Copyright (c) 2012 Claudel Kuek
Imagine an exercise program that engages, enthralls and leaves you looking toned, feeling revitalized and moving with abundant energy. The Pilates method of conditioning does this and more!
Pilates uniquely combines stretching, breathing and movement control to slim the muscles and help the body develop sleekness.
Also known as the thinking person’s exercise, Pilates awakens your body awareness from the inside out. This enables the body to learn effective and balanced movement patterns, in turn improving posture, health and physical strength.
The Pilates exercise was developed by Joseph Pilates about 100 years ago. Born with asthma and other illnesses, Joseph Pilates was often sick. To overcome his frailties, he studied the human anatomy intensively and by the time he reached adolescence, he had taken up boxing, gymnastics and diving.
During World War I, he worked as an intern in a field hospital and developed a series of rehabilitative exercises for his bed-ridden patients. These were the badly injured soldiers of the war. He researched on various exercise techniques including yoga, gymnastics, skiing and weight training, and selected the most effective elements from each discipline. Eventually he developed Pilates – the perfectly balanced program for the mind and the body.
Power is strength. It is vitality and energy. It is moving with confidence and having the zest to live life to the fullest. Pilates can help you achieve this power that comes from being fit and well exercised. However, a perfectly balanced fitness level cannot be attained overnight. This takes time, a high level of expertise and a whole lot of determination. Included here are six Pilates fundamentals for you to try right now. Do them consistently at least three times a week to see the remarkable effects in 4 weeks.
For the Abs
Criss Cross – Lie on your back with your hands behind your lifted head and draw your knees into your body. Extend your right leg out long and inhale as you twist your upper body aiming your right elbow to your left knee. Actively lift from below your shoulder and twist from your waist to reach the knee and hold the position as you exhale completely. Switch sides as you inhale bringing now your left elbow to your right knee while extending the left leg out in front of you. Keep from rocking your body side to side and extend your elbows wide. Work up to 10 sets of switches.
Plank – Lie face down with legs extended, forearms resting on the floor shoulder-width apart, hands in fists. Pull your navel up into your spine, tuck your toes under and lift your hips off the floor so that your body forms a straight line from head to heels. Actively maintain a firm centre, with navel to spine, and your buttocks and legs squeezed tightly together behind you. Your neck maintains perfect alignment with the rest of the body. Breathe normally as you hold for 30 seconds at a time. Lower to rest in between sets.
For the Hips and Thighs
Single Leg Lift
Kneeling on hands and knees, hands are shoulder-width apart, knees aligned under hips. Keep head relaxed, neck in line with the spine. Extend one leg behind, toes pointed touching the floor lightly, without letting the hip or shoulder dip as you hold your leg out. As you exhale, scoop in your abs, tighten your right buttock n lift extended right leg up to hip height. Lift n lower in a slow, controlled movement. Rotate your toes so that they point outward and hold in your lifted position for 3 counts before lowering on the inhale. Repeat 12 reps on each side.
Front Side Kicks
Lie on your side and align your body so that it is parallel to the edge of the mat. Prop your head up on one hand and place the palm of the other hand firmly on the mat in front of you. Inhale and swing the upper leg forward. Keep the chest high and shoulders and hips stacked above each other. Keep the top leg directly in line with the hip, parallel to the floor. Exhale as you swing the leg back, stretching the front of the hip, always keeping your abdominals pulled in and up. Do this 10 times and finish by resting the top leg on the bottom leg. Switch sides.
For the Upper Body
Armwork Sit up cross-legged holding the stretchband loosely like a pole in front of you with palms facing up and elbows down by your sides. Lengthen your waist as you sit on your sitting bones firmly and squarely. Keep your shoulders and neck relaxed while pulling in your stomach towards your spine. As you exhale, lengthen your arms diagonally reaching towards the opposite sides of the room like as though you are presenting a long platter to someone. Keep your elbows slightly bent, your shoulders back, your abdominals lifted and your neck relaxed at all times. Inhale to relax your arms and exhale to repeat.
Spine Twist Sit tall with both legs together and bent at 45 degree angle in front of you. Wrap the stretchband around your upper back and under the armpits. Hold on to the ends as you stretch your arms out to the sides. Keep your spine straight and long while drawing your shoulder blades towards your hips. As you exhale, rotate your upper torso with a double pulse action to one side while maintaining a long waist and sitting squarely on your sit bones. Inhale returning to centre and then exhale to repeat on the other side.
Here is your personal approach to Pilates in a safe and private environment to help your body and mind achieve a level of strength, coordination and balance most everyone aims for and desires to have. Enjoy your empowering Pilates exercises described here and welcome a brand new body for a brand new year of Pilates.