Pilates is great for core strength and back health says Paola Langella
If you’re looking for lifelong great posture and strength, Pilates could be the exercise for you. “Pilates is a mind and body discipline that focuses on working out the entire body while keeping the neutral alignment of the spine,” says Pilates instructor, Paola Langella (shapesstudio.co). “The spine has a S shape and everything we do in Pilates, from a glute exercise to a push-up, needs to keep the back always aligned (one line from the head to the tailbone, to the sacrum). Keeping this alignment is the why the core gets such a good workout in Pilates.”
As well as creating a stronger core, Pilates boasts infinite benefits, from a stronger and healthier back, to increased flexibility; definition and sculpting. “Regular Pilates practice creates leaner muscles because in Pilates we work the small muscles in order to support the big ones, therefore the big muscles like quadriceps and hamstrings will get longer,” explains Paola. “It also provides stress relief; healthy weight loss if this is one of your goals; better posture and better digestion; increased focus and concentration.”
Anyone can start Pilates at any time, but according to Paola, the sooner you start the better. “Pilates is a life-changing routine,” she adds. “It will accompany you anytime and everywhere, from the moment you wake up and brush your teeth, to the way you stand waiting for the bus. It is going to be the best investment you make for your health.”
You don’t need much to get started. Paola recommends an exercise mat, and perhaps a resistance band and you’re good to go!
Lie down on a mat with your legs bent and your feet flat on the mat at hip distance. Keep your spine in a neutral position, which means you should leave a small gap between your lumbar spine (the lower part of your back) and your mat. Place your hands-on top of your rib cage. Inhale through the nose, feeling your rib cage expanding sideways, and exhale out through the mouth, closing the ribs in and down. Every time you exhale imagine your belly going deep inside your ribs reaching your spine. Every time you inhale and exhale, keep the same gap between lumbar spine and mat. Do this breathing exercise six times.
From the same position you were in above, extend your arms out by your sides. Exhale as you gently roll your hip slowly all the way peeling off each vertebrae one at a time, lifting your glutes. You should have your glutes up, creating a straight line between your knees, hips and shoulders (don’t overextend your back). As you inhale, keep the position and keep squeezing your glutes; as you exhale, slowly roll down touching one vertebrae at a time on the mat. Repeat this hip roll eight times.
Lie on your back with your head on the mat. Your lumbar spine should now be in an imprint position, which means no gap between your lumbar and the mat. Lift both legs up in a bent position, with a 90-degree angle. From this position, lower one leg at a time, keeping the legs bent. Inhale to lower one leg, exhale to come back up. Alternate your legs and do this 20 times (10 per leg).
Kneeling on all fours with hands under your shoulders and your knees below your hip bones. Your back should be in a long line from your head to your tailbone. Exhale and round your back like an angry cat. Drop your chin and look at your tummy. Inhale and hold the position. Exhale again and return to the first position with your back in a long line. Try to push the floor away from you with your hands. Keep your shoulders away from your ears and look forward, at the edge of your mat.
Swimming only arms
Remain in the above kneeling position. As you exhale, extend only your right arm forward without moving anything else. Keep your back in neutral, and your neck stable. Inhale return the arm. Exhale extend the left. Keep alternation and repeat this for 20 times (10 each arm). Here, you should feel a strong abdominal connection. The challenge here is to isolate the movement of the arms from the rest of your body.
Swimming only legs
Always in a kneeling position with your hands down on the floor under your shoulders. As you exhale, extend one leg out backwards and lift (foot in line with the glutes, don’t go over the hip), inhale, return the leg; exhale, extend the opposite, inhale to return. Keep alternating for 20 times (10 each leg). Here, like above, you don’t want to move your hips. Imagine you want to balance two cups on top of your sit bones as you move your legs. This exercise is really good for back, posture, core and glutes. If you want to progress and challenge yourself, try to simultaneously lift one arm with the opposite leg as you exhale (right arm-left leg), inhale to return, exhale and move to the opposite side (left arm-right leg). Complete 20 repetitions, 10 each side alternating.
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