Leading Pilates instructor Gaby Noble reveals the moves that will boost your body and mind
Think Pilates is simply a workout that tones your tum and improves your posture? Think again. Popular with the A-list, from Liz Hurley to Joan Collins, Pilates is the activity of choice for many – and it’s no wonder, given that the workout can rebuild pelvic floor strength, treat back pain, help ease anxiety and even boost brain power. “Classical Pilates (the original method designed by Joseph Pilates) balances the body, ensuring all joints are working and the muscles are moving synergistically,” explains Gaby Noble, owner of Exhale Pilates London, a leading studio that counts Sadie Frost and Jools Oliver among its clients. “It’s important to coordinate breath to movement, as this triggers a psychological response that naturally decreases stress and anxiety levels. The strong flowing movements require physical strength and mental control, enabling you to better connect mind and body.” Sound like a workout you should be doing? Try the Pilates moves below for a healthier body and mind.
Do this move to whittle the waist and increase your stamina Criss Cross is the last of the ab series and it will target your entire torso as well as challenge your stamina. You don't use hands to support your legs, so the exercise really tests your strength, stamina and control. It especially works the obliques and lower ab muscles. Criss Cross works more on the flexion and rotation of the back muscles, which will keep your spine healthy. This move will also help to nip in the waist. Try it Lie on your back with knees bent into your chest, place your hands behind your head with your elbows wide and out to the side. Lift the head and shoulders. Extend your right leg out, maintaining a flat back as you simultaneously twist your upper body, moving your right shoulder towards your left knee. Look back at your left elbow to increase the stretch. Return to the centre and repeat on the other side. Keep elbows wide and twist from your waist, not your neck. Repeat and hold each move for 3-5 seconds – this really boosts the benefits. Keep hips anchored and aligned. Do 5-10 sets
Do this move to ease feelings of anxiety and improve posture The swan is one of the best exercises you can do to open muscles at the front of the body, expanding the chest and stretching the abs. This is exercise is particularly effective when done after working the core, as it will release any tightness in the hip flexors and quadriceps. When the swan is done properly, with the right muscles engaged, it will work and strengthen your shoulders, back, inner thighs, pelvic floor, glutes and hamstrings. This is a great move to help improve posture – it can release tightness in the chest, which is also good for those who suffer with anxiety. Try it Lie on your front with your hands placed on the floor under your shoulders; your elbows are close to your body. Ideally, keep feet together, as this will help to engage the glute muscles. If you feel any tightness in your back, keep your legs hip-width apart. Inhale as your draw your navel to your spine, lifting your head and chest off the floor. Exhale as you continue to stretch the back and chest, straightening the arms. Be sure to keep the neck long. Inhale and then exhale deeply as you slowly lower your body back to the floor, lengthening your chest and legs to increase the stretch. Do 3-5 sets.
Do this move to counteract the negative effects of sitting down The mermaid is a great move for increasing strength and flexibility in the arms, shoulders and torso. The Pilates mermaid side stretch lengthens and opens the side of the body, which is especially great when done after sitting at a desk all day, cycling or holding a heavy bag. This is also great for mums who tend to hold their babies on one side. Try it Sit on your right side with knees bent. Your top leg should be directly on top of the lower leg. If this is uncomfortable, remain on your side and open the knees so that they are in line with the shoulders. Hold the ankle with your left hand. Inhale and reach the right arm overhead, with the upper arms as close to the ears as possible. Exhale and bend the body directly to the left side. The top of the head should reach towards the ankles and the hips should stay anchored to the ground. The right side of the ribcage reaches to the ceiling. Inhale and rise back up tall. Repeat three times, then switch sides and do a further three sets.
Do this move to mobilise the spine and boost back strength The Pilates teaser is notoriously one of the harder of the Classical Pilates sequence. It enables your body and mind to balance with strength and control in the ‘V’-shaped position. The teaser helps build mobility and flexibility in your spine. This traditional Pilates exercise also strengthens your hip flexors and abdominal muscles, while increasing flexibility and balance. You truly work the abs, back muscles and glutes in this fab exercise. This great finale move can provide a sense of strength and control, which can be translated and used in your everyday life. Try it Lie on your back and raise the legs to a 45-degree angle. Keep your arms extended behind the head. Keeping the legs stable, inhale and slowly peel your body off the floor, making a ‘V’ shape with your limbs. Leave the legs lifted as you roll the body back down slowly – this really opens and stretches the spine. An advanced version of this move entails keeping the legs extended on the mat and then raising them at the same time as your upper body to make the ‘V’ shape. Make sure the movement is slow and controlled. Do 2-3 sets.Gaby Noble is a leading Pilates expert and owner of renowned Classical Pilates studio, Exhale Pilates London. With private sessions, duets, mat, tower and reformer-based classes, all sessions and classes at Chalk Farm's Exhale Pilates London are sure to provide you with a total body workout and experience that will dramatically improve your strength, flexibility, posture and overall wellbeing. Classes and sessions can be booked at exhalepilateslondon.com
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