Here are some basic exercises that you can do if you're like me and only seem to have a few minutes in your day:
The Hundred: This is the quintessential Pilates exercise. It's a great warm-up that gets the blood pumping, the breath moving, and puts you right in your powerhouse.
- Start lying on your back. Bend your knees into your chest. Curl your upper body off the mat. Stretch your legs out 45 degrees and begin pumping your straight arms up and down, beating your wings like an angry bird. Inhale for 5 counts. Exhale for 5 counts. Do 10 sets of this to make 100. Keep your eyes focused on your abdominals and pull your core in and up the whole time.
The Half Roll-back: Find more openess and flexibility in your lower back with this preparatory exercise.
- Begin seated with your feet flat on the mat. Have your legs together, with your knees bent at a 45 degree angle. Place your hands behind your knee creases and tilt your tailbone under to the back of your knees. Start to round your lowest vertebra toward the mat behind you as you straighten your arms without moving your hands. Keep your gaze on your abdominals and pull them in and up. Round back forward keeping your tailbone tucked under and your abdominals pulled in tightly. Repeat 5 times concentrating on leading with your lower back and not your shoulders.
Rolling like a ball: Rolling is a big component in Pilates mat work.
- Rolling stimulates the spine and strengthens the deep abdominals. After your last half roll-back, sit forward on the mat so you have plenty of room behind you. Make sure you are on a padded surface and not just a skinny yoga mat. Begin just like the half-roll back, this time lifting your feet off the mat once you've rounded your lower spine. Dive your head between your knees and make sure you are behind your sit bones. Pulling back in your abdominals, roll this ball shape back and then back up with minimum momentum. If you can't roll with a rounded spine, practice just the balance.
Remember, Pilates is about quality of movement versus quantity. Focus on doing the movement correctly and with precision. Practice these exercises at least three times a week and you'll be stronger and more flexible in no time.
New York Pilates Examiner Lindsay Lopez became a professional Pilates instructor in 2001.
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