Pilates is not only a great way to tone the body, but also helps to reduce stress, combat fatigue and improve mental focus and circulation. Doing just a few Pilates mat exercises a day will rejuvenate you both physically and mentally – helping you to look and feel younger. These 5 Pilates moves from leading Pilates trainer Debi Monahan can be done anywhere – at home, at the office, even while you travel.
1. The Roll-Up
Stregthen your spine and abs with this posture-improving move. Start by lying on your back and extend your body into a full stretch with your arms extended over your head and your legs straight and squeezed together. Inhale, drawing in your abs, and lift your arms toward the ceiling. Continue the movement forward, and as your arms pass over your chest, begin to roll up vertebra by vertabra, using your core muscles. Try to lift up our of your hips and over your thights as you pass through a sitting position. Exhale as you stretch forward, keeping your navel pulled back toward your spine and your fingers reaching toward your toes. Then reverse out of the posture by inhaling and rolling back down as slowly as you came up, keeping your abs engaged and your tailbone curled under. Repeat 3 to 5 times.
2. The Hundred
This ab and breathing exercise helps to increase circulation and warm up the body. Start by lying on your back with your knees and hips bent at a 90-degree angle and your arms resting on the mat beside you. Exhale, draw in your abs, and lift your upper spine slightly off the mat while reaching your arms forward. Straighten and extend your legs to a 45 to 60-degree angle. Begin pumping your arms straight down and then up on each count for a total of 5 counts, inhaling for the duration of 5 and exhaling for 5, reaching forward as you breathe. Maintain this position, pumping your arms and breathing for 100 counts (or as long as good form can be maintained).
3. Single Leg Stretch
Lie on your back with your head and shoulders off the mat, chin toward your chest with your inside hand on your knee and your outside hand on your ankle, elbows extended. The straight leg should be extended in front of you at a height that allows your back to remain flat on the mat. Inhale as you being to bend your straight leg and straighten your bent leg. Exhale as you complete the switch. Your hands switch to the opposite knee and ankle. Maintain core stability while executing, with your abs drawn in and your spine pressed into the mat. Repeat the sequence 5 times on each leg for a total of 10 times.
4. Criss Cross
This sit-up exercise will work your obliques, waistline and core. Start by lying on your back with your head and shoulders lifted off the mat, knees bent into your chest and hands behind your head, elbows wide. Exhale. Straighten one leg while simultaneously rotating your upper body toward the opposite bent knee. Inhale as you being to switch legs while your upper torso rotates back to center. While switching legs, rotate your trunk toward the opposite side and exhale as you fully straighten one leg and bend the other. Complete 5 to 10 sets.
5. Leg Pull
Start this ab, arm, legs and buttocks-strenghtening exercise in a push-up position. Squeeze your buttocks and concentrate on using your abs to stabilize your lower body. (Your body should be in one straight line from the top of the head to your heels.) Inhaling, raise one leg toward the ceiling, squeezing the buttocks. Do not lift your hip when lifting your leg. Exhaling, lower your leg back to the mat. Inhaling, raise the opposite leg. Exhaling, lower that leg back down, always keeping your abs engaged and pelvis lifted to prevent your lower back from arching.
For more detailed step-by-step instructions and modifications to these Pilates exercises, pick up a copy of YOUNGER: The Breakthrough Anti-Aging Method for Radiant Skin.