Teaser is one of those "peak" exercises that can be really difficult to master, so let's break it down! Tune in to hear some of my favorite tips, tricks, and variations for this challenging mat and reformer exercise!
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[00:00:00] Hello, and welcome to Pilates Students' Manual, a podcast helping you get the most out of your Pilates classes. I'm Olivia, and I'll be your host. Join the conversation and share your thoughts on Instagram at @pilatesstudentsmanual. You can support the podcast by visiting buymeacoffee.com/OliviaPodcasts. Let's learn something new.
[00:00:39] Hello, hello everybody. Welcome back to the podcast. Today we are taking a closer look at the exercise teaser and looking at its component parts. We'll break it down into those more manageable pieces. We'll look about building up to your teaser, ways to build strength [00:01:00] and help make that teaser a bit more achievable. Pretty much everything about teaser is happening today. I'm going to be looking at teaser on the mat and also teaser on the reformer. So however you like to tease your teaser, um, we will dive into that today.
[00:01:21] Teaser is definitely one of those exercises, and by those exercises, I mean, those kind of peak exercises that are really the culmination of all the exercises that come before them. Kind of this neat thing about mat and reformer Pilates is that the exercises really build on each other. So there are a lot of shapes and movements that we see in teaser that we've seen before in the other mat and reformer repertoire.
[00:01:54] There are lots of variations of teaser. So the one I'm going to be really diving [00:02:00] into today is Joseph Pilates version of teaser, but there are lots of teasers out there and sometimes changing how you do teaser can make it more achievable. Not that you have to stay there forever, but there are- I don't want to say harder versions and easier versions, cause that's not really a fair assessment, but they're just different versions and they might be more or less difficult depending on you, how you do the exercise, how it works. So really going to break it down and look at those pieces.
[00:02:36] The reason why I'm calling teaser this peak exercise, in addition to being this culmination, it's also challenging in a lot of different directions. So it's challenging from a strength standpoint, it's challenging from a flexibility standpoint and on the mat, but definitely also on the reformer, it's challenging from a coordination standpoint. So you could have the strength and [00:03:00] the flexibility, but the timing is everything as well.
[00:03:05] For that reason or those reasons the teaser exercise might be one that you've struggled with maybe way back in the day. That was one of the ones that was a toughy to get. It might be something that you're still struggling with and something that you're working on. And I totally honor that part of the journey. I've been there. Anyone who's gone through a mat or reformer Pilates class and gone to teaser and gone. Oh, not again. I am so with you, but let's see if we can't make the teaser a bit more friendly.
[00:03:38] Let's look at Joe's version of teaser. And this is me reading from Return to Life, Joseph Pilates' book, in which he details how to do the mat exercises. He says in his instructions for teaser: take position illustrated. He's sitting tall on the mat, head up legs, close [00:04:00] together. Knees locked, toes pointed forward and downward, arms at right angle position beside body, hands pointed straight forward. Then you bend head forward, chin to chest, press abdomen in, roll backward on spine until legs are raised upward to indicated angle. He has his legs at a 45. Inhale slowly, raise arms, in parallel line with legs as indicated, then roll forward and. Pivot on rump, keeping raised arms in line with raised legs as indicated, parallel. Exhale slowly and return to position two and inhale slowly. Repeat the exercise three times.
[00:04:51] So basically in Joe's version of teaser, you start seated. You tip yourself backwards. Your legs come up to [00:05:00] 45 and you roll down almost in the hundred position in terms of your torso, your kind of chin to chest, in this curled up shape. And then you go from that curled up shape, legs stay where they are, but you roll up to your legs. You end up at the top and kind of a V shape, but you're rounded, arms parallel with legs. Then you roll back down to that hundred shape in your torso. Legs don't go anywhere. You come back up to your legs and you do that until you're sad. Uh, which he's indicated is three times. Three times is plenty, in my opinion.
[00:05:33] You might have learned different teaser variations. There are teasers where you start with your legs and torso down, and then you V up. So especially in gyms, that's a exercise you might see a lot where you're kind of snapping up into a V shape and then lying back down. Uh, teaser on the reformer is a bit more like that, except you've got straps in hand. So picture your reformer for me. You've got the long box on, you're lying [00:06:00] on your back on the box. Hands are in straps. Legs are long, your foot bars down. So your legs can go all the way down to the platform. And you sort of do a sweeping arm as you lift your legs up much more like the fitness up, but you're pushing through that spring resistance. Resistance, maybe, anywhere from a quarter to a full spring, somewhere in that neighborhood. And then you lie all the way back down, and then you curl all the way back up into that V.
[00:06:32] So that is a lot. Just describing the exercise. You're like, wow. I definitely see how not everyone is going to be able to do that on the first try. There is a lot going on, but if you look at the shape of teaser, and let's talk about the mat first. So if you look at the shape of teaser, you start sitting tall, you're rolling down most of the way, rolling back up. There's some exercises that we're seeing in common right there. So we're seeing pieces of the roll up. It's [00:07:00] looking really similar at the top to rocker with open legs or open leg rocker. You might see a little double straight leg stretch because we do have both of our legs long. We do have to hold them there.
[00:07:13] So if you're working on building strength up to teaser, one thing that you can do is look at all of the buildup exercises and the layering exercises for the roll up. And that's maybe starting with your feet on the mat, sitting on the mat. You're rolling down as slowly as you can coming up to seated however you want. Rolling down as slow as you can to build strength in that eccentric contraction.
[00:07:41] You might be doing catapult roll-ups where you start lying down with your legs long. And you take your arms, and maybe you hold weights in your hands, maybe you just use the weight of your arms, but you really use the arms to throw yourself up. I was going to say fling, but like fling yourself forward. If you're holding something, definitely don't actually [00:08:00] fling it. But using momentum, you can pull yourself up.
[00:08:04] You might take a bolster or a pillow or a folded blanket and place it under your upper back. So when you are rolling up either via catapult method or really slowly, you are coming up, not quite as far. The bolster gives you a little bit of a lift off of the ground, so you don't have to go as far down, you start partway up. That's really helpful. And then you take that bolster away. You take the weights away. Can you roll up just a regular roll up?
[00:08:31] And because I do think the teaser version of the roll-up is harder because your legs are lifted. Definitely. You may want to take your roll up a bit further and turn it into a neck pull, right? Where suddenly we take our arms out of the equation entirely. Not only are arms not helping us in terms of generating momentum, they're actually working against us because we have the weight of the arms as we have our hands behind her head.
[00:08:53] Then you might work your roll up: can I do a roll up with my legs lifted, maybe resting on [00:09:00] a chair or resting on your couch or something, but can my legs be lifted? I don't have to hold my legs up there resting on something, but can I do that roll up action when I have my legs lifted because that's going to be tough. And that also starts to get into a bit of that flexibility component, right? Cause to find that shape at the top, you do need to have some flexibility in the back of your body, whether it's your hamstrings, your calves, your low back, all of that is going to need to help you to find that V-shape at the top.
[00:09:30] That rounded V-shape, that top shape, as I mentioned, looks a lot like rocker with open legs. So in terms of getting comfortable with that balance point at the time, working into that top point of rocker with open legs is really similar. Now in rocker with open legs, you're holding onto your ankles. So. And teaser, your arms are floating parallel to your legs. Your legs might actually be a bit lower. I mean, it really depends on where your balance point is and your flexibility and your [00:10:00] strength, but your legs may or may not be in the exact same position. But that balance point at the top with a rounded spine, your legs long, and your arms long looks a lot like open leg rocker. So you can play with that statically.
[00:10:12] You can play with that where you're leaning back, maybe against a wall, maybe against your. Where you can find that shape without having to hold yourself in that shape, but you can kind of play with it.
[00:10:25] This is another one I love to do on camera. I like to either film myself and play it back or just, uh, record myself doing it or have my camera on, even if I'm not recording it. So I can see what I look like because finding arms and legs parallel can be a bit tricky. I don't know where my arms and legs are. You know what I mean? Definitely.
[00:10:46] I think it's also really important to note that everyone's teaser looks different. So if you're on Instagram and you're seeing all of these really narrow teasers in these really long legs and really long arms, like this might be a very [00:11:00] flexible person. You know what I mean? So your teaser might be a wider V it might be a more open V. It might be a really small V it could be anywhere in between.
[00:11:09] I remember in my teacher training, there was a person who was like six foot and his teaser was a really a low teaser because his legs were tree trunks. And it's very hard to get them up really high also in terms of flexibility, limitations, like they may not get up that high. He may always have a slight bend in his knees and that's totally fine.
[00:11:30] Last thing I want to add in terms of layering up to our teaser, we can always work it backwards. So can you start at your top teaser shape and practice rolling down, and then however you want to get up. Find that teaser shape, roll down from there. Can you play with holding legs in tabletop? Can you roll up and down with legs and table top, maybe one leg in tabletop? Can you do it with one leg straight? When you get to both legs straight you're there, you know, can you [00:12:00] put that bolster under your upper back again. So maybe you're just rolling down halfway and coming back up from there until you get all the way down to that hundred its shape.
[00:12:07] Right? So there's lots of ways to play with teaser on the map that is not even an exhaustive list. And I would say if you're doing it on the mat, take it further, take it into a V legs down and torso down. Can we V up from there where legs and torso lift you find teaser at the top, but you start from totally flat. That's going to be awesome in terms of working on the reformer in your teaser where you will have to lift your legs from zero.
[00:12:33] Coming up after the break, we'll talk all things reformer as well as why this is such a great exercise for you to keep practicing and doing as well as the secret sauce to making your teaser happen. All of that's coming up next.
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[00:13:53] Let's set the stage for our teaser on the reformer. I'm actually going to keep the same setup [00:14:00] for building up to teaser and then full teaser on the reformer. So on your former about one full spring that's of course adjustable. We've got long box on the reformer. We've got foot bar down.
[00:14:15] One of the ways to build strength and get more comfortable in the teaser shape on the reformer, because the reformer is adding some additional coordination, complexity. You're also on a moving platform. So as you come up into teaser, the carriage is going to move. So that's going to challenge our balance and our coordination quite a bit. So to get comfortable with that moving device that we happen to be on. I'd recommend starting seated on the box, facing the pulleys with your hands, holding on to the cords. So you've choked up on the straps a bit. We're not holding the long or the short loop, but we're holding onto the cords.
[00:14:54] So if you can visualize yourself, sitting. You might play with rocking back. How does it [00:15:00] feel to lean back with a flat back? So the carriage is going to move a bit as you lean back and as you come up, your feet might be dangling. Your feet might be resting on the headrest if that's comfortable or on the carriage to the sides of the shoulder pads, if that's more comfortable, but we can play with coming down and up. We're not pulling with the arms. We're just doing very similar to short box series, rock back and come up.
[00:15:24] You can do that as a roll down and up. It's an assisted roll-up cause the springs are going to help pull you back up. And this is how we're building up to it because of course, when we do full teaser, we're facing the other direction, but right now the springs are helping and that's very nice. We can take advantage of that.
[00:15:41] We can play with rolling back half way and finding a march. Can you lift one leg into tabletop and then lower it back down, the other leg into tabletop? Could you lift both legs and to tabletop and tap down one toe at a time or one foot at a time? [00:16:00] Could you play with holding both legs in tabletop and then play with straightening one leg at a time? Very similar to what you would do in rocker with open legs on the mat, can we find the shape or three-quarters of the shape while we're holding onto the straps? And then can you play with straightening, both legs? I'm in teaser. I'm not in teaser. I'm in teaser. I'm not in teaser.
[00:16:23] Right now, your arms are doing something a little bit different because we're holding onto the cords instead of having the loops in the hand. But this is a nice way to find that shape and also kind of get comfortable balancing on the box while it moves a little bit.
[00:16:35] I think the exercise backstroke is really excellent preparation for teaser because 99% of the components are the same. To do the exercise backstroke. We are lying on our back, hands in straps on the long box. We're lying on her back on the long box. Head is dropped back over the box towards the headrest, legs are long [00:17:00] over the box. That's our teaser starting position.
[00:17:02] Our backstroke starting position is we take everything that was stretched out we curl it into a tiny ball, fingertips to forehead, knees to t-shirts. And we, for backstroke, we reach up to the ceiling with arms and legs. We do a big circle into our hundreds position, and then we curl back into that ball.
[00:17:23] So that hundreds position, getting from that hundreds position up higher is how we do teaser. So I think getting really comfortable with that backstroke and really pushing into the straps in your backstroke is going to be super duper helpful.
[00:17:41] I also think working a no straps teaser. Can you find yourself in that start position on the long box, without the straps in your hands? Can you just play with coming up more like that V up kind of style where now we're lifting our arms [00:18:00] and our legs and our torso, but we don't have the straps to press again. Some people find the straps really helpful and sometimes a heavier spring, like a full spring, or maybe even like falling a quarter spring is helpful because it gives you something to push through.
[00:18:15] I live on a medium spring in teaser, and that makes me feel very happy and successful, but that's something that you can kind of play with in terms of spring resistance. You can play with coming up into teaser, but having your legs bent, you can play with coming up into teaser with one leg, that one leg straight, that's also a coordination challenge. The double straight leg stretch or the lower lift exercise is really helpful here because you do have to lift and lower your legs. You're also lifting and lowering them at the same time as your torso, which is why this exercise is so challenging.
[00:18:50] This is such a tricky exercise because there is this coordination component. There is this timing. I found in my own body that [00:19:00] lifting my head and arms first a little bit first, and then letting my legs come up after that is what makes sense in my body that might make sense in your body. You might be like, no, that's way harder. I have no idea what you're talking about.
[00:19:15] But I think the trick is because our legs are so heavy. If you let your legs come up too high, it's really difficult to do the rolling up action of teaser because your legs are so close to you. Like try doing a roll up with your legs, pointing to the ceiling. It's very, very difficult. So like slowing down the lift of the legs so that you don't stop yourself from rolling up, but also not not lifting the legs, because then you'll just roll up to seated in your legs, kind of drop, which is another thing that can happen.
[00:19:47] If you're in any of those realms and that's what you're playing with. You're like, oh my gosh, that is where I'm stuck. I can tell you that the more you work at it and the more you practice it, the better you get [00:20:00] at it. Your body will figure out the timing, your brain figures out the timing. You will get stronger by nature of practice. And the way we get better at doing things is by doing the thing. So if teaser is the bane of your existence, this is my challenge to you to give it a try, try it on different equipment settings, try it with props, try it with momentum, try it in pieces. And I know that teaser is an exercise that once you get it, it becomes so much fun and really it's fun because of all the work you put in to execute this really awesome exercise.
[00:20:34] Huge thank you to all my supporters on Buy Me a Coffee. So looking forward to our coffee chats this month. Thanks so much for tuning in for signing up and for hanging out with me. It's always a treat to do that. Have a great few weeks, everybody. And I'll talk to you again soon.[00:21:00]
[00:21:03] Thanks for tuning in to this week's episode of Pilates Students' Manual, a podcast helping you get the most out of your Pilates class. Be sure to check out the podcast Instagram at @pilatesstudentsmanual and subscribe wherever you're listening. Interested in teaching Pilates too? Check out Pilates Teachers' Manual, available everywhere you listen to podcasts. I hope to see you next episode. Until next time.[00:22:00]