Pilates in a Nutshell
Pilates is an exercise method designed for tightening and strengthening your core (your abdominal muscles), making your muscles more flexible, giving you better breath control and maintaining proper posture and spinal alignment.
Doing Pilates exercises can sometimes be challenging, but you’ll almost always leave any stress or anxiety on the mat after a workout. Pilates naturally helps relieve stress and makes your muscles feel relaxed.
Pilates Mat Workout
Pilates workouts often include mat exercises as well as the addition of weights, bands or small pieces of equipment. However, the easier exercises are generally done just on a mat to keep things simple.
Here are some great Pilates beginning mat workout exercises to start with. Do them in any order you choose. As you perform each exercise, envision your belly button being drawn toward your spine and keep your abdominal muscles firm.
- Swan prep: Lie flat on your stomach with your legs extended. Tighten your glutes and point your toes so that your feet rise off the floor. Place your hands on either side of your rib cage and press up slightly with your head and chest. You should be looking straight ahead with your shoulders and upper chest off the floor. Hold this position for five seconds, then rest.
- Leg circles: Lie flat on your back, drawing your abs firmly toward the floor. Extend your arms at your sides and your legs to their full extent. Lift on leg up, point it at the ceiling, and draw small circles with your pointed toes. Switch directions after a few rotations, then change legs and repeat.
- The hundred: You’ll want your abs super-tight for this one, as it really focuses on your deep abdominal muscles. Lie flat on your back with your arms at your sides and your legs extended. Take a deep breath, and tighten your ab muscles so that your head and chest rise off the ground. Lift your arms above the floor, parallel to your body, then angle your legs at about 30 degrees above the floor. Pump your arms up and down at your sides, lifting them only a few inches with each pump. Take deep breaths at the same time so you don’t lose oxygen while you work out.
- The plank: There are several variations you can do for the plank, but to begin with, you’ll do an easy one. Sometimes this Pilates beginning mat workout is also called “front support.” Get down on the floor into pushup position, keeping your body aligned. Remain in this extended pushup position with your arms locked and your heels pointing up at the ceiling. Tighten your abdominal muscles so your body isn’t relying fully on your arms to keep you supported. This stabilizes you and gives your abs good form. Just make sure your stomach doesn’t sink toward the floor, as this could put undue tension on your spine. Try to hold this position for at least 30 seconds. Eventually, you’ll graduate to 60 and 90-second intervals with this position.
Ordinarily, you would only do one pose each per workout for Pilates. However, you can repeat the positions if there’s one that feels good to your muscles or that you want to perfect a little more.
My own experience with Pilates