Summer fitness: 7 Pilates exercises you can try at home
Pilates is a series of physical movements that incorporate breath work together with stretches that elongate muscles and strengthen the body. The focus on pulling the navel to the spine and focusing on one’s core is at the heart of Pilates, and provides a more mindful and holistic approach to fitness unlike the high impact cardio fitness programs popular today.
With highly competent instructors that guide one’s form, the exercises are able to target specific areas that not only strengthen but can rehabilitate injuries from past trauma.
I first discovered Pilates in the nineties and found the mat workouts challenging, and effectively target the mid section better than any number of crunches or sit-ups.
I graduated to the Pilates machines after I had children as I needed more strengthening in my abdomen . The machines are called a “reformer” and use spring tensions and straps for added tension. However mat-based Pilates alone has proven to really improve overall posture, balance and body awareness.
Like all exercise programs, being under the instruction of a trained individual is pertinent to achieving your fitness goals. At Options studio, Pilates Instructor Camille Jocson, who was a former ballet dancer with Ballet Philippines for 16 years, shared with Rappler 7 basic Pilates exercises you can do at home on a mat.
Remember though, to be mindful of your own body – make sure you're in good physical condition, and know when to consult a professional if needed.
1. Rollback twist
HOW: Sit on the mat with legs bent in front of you. If this is difficult, you may modify using a box or foam box. Raise both hands in front of you. Going with gravity and pulling navel to the spine, lean back while curling your lower back until you can feel your core engage. Then twist slowly to each side by using your arms to reach while opening up your chest. This is great work for your obliques, the side of your abdomen that gives you definition.
HOW IT HELPS: The benefit to doing this rotation exercise is to strengthen the global stabilizers of the body as well as help ease pressure off the neck. A lot of people that do core work, stiffen their necks when they do crunches. This movement teaches you how to move your pelvis and brings awareness of the hips.
HOW: The “Scissors” is an endurance exercise that really targets the core. Lying on your back on the mat, you raise your upper back off the mat and grab hold of your lower leg by pulling it close to your forehead. This is also a good stretch for the hamstrings. Then swing each leg by alternating them in the air while keeping your alternating foot hovering off the mat.
HOW IT HELPS: The benefit of this movement really helps condition the entire front line of the body. To modify this movement you can bend the knees and keep your head on the mat, and as you get stronger, work towards straightening the legs.
HOW: The “swimming” exercise simulates the movement of swimming in the water. The support and power really comes from the core as you slowly lift both both legs and arms off the floor, but keeping the neck aligned with the spine. Remember to extend both arms and feet away from each other by engaging your core to help pull yourself from the ground. (READ: The path to those abs: Getting fit the right way)
HOW IT HELPS: After working the front line of the body with the “scissors” exercise, the swimming exercise really balances the other side of your body – the backside.
3B. Modified Alternating Swimming exercise
HOW: To do a modified movement for “swimming” exercise, you can try a balance exercise if you are having a hard time with your lower back. Get on your hands and knees with your knees hip distance apart and your arms directly under your shoulders.
Do not sink into shoulders and push them away from your ears. Keep your neck neutral with the spine as you gaze down on the floor a couple of inches in front of you. You are stabilizing in a neutral position. Slowly raise your right hand together with your left leg. Then alternate on the other side.
HOW IT HELPS: This really helps with coordination, to teach you to use your core for balance.
4. Foot Stamp
HOW: This movement is done on one’s forearm as you bend your knee, lift one leg and flex the foot as you lift. Much like stamping the ceiling with your footprint. Alternate to the other side.
HOW IT HELPS: The foot stamp exercise targets the back of the legs (hamstrings) and the gluteus muscles (butt).
This movement requires you to stabilize your hips as you isolate your hamstrings and glutes to lift your foot up.
5. Side Leg lift
HOW: Lie on your side with your arm extended. Joella in the photo is using her core muscles to lift both of lower and upper leg. Lift and hold both legs and relase.
To modify this movement you can place your other hand on the mat in front of your pelvis for added support.
HOW IT HELPS: The Side leg lift is an exercise that targets the inner and outer thigh as well as the core.
HOW: The Plank exercise is one of my favorite exercises! Riel is on his forearms and lifts his body to hover over the mat. His neck is aligned with his spine as he keeps his legs together with his feet flexed. The stronger you get, the longer you can sustain the plank.
Try breathing through your nose and pulling your navel to your spine when you exhale from your mouth.
7. Side Bend
HOW IT HELPS: If done properly, your entire body should be working during the plank. The stronger you get, the longer you can keep the plank position. This is a great exercise that targets your entire body!
HOW: To end the pilates series of this workout, we all stretch our sides while balancing on one arm. Again, engaging the core is the foundation of all Pilates exercises. It is a functional workout that strengthens your entire body.
Remember: The quality of the movements, combined with proper breathing, is integral in order to achieve most benefits.
You might be pleasantly surprised at how gentle yet effective these workouts can be if done regularly. So this summer, make the effort to get active, with a fun exercise like Pilates, perhaps?
Big Shout out to Options Studio in Makati and their instructors Camille, Joella and Riel. – Rappler.com
Photo of mat from Shutterstock
Giselle Töngi-Walters is the professional 'slashie.' Besides being mom to Sakura and Kenobi, she is also an all-around media personality. She is a model/product endorser/radio jock/writer/actor for film, TV, theater and producer for second generation Fil-Am content. Being part of the Rappler team is a way for her to utilize her academic and showbiz experience and hopefully make some sense beyond all the chismis.