Some of you may have heard of the Teaser in the world of Pilates. For the ones who know about this exercise in the Pilates Method, the response is usually one of fear and dread. Or a deep sigh. It is the ultimate abdominal enemy.
The Teaser is in my opinion the essential Pilates move and possibly the most photographed Pilates exercise of all time. It is definitely challenging but whatever it takes, don't be discouraged. Eventually you will be able to do it.
Simply put, the Teaser is creating a ‘V’ shape with your body by lifting up your legs to a 45 degree and reaching your arm towards your toes at the same time. Looking at a picture or video, it does seem rather easy. Until you have to do it yourself.
It is so challenging because it requires strength, stretch and control which are the three defining elements of Joseph Pilates’ Method. Most people struggle with this exercise. Clients don’t have the required strength in their abdominals to roll up and down and keep their chest open. If they can sit up they are not able to stretch out their legs due to hamstring tightness. And lastly if you manage to do all of this it may be difficult to balance on your sit bone to create the V-shape. It's not always one thing that needs work, it is usually a combination of factors what makes it so difficult.
So how on earth could someone do this Teaser, with a certain grace AND smile?
The basic Teaser is already embedded in three other Pilates moves, so learning how to perform these well will help you to do the real thing.
1. The Roll Up
Abdominals need to be strengthened. Before attempting to lurch yourself up from a lying down position, sit up and roll down backwards in a slow and controlled pace whilst engaging your abs. Hold this pose for a few breaths and then return back over the legs.
2. Shoulder Bridge
This exercise works your glutes and hamstring strength which will serve you well in your Teaser practice. Lie flat with the legs bent and the hips raised. Extend one leg up to the sky and begin a series of 5 kicks up and down holding strong in your torso. Repeat with the other leg before lowering your hips back to the mat.
3. Rolling like a ball
Rolling exercises allow your spinal segments to separate and mobilise fully for deeper access to your abdominal muscles. Sit up hugging your ankles with one hand holding each ankle firmly. Bow the head between the knees and balance on your tail. Roll smoothly back keeping your shape fixed and roll right back up to balance at the top. Most important is to not let your belly pop out. Abs should be IN and UP.
In the Pilates Method the Teaser comes in quite late. A lot of my clients have pointed out that it would make more sense to do it sooner so they are not so fatigued. But there are a few good reasons why the Teaser is situated where it is. All the exercises leading up to this particular one warm up the body, strengthen the abdominals, stretch the hamstrings and build up balance. In fact, because of all that preparation it should be easier to do.
Essentially what makes it possible to do the Teaser apart from the preparation is your own stamina and a powerful teacher. Yes, it does push your abdominals to your limits but when you master this exercise you will feel so great!
The last resort if all of this doesn’t work is the trick of the Malteaser. Something I learned from my teacher training mate Michelle Smith from The Pilates Pod in the UK. Basically the Pilates teacher holds a Malteser just above the toes so anyone who likes chocolate - and who doesn’t - is likely to reach higher, hold longer and get that piece of crunchy chocolate whilst performing the Teaser. What a treat.
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Marco Dingemans is a qualified Classical Pilates mat instructor