kicks preparation, side kicks front, side kicks up and down, side kicks circles, side kicks inner thigh lifts, side kicks bicycle, beats on stomach, the teaser, the hug, the mermaid, and arm circles.
Up, Up and Away you'll incorporate standing and twisting. This session contains: neck press/shoulder roll, the hundred, rowing 1, rowing 2, spine twist, the saw, lotus, chest expansion, thigh stretch, footwork 1 & 2, footwork 3/tendon stretch, and front splits/side splits.
Also in the book is several workout schedules to follow based on your goals and time constraints. I thought it was well written and even a newbie to Pilates would benefit from this book.
The accompanying dvd contains each of the 4 practices. Either Alycea or a female assistant guides the viewer through each exercise of all of the 15 minute sessions.
(you can check out a clip of the dvd on youtube)