And pretty strong abs too!
I first tried Pilates when I was in high school and got a bit addicted to it for a while. I directed a school play when I was in my final year of high school and the cast got me a book about Pilates for a director’s gift, that’s how much everyone knew I loved it!
(The book was The Pilates Body by Brooke Siler – still one of the best Pilates books on the market…check it out!)
A lot of people I know who do yoga have never done Pilates and vice versa, but the two have a lot in common and one can really help you with the other.
I had taken years off from doing Pilates, but finally got back into it through yoga. My yoga studio offers Pilates classes and I take one or two a week to really focus on core work (yoga always includes the core but it’s great to have an hour dedicated to it – I need it!).
Of course, one of the common misconceptions about Pilates is that it is just core work, and it really isn’t. There are exercises that work your legs, arms…your whole body. When you leave, you’re toned and relaxed and your posture is so much better.
I’m 5’8″ and have the common problem of taller girls of slouching my shoulders a bit. It leads to a lot of shoulder and neck pain which can cause headaches if I’m not careful. When I practice Pilates I find I’m sitting up taller and my shoulders are back and my neck and jaw pain is much less than before.
I highly recommend taking a class, but if you can’t get to a studio, there are some exercises that are standard Pilates exercises and can easily be done at home. Just hop on the floor when you’re watching TV! Here are some of the basics:
*Disclaimer! I am not a Pilates instructor and cannot claim responsibility for any injuries! You should consult with a doctor and professional before embarking on any new exercise regime.
Click on the name of the exercise for a link to a how-to video on YouTube demonstrating the move.
This is called The Hundred because you pump your arms and breathe in for a count of five, then pump your arms and breathe out for a count of five and do that 10 times to add up to…yup, a hundred! Do one set to warm up in your Pilates workout.
This move is easy to ‘check out’ of and let momentum take over, but try not to, as then your core isn’t working! Keeping your abs tense, and starting in the position pictured above, allow your weight to fall back so that you roll onto your back and then, using your abs to control the speed of the motion, roll back into the position above. Do not let your toes touch the ground at any point if you can help it! Repeat as many times as you can, up to 10.
Keep your top leg bent, and pull one knee into your chest, keeping the other straight but hovering just above the floor. Breathe in to pull your bent knee into your chest and then breathe out to swap it with the other leg. Repeat on both sides 10 times.
Lying on your side, wrap your bottom arm around your waist and put your top hand flat on the floor in front of your shoulder. Bend your knees (keep them straight for a more advanced version) and lower and push up yourself using the top arm. Do 10 on each side.
This is an advanced exercise but one that you can gradually try to work up to (view the video for a great step-by-step tutorial). Don’t judge yourself! Just give it a try – slowly and carefully – and then laugh it off when you fall over. I do!
This is a great back workout as well as butt, legs, stomach…you get the picture! Lying on your stomach, slightly part your legs and your arms overhead. Then inhale for five counts while you move both your arms and legs as if swimming. Exhale for five counts. Start with just one leg and one arm and then alternate if you find both legs and arms too much.
You can work up to double leg circles if this is easy! But this is a great exercise to work both your abs and legs. Lie on your back and bend your knees so your feet are flat on the mat. Lift one leg straight into the air and draw a controlled, slow circle in the air with your toes. Inhale as you draw the first arc of the circle and exhale as you complete the circle. Do 10 each leg.
If you like these how-to mini-Pilates workouts I can do more in the future as there are many, many moves to Pilates and they are great to do at home because no props are needed – if you have a soft floor at home you don’t even need a mat!
- Have you ever done Pilates before? If so, what’s your favourite Pilates move?
- If Pilates isn’t your thing, what’s your favourite workout?