Day 17 of March Matness; The Shoulder Bridge Day. Have you done it dressed in green? Or on a green mat? After all, 17th March also happens to be St Patrick’s Day. The day after a big Sahara Desert dust storm that blanketed several European cities, including Lisbon, Portugal, the town Benjamin currently, and possibly for a few years to come, calls home. He reportedly purchased some furniture for the first time in years and is considering getting a plant or two. Benjamin is known for being a great mover in terms of movement and physically, having adopted a nomadic lifestyle in the past ten years. This is a significant lifestyle change for our favourite Pilates globetrotter, but I am somewhat sure that he is keeping his travel bags close to his front door, and he just might be knocking on our Aussie door steps sooner than later.
So, in the morning following an intense atmospheric event that coated dust on both the windows of his apartment and his vocal cords, giving him a little raspy voice, Benjamin is all smiles. His morning cuppa in his hands, he is ready to discuss March Matness 2022 so far and beyond. He described himself as an open book and willingly discussed other topics in this casual conversation, revealing a few bits of “non-public knowledge” information.
This friendly conversation is filled with fun facts and heartfelt topics. It will soon become available as a PAA podcast. In the meantime, here are some highlights of our discussion topics.
Observations or highlights for MM 2022 so far
“Silly little movement, that is not so silly or little any more as we made it to year 10”
Benjamin took a different approach with March Matness this year. He purposely decentred himself from the campaign. Whereas in previous years, he managed MM across three different social media accounts, actively participated with daily posts, commented on others’ posts and readily communicated with other participants. This year, he took a step back. He felt the urge just to observe. He wanted to get a sense of how the campaign touches and influences people differently around the world, channeling and harnessing the energy generated by the community. Benjamin and his team at 360 Pilates are interested in using the gathered information to honour and grow beyond a “see and be seen” month-long social media event to something more. What will it be? The thinking hats are on to create something special for year 10.
The MM community participation inspires Benjamin. In 9 years, this “silly little movement” has become a form of communication between teachers, Pilates fans, and everyone watching and seeing it. “From the get-go, March Matness has always been about what unites us”. The mat work is something that we all know and agree on. Over the years, it became a time capsule, 31 days of posts of the 34-original mat exercises, a chance for anyone to start posting and building their confidence in expressing what each exercise means to them.
Benjamin never intended MM to be particularly anything. It isn’t a social media competition. Therefore, it lends itself to become a time to check in with each other. This year’s campaign caption, “Here and Now”, relates that and is asking for the unfiltered version and promoting its casualness. It is an open door to acceptance. It leads to “up-lifting” and offering some “cheer-leading” to those that need it.
“I don’t know why it is always March, but March has always been eventful in the last few years. Remember when the Pandemic started? It was in March when the world shut down.” The campaign took it on, showcasing what the community was going through: “This is me doing Pilates at home because I can’t leave the house”.
This year, the community members directly impacted by the war crimes in Ukraine that still participated touched Benjamin. Their use of the campaign was right on point, telling us what they needed and building awareness about the situation. Social media is often used as an escape route, but this time it is used to go deep and help make a change.
“There is so much positive energy. A campaign that is about connecting people, has to be used for good”.
Members’ questions (full answers in the upcoming Podcast)
Do you have a daily practice?
A regular practice, yes, not a scheduled one. Five minutes or more, here and there, to stretch his body out after sitting too long in front of the computer. He sees those moments as an injection of energy. He also attends classes whenever possible.
As he scanned the room with his eyes, he admitted that he would love the space for a reformer in his apartment.
Top Exercise: The Hundred: It is a measuring tool for him. He uses it as a full-body scan, a light switch. What turns on and what does not?
Nemesis: The Hip Twist: It shares a spot with Neck Pull. Although Benjamin can appreciate the Neck Pull, he just does not enjoy the Hip Twist at all and regularly omits it in his practice. In fact, the Hip Twist was the only exercise that he did not have a picture for back in 2013 when he spontaneously launched March Matness (full story in the Podcast).
If you could ask one question to Joe Pilates, what would it be?
“I have been asked this question so many times over the years”. It has changed over the years. Currently, Benjamin would ask about the concept of right and wrong, the strictness of the work versus the allowances.
When is it Contrology or not Contrology to you (Joe Pilates)?
Why do you do Pilates?
Pilates has kept his body moving and injury-free. Originally, Benjamin started doing Pilates because, as a dancer, he was told it was good for him. He then accepted that it was good for him, and he wanted to be excellent at it. His relationship with Pilates has evolved over the years, and he no longer feels the need to be excellent at it. Instead, he uses it to self-assess his body and as a maintenance tool. It is a strong foundation for his other activities. I had to ask, what are the other activities? A gaze up, a little smile, a slight hesitation, and Benjamin revealed that as a “middle-aged” man, he finally discovered an interest in high-impact workouts: interval training and spinning. A two-year pandemic side-effect, one that offers him an uncomfortable growth experience.
What is the future of MM from year 10?
“After 10 years, March Matness is going to be a teenager next year. And we have to treat it as such. It’s no longer a toddler. It wants to figure out who it is”.
It will evolve. Benjamin and his team are interested in channelling the energy generated from the campaign and using it for good. March Matness is not going away, but its future form is still undefined at this stage. Stay tuned.
Decoding Pilates: a new 360 Pilates project
Decoding Pilates is about the code of Pilates. It looks into the history, the theory behind it (concepts & philosophies) and the practice itself. It is about talking about Pilates.
Benjamin observed and took mental notes during his nearly ten years of teaching workshops worldwide. He specifically noticed what Pilates teachers and students got excited about, what conversation topics animated them or what kind of historical facts generated enthusiasm. He used this gathered information to create Decoding Pilates.
It is an online-only learning journey for all Pilates fans spread over 100-days. It includes short videos, reading material and integrates with the existing 360 Pilates platform and its material. The 3-month commitment means that all information is gradual, no overload, and it allows time to think, review and absorb the information at an individual pace.
It is an exchange of collective knowledge and experience between all participants, including Benjamin, to better understand the full extent of the work. It helps each participant define what Pilates is to them and perhaps to others. It has an intelligent simplicity to it. It is a refreshing and modern way to learn about Pilates.
Watch out for the podcast!
It was a pleasure to “sit down” with Benjamin and discuss it “all”. As always, he was generous with his time and interesting. In this text, I summarised our exchange; however, the upcoming PAA Podcast offers all listeners a chance to hear the full extent of this fun and captivating conversation.
PAA Committee member