Practicing Pilates is a great way to increase your fitness at a fundamental level. Pilates can help you gain greater flexibility, a stronger core, and better balance and posture. It’s also highly adaptable, so incorporating the Pilates Method into your current exercise program is easy. Here are five simple moves to add to your routine, all you need is a mat and a little floor space!
1. The Hundred: Get your blood pumping with the first traditional Pilates move! Begin lying on your back. Bring your legs up to a table top position and reach your arms straight by your sides about six inches off the floor [Figure 1]. Begin pumping your arms as you inhale deeply for five counts and keep pumping as you exhale for five counts. Repeat for 10 whole breath cycles. To make the exercise more challenging, bring your chin towards your chest and extend your legs out towards a 45 degree angle [Figure 2].
2. Roll Down: Begin by sitting tall on your sit bones with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor [Figure 3]. Take a breath in and then as you exhale begin to tilt your pelvis under and draw your navel towards your spine. While lightly holding onto your thighs, try to roll the back of your waistband towards the floor [Figure 4]. When you are at your max, take a breath in and then exhale as you begin to roll back up to the starting position. Try to keep your abdominals scooping inward towards your spine and use minimal help from your arms. Repeat sequence five times.
Figure 3 Figure 4
3. Double Leg Stretch: Begin lying on your back and hug your knees towards your chest [Figure 5]. As you inhale, extend your arms and legs straight up towards the ceiling [Figure 6]. Remember to keep your abdominals scooping inward towards your spine. As you exhale, hug your knees back into your chest. Repeat 10 times. To make the exercise more challenging, bring your chin to your chest and extend the arms and legs out towards a 45 degree angle [Figure 7].
4. Side Lying Leg Circles: Begin lying on your left side in a straight line with legs extended forward towards a 45 degree angle. Rotate your thighs so that your heels are together and your toes rotate apart. Lift your Right leg six inches up from your left leg [Figure 8]. Maintaining the rotation of your thighs, circle the right leg 10 times in each direction. Remember to keep your abdominals scooping inward towards your spine to maintain trunk stability. Repeat other side.
5. Swan Prep: Begin lying on your stomach with hands on mat in line with your rib cage [Figure 9]. Scoop your abdominals up towards your spine and press the front of your thighs down into the mat. Press your upper arms in towards your sides. Inhale as you begin lengthening your breast bone forward and up pressing your palms down into mat [Figure 10]. Exhale as you slowly release back to the starting position. Be careful not to crunch your neck or lower back. Repeat five times.
If you have any questions about your Pilates practice, contact a certified Pilates instructor. Scheduling a one-on-one session can help to make sure that you’re maintaining the proper form, especially at the beginning. Consult your physician before starting any new exercise program.