By Julia Starobin,
Pilates is a method of functional exercise involving deep core work. A strong, balanced core is essential for proper form and beautiful posture. This is an integrated series which focuses on contraction and elongation of the abdominal muscles. When the center is strong and flexible, the body will feel a new sense of freedom and balance.
This series of postures will help warm the body and prepare it for even deeper work to come. Before you start working your core, make sure the entire body is awake and ready. Take the time to center yourself, breathe well, and shift your awareness inward.
Bring the big toes to touch, with the knees apart, the sitz bones reaching to the heels, and arms extended fully forward.
Make sure the shoulders are over the wrists. Keep the legs engaged and lower belly pulling in. The side-waists are long and firm.
Straighten the arms and legs. Lengthen the side body toward the hips.
Move back to Child’s Pose. Repeat this sequence three times, flowing from pose to pose, taking three deep breaths through the nose in each position.
This sequence will start to activate the connection between the abdominals and the spine creating a balanced core. In order to get the most out of these exercises, pay close attention to the integration of the front and back body. Start and end in a Downward-Facing Dog, and repeat this series at least three times.
Standing Forward Bend
From Downward Dog, walk your hands back toward the legs, with the hands wider than the mat and the feet hip-width apart. Press your heels down to engage your legs, letting the head and spine release.
Move slowly, one vertebrae at a time.
Reach the arms straight up to the ceiling in line with the ears.
Bend the legs and sit back, keeping weight in the heels.
Reach the arms up overhead, straightening the legs, keeping the glutes and core actively working and engaged.
Roll down the same way you came up: one vertebrae at a time.
Walk out into a Plank Pose, hold for three deep breaths, and then pick up the hips shifting back into Downward Dog to repeat the sequence at least two more times.
If you would like to go one step further, add a Side Plank to both sides before coming back to Downward Dog.
Be sure the whole outer edge of the foot is firmly pressed into the mat. Engage the legs.
This exercise will help you find a deeper connection to your abdominals. Draw your abs in to maintain your shape every step of the way.
With knees bent and feet flat, sit right on top of your sitz bones. Lift the sides of the body and extend your arms straight ahead .
Round the spine, bringing the lower back to touch the mat.
Roll up and down four times, keeping the arms straight. Then lower the body further down toward the ground, so just the shoulder blades hover. From this position (see below), return to upright and repeat four times here.
Shoulder Blades Hover
This is a whole-body exercise. The roll-up works deep core muscles while improving mobility of the spine and stretching your hamstrings.
With legs together and fully extended, and heels pressing into the mat, lift arms to ceiling, keeping the abdomen engaged.
As the legs stretch forward, stretch the arms back. Extend the body in two directions.
Keep the head in line with the spine and roll up slowly.
Reach the arms all the way forward and lengthen the back of the neck.
Engage the abdominals rolling down one bone at a time with control.
With control, lower all the way back down toward the ground. Repeat six times.
This exercise demands abdominal control in order to create stability as you rock and roll.
Rock back to tips of shoulder blades, and repeat four times.
Rolling Like a Ball Teaser Variation
This exercise requires core strength, stability and balance.
Start with arms and legs extended.
Bend your legs. Rock back to the tips of shoulder blades and then rock back up, extending arms and legs and engaging the core. Repeat four times.
It’s important to lengthen the abdominals after they’ve been contracted. Through these extension exercises the back muscles, which work directly with the core muscles, will be utilized and then released.
Press the tops of the feet into the floor, and line up the hands with the ribs.
Press palms into mat and extend your chest forward and up. Lower back down, and repeat three times.
Extend arms and legs back and lift away from mat. Stretch legs back and chest forward. Repeat three times.
Start with chest reaching forward, tops of the feet pressing down into the earth. Inhale to press the chest all the way up, as far as is comfortable.
On an exhale kick your legs all the way up, diving the chest forward and bending the elbow for support.
Repeat five times, rocking between the positions.
Finish in Child’s Pose. Allow the breath to relax and touch the entire body.