by Dawn Boulay, Head Trainer, Master Trainer, ACSM certified
Pilates is a total body exercise program that unites the body and mind, to build flexibility, strength, endurance, and coordination. With Pilates, your brain gets just as much of a workout as your body, and by using proper breathing and a strong mind/body connection, as one instructor puts it, Pilates can reverse years of damage and injuries caused by improper alignment, poor posture, repetitive movements, and the stress of day-to-day living.
The focus is in strengthening your “Powerhouse” or core muscles which include the abdominals, back and glutes. With strong and stabilized core participants realize many benefits including reduced back pain and better posture, balance and coordination. The most common and accessible method of Pilates is done on a mat with modifications to accommodate each person’s fitness level and injuries. There are pieces of Pilates equipment such as the Reformer, Cadillac, Trapeze and Barrel, that provide a whole other experience. Pilates is for everyone – whether you are an athlete, dancer or elderly and frail – give it try!
SINGLE LEG STRETCH: Lying on your mat, drop one straight leg down to a 45 degree angle, bring the other knee into your chest. Put your outside hand on your knee and the other one on your ankle. Breathe in for 2 counts, switch legs and breathe out for two counts, with your head neck and shoulders raised up off the mat. Perform 5 to 10 sets to start.
DOUBLE LEG STRETCH: The following is an advanced progression from the single leg stretch that will require you to keep your pelvis anchored, and your abdominals flat.
This advanced exercise can be conducted in sets of 5-10 repetitions:
• Lie on back, hugging knees into chest.
• Curl head, neck, and shoulders off floor.
• Exhale and extend arms overhead next to ears; simultaneously lift legs 45 degrees.
• Hold for 1 count, then bend knees, circling arms out to sides to return hands to shins.
• Repeat, keeping upper body lifted and inner thighs pressed together.
OPPOSITE ARM LEG REACH Upper back, shoulder, and abdominal muscles are key for proper posture. One of the most effective ways to strengthen and stabilize these muscles is to challenge their endurance in less stable position.
• Begin on all fours, aligning your knees under your hips and your wrists under your shoulders.
• Raise your left arm to shoulder height and your left leg to hip height.
• Hold for 2 counts, reaching forward with your fingers and back with your heels.
• Repeat this exercise on the opposite side.
• Do 15 to 20 reps, alternating sides.
• For a bigger challenge, touch your opposite elbow to your knee as you pull your arm and leg in
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