5 Things Jay Taught Me About The Reformer

suzanneIn this article, Vintage Pilates instructor Suzanne Packer shares the top 5 things Jay Grimes has taught her about the Reformer. If you want to learn all about this important, classical apparatus from Jay — and hear anecdotes about Joe Pilates and commune with other instructors from all over the world while you’re at it — sign up for Summer Camp 2015 here! (Only a few spots left).

When I was asked to write this blog about five things I learned about the Reformer from Jay I thought, Impossible! There are so many things I learned, way beyond five! Nevertheless after much thought, I have managed to pull out five things that really stood out for me when I first experienced the Reformer portion of THE WORK.

1) Never, ever correct someone in footwork.

Jay calls this his number one rule! It’s fine to move the position of the feet but what the body reveals in footwork is not something that can be changed during that time. Instead use this information to determine what other places you will take them to after the Reformer to address the issue you see.

2) The Reformer is about movement and flow.

Jay teaching a client on the Reformer

Movement is healing! There is a rhythm to the Reformer and that involves not just the exercises but also what goes on in between — putting on straps, lifting and placing the box, changing the springs. There is a reason Joe had people do all of this themselves. It’s functional movement and keeps the body moving and the Reformer flowing!

3) Don’t talk too much.

This leads me to my 3rd favorite. In order to keep them moving, keep it simple. Don’t talk too much! Too many words and the client either gets confused, stops moving,or just mentally checks out. And you can’t properly observe the body when you are talking too much! Watch the body and let it speak to you. It can speak volumes!

4) The Reformer is like your mother.

The order of the Reformer is so important. Each exercise builds on the one before it; and it progresses in terms of its difficulty, so that the body can begin to strengthen itself! I remember Jay using the perfect analogy in ” The Work” — The Reformer is like your mother. When you first get on you lie down and it coddles you. Then, as you move through it, the difficulty intensifies and by the end it’s as if you are the teenager and your mother is trying to kick you out of the house! How true that is!


Movement and flow: Watch Joe Pilates at age 64, introducing the Reformer to a first-time practitioner.

5) You don’t have to do every exercise.

Order is important but there is no rule that says you have to do every exercise. Don’t change the order but if you or your client is struggling with an exercise, take it out. Don’t force it! You can reintroduce it later when the proper strength has been built.

Always remember that Joe built everything into the work and if you do the work, your body, your clients body will change over time!