Tag: pilates how to

Pilates Exercise of the Month: The Saw

Purpose: To improve flexibility in your hamstrings, develop strength in the low back and work your waistline.

  1. Sit tall, with your legs extended. Open them slightly wider than your hips; feet flexed. Reach your arms out to the side (T position). Imagine you are reaching to touch both sides of the room.
  2. Inhale, pull your navel up and into your spine. Twist from your waist to the left carrying your arms with you. Keep your pelvis anchored to the mat.
  3. Exhale and round forward toward your left leg. Aim your baby finger (right hand) to the outside of your baby toe. Your back arm (left arm) reaches back; turning the palm in. Feel the oppositional pull of the arms.
  4. Inhale; continue to reach forward to accentuate the hamstring stretch. Keep the opposite hip pressed down into the mat. Then, exhale, and continue to reach forward, bringing the top of your head toward the baby toe.
  5. Inhale, bring your body up, sit tall as you return to the starting position. Begin the exercise on the other side.
  6. Alternate sides, completing 3-5 sets.

Checklist:

  • Keep your hips very still as you stretch past your baby toe. Buttocks must not lift off mat.
  • Keep your legs straight, don’t let them roll in. Knees and toes should point to the ceiling.
  • Back arm stays lifted.
  • Roll up through the spine to sit tall before going to the other side.
  • Don’t come up with a flat back.

Note: If hamstrings are too tight, sit on a cushion or phonebook. You can bend your knees slightly if the stretch is difficult at first. Flexibility will improve.

Visualization: Imagine you are sitting in a block of cement. Your lower body can’t move as you reach toward the baby toe.

Pilates Exercise of the Month – Shoulder Bridge

Purpose: To work the powerhouse and strengthen the back of the legs (hamstrings).

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent, hip width apart, both feet firmly planted on the mat; arms by your sides, palms down.
  2. Squeeze your bottom and raise your hips off the mat. The hips, knees and feet are in perfect alignment.
  3. Inhale, pull your navel to spine, and lift one leg out long in front of you. Then, extend it up to the ceiling, pointing toes. Exhale, flex your foot and lower your leg to your knee. (You may lower the leg further as long as the hips stay level and leg does not drop to the mat).
  4. Repeat 3-5 kicks on each side, Inhaling as you lift leg to ceiling and point toe, exhaling as you flex foot and lower leg. To finish, place foot on the mat and repeat kicking sequence with other leg.
  5. When finished slowly roll your back down to the mat.

Visualization: Imagine you are suspended from the ceiling by a sling around your hips, keeping you lifted.

Head to Toe Checklist:

  • Stay lifted in the hips throughout the exercise by pressing into the standing leg to maintain balance and control.
  • Kick swiftly, but not forcefully. The motion should not alter your hip height.
  • Stretch the leg away from the body as it lowers.
  • Navel should be pressed in and buttocks squeezed tight.

Note:
Use discretion if you have difficulty bearing weight on your shoulders.

Modifications:

  • Lift and lower only the hips off mat.
  • Lift and lower one leg at a time, as if you were marching in place, hips remain still and lifted throughout.

Pilates Exercise of the Month: Double Straight Leg Stretch

Purpose: The fourth exercise in the Stomach Series targets the powerhouse to the extreme.

  1. Lie on your back with hands behind your lifted head; one on top of the other, (not interlaced). Elbows wide.
  2. Extend your legs straight to the ceiling, heels together and toes turned out slightly, squeeze inner thighs, sink navel toward spine.
  3. Inhale and lower your straight legs down toward the mat for 3 counts. Stop if you feel your lower back begin to arch.
  4. Exhale as you raise your straight legs toward the ceiling. Don’t allow the legs to pass 90 degrees; the tailbone does not leave the mat.

Complete 8-10 times. To end bring both knees into chest.

Checklist:

  • Remain perfectly still in your torso.
  • Engage the glutes and inner thighs to support and protect your back.
  • If your back arches off the mat as you lower your legs, you are taking them too low. Bring shoulders away from ears.

Note: If you have a delicate back, place your hands in a V position just below your tailbone (palms down) and leave your head down.

Visualization: Imagine your legs are attached to springs above your head. You must stretch the springs on the way down and resist their pull on the way up.

Pilates Exercise of the Month: Single Straight Leg Stretch or Scissors

Purpose: The third exercise in the Stomach Series is also known as Scissors. It provides additional stretch in the back of legs while working the abdominals. This exercise requires you to move quickly and with control.

  1. Lie on your back and hug both knees into your chest, head and shoulders curled off the
    mat, elbows lifted.
  2. Extend your right leg straight up to the ceiling and grab your ankle with both hands. Stretch
    the left leg long in front of you so it hovers slightly above the mat.
  3. Inhale, keeping the right leg straight and use your hands to lightly pulse the leg twice. Sink
    the navel deeper into the mat beneath you as the leg nears the body.
  4. Exhale and quickly switch the straight legs by “scissoring” them past each other. Grab the
    ankle of your left leg and repeat the motion, inhaling for one set and exhaling for one set.

Complete 8-10 sets; alternating legs. To end, bring both legs together at a 90 degrees.

Goal: Remain perfectly still in your torso as you stretch and scissor your legs. Keep eyes focused on belly, making sure it’s scooped. Avoid hunching your shoulders.

Note: If you can’t hold your ankle, simply adjust your hand placement; try your calf first or move your hands to the back of your thigh. Don’t hold behind your knee. If you develop neck pain while holding your head up, rest it on the mat.

Visualization: As you begin switching legs, imagine pulsing your legs in rhythm with your heartbeat.