Side Bend is a more advanced exercise that strengthens the oblique muscles, as well as the inner and outer thighs and the shoulders. It challenges alignment and posture as well.
Begin sitting sideways with your legs folded to the side. Put your top foot on the floor in front of the other, heel to toe. Place your supporting hand on the mat in line with your hip and a few inches past your shoulder. Before you press up, draw your abs in, drop your shoulders, and lengthen your spine.
Inhale: Press into the supporting arm and straighten your legs to lift your pelvis away from the mat. Reach your arm overhead, keeping your shoulders down. If you have your balance, take the stretch further by reaching into a side arc with your upper body. Make sure you are pressing through the supporting arm and getting good lift out of the shoulder. Return to start position and repeat three to four more times on each side.
More: 8 Pilates Exercises for a Tighter Tummy
The hip-extension series (also called the Buttsky Series) is tougher than it looks. The series focuses on hip extension, without using the lower back. It's a great balancer of the torso and helps strengthen the deep hip extensors, releasing the hip flexors.
Lie on your stomach, resting your forehead on your hands. Pull your belly button off the floor and turn your pubic bone towards the floor. Hold this position through the entire series. Energize the legs by reaching your feet towards the wall and squeeze the leg muscles. Begin by lifting your thighs off the floor, keep your legs straight. Do this five times. Then add scissor kicks in slow motion, leg circles, and heel taps (separately). Do each five to 10 times without stopping. You should feel your muscles working in the legs and glutes. The legs don't lift high, and you should not feel your belly pressing on the floor.
More: 5-Minute Pilates Power Abs
Keep fit in a Pilates class.