Pilates for the Summer Holidays
Hi, I hope you’re all having a lovely Summer so far. If you'd like to continue practicing over the break, you're in luck! I’ve put together a short routine that is suitable for all levels. The exercises are below and I have included short descriptions/tips with each photograph. Any questions, just drop me a line. I hope you enjoy it!
Cat/Cow. Start on your hands and knees with wrists under shoulders and knees knees under hips. Breathe out to arch the spine upwards, drawing the abdominals towards the spine. Breathe in to hold, then breathe out to feel the spine lengthening in opposite directions as you move through neutral and into an extended spine, lifting the tailbone, chest and head towards the ceiling. Repeat up to 10 times and move as smoothly as you can.
Tabletop. Start on your hands and knees, as with Cat/Cow. Breathe out to slide one leg out behind you, keeping toes on the floor. Breathe in to lift the leg up, reaching out through the toes and keeping the hips stable (lift opposite arm at the same time if you are doing the full version). Breathe out to lower the arm and leg. Ensure your hip bones are facing the floor and you don’t let the spine dip as you lift the arm and leg. Just move the legs until you feel stable enough to add the arm. Alternate sides and repeat up to 10 times on each side.
Cobra. Lie on your front, forehead resting on the mat, legs shoulder distance apart and turned out at the hip, arms bent with palms on the floor, beside your head. Breathe out as you slide your nose along the floor in front of you, then continue lifting the upper body away from the mat sequentially, pressing into the hands as you lift. Breathe in to hold, breathe out to lower back down. Keep a sense of length from the crown of the head right through to the toes, and beware of any feelings of compression or tension in the low back. This is a sign to not go any higher! Repeat up to 10 times.
After Cobra, press up with your hands and then bend the knees to sink your sit bones back towards your heels. Stay here for a few deep breaths.
Hip Rolls. From Relaxation Position, connect your legs and feet together, turn your palms to face the ceiling and move your arms slightly away from your body. Breathe out to tilt your pelvis to one side, letting the legs follow, but ensure the knees don’t come apart and the feet stay together. Keep the shoulders anchored down to the mat. Breathe in to hold and breathe out to roll to the other side. If you are comfortable with this exercise you can do it with the legs lifted (but still connected). Repeat up to 6 times.
Hundreds. You all know this one! If you have any neck tension, keep the head on the mat and just do the breathing with arm beats and keep the knees bent if you have the feet off the floor. If no neck or low back issues, add challenge by maintaining a curled up position, with the legs in a double knee fold. For a more advanced version, straighten the legs and lower them slightly. Ensure your spine stays in neutral throughout. Breathe in for 5 counts and out for 5 counts as you beat the arms in time with the breath. Try to take nice deep breaths. Up to 100 arm beats - 10 breaths in and out!
Spine Curls. Lots of variations for this exercise. Ensure feet, knees and hips stay aligned throughout. Start with a pelvic tuck as you exhale, then roll the spine away from the mat, bone by bone. Breathe in at the top and breathe out to lower back down, rolling from the breastbone sequentially down the spine, finishing on the mat in a neutral spine. Variations: (i) lift arms directly over the shoulders; (ii) add toe taps (up to 6 each side) without letting the hips drop towards the floor; (iii) straighten the lifted leg to the ceiling and lift and lower the hips (up to 6 each side); (iv) ADVANCED ONLY: keeping the hips lifted and stable, lift and lower the straight leg, pointing the toe to lift the leg and flexing the foot to lower. Ensure the hips do not tip to the side as you are moving the leg, and keep your spine stable. Repeat up to 6 times to each side.
Criss Cross. Bring the legs into a double knee fold and connect the feet. Curl the upper spine up and interlace the hands behind the head. As you lengthen your right leg, rotate your upper body across towards your left leg (think shoulder to opposite hip, not elbow to knee). Alternate sides and move at your own pace, keeping the upper body curled up nice and high and ensuring you straighten the leg fully as it lengthens away. Repeat up to 10 times to each side.
Torpedo. Lie on your side, legs connected and in parallel. Reach out through the toes as you lengthen the legs away and float them up, keeping them connected. Lower them down with control. Add challenge by changing the position of your arm, as shown in the pictures. Keep your core engaged throughout and ensure the legs don't swing behind you as they lift. Repeat up to 6 times to each side.
Leg Pull Front. Start on hands and knees, ensuring hands are under shoulders and knees are under hips. Without disturbing the neutral spine, lengthen the legs one at a time, tucking the toes under, to come into a plank position. Hold for a breath and then return the knees to the floor one at a time, again, without disturbing the spine. If you are comfortable with this, once in the plank position, send the heels away from you, "rolling" over the toes onto the balls of the feet, then forward again onto the toes. Repeat 3 times, ensuring that your hips don’t lift and lower as you rock. Keep the core engaged and a stable plank position throughout. ADVANCED ONLY: as above, but lift one leg and lengthen through the toes. Repeat on the other side. Up to 3 sets.
Mermaid. See photo for start position. Breathe in to raise the arm out to the side and overhead. Breathe out to carry on into a side bend, lengthening through the fingertips; breathe in to lift the arm up towards the ceiling and send your sit bones towards the floor, breathe out to lower the arm. Repeat with the other arm. Do up to 5 repetitions on each side, then switch the legs over and repeat. Try to keep the sit bones as close to the floor as you can, and ensure you are bending purely to the side and not starting to rotate forwards as you bend.
Let me know how you go, and I'll see you in September!