Pilates can take some time to understand given the different exercises, concentration, focus and body awareness that all must come together in a cohesive way. And if you are just getting started, Pilates can appear daunting at first. However, with some practice, you will develop better posture, have greater flexibility and start to notice your movements are more efficient, even with every day activities.
If you wish to extend your practice of Pilates beyond your once or twice a week class routine, there are some basic and easy moves that can help you. These moves are a perfect segue into any Pilates workout program. They will work your pelvic area, engage your abdominal muscles, and promote better spine alignment and increase mobility and range of motion.
1. Find your neutral spine - Finding the neutral spine is the basic starting position for Pilates mat exercises. The first thing you do to find this neutral position is to press the lower part of your back to the floor, creating a flat connection. Next, release this spine engagement into a small arching position. Between the floor and this arched position is the place where the three natural curves of your spine are in the neutral position.
2. Basic arm maneuver - Called the Arms Over position, this will keep your body alignment in check even as your challenge the trunk of your body by moving your arms overhead. Start on the mat in the neutral position and then inhale as you bring your arms over your head and point to the ceiling. As you exhale, bring your arms down to the floor behind your head. Inhale and bring the arms back up and exhale as they return to their original floor position. The key to this exercise is engaging your abdominal muscles to create a more taut area.
3. Sweeping arms - Sometimes called Angel Arms, this Pilates move uses different muscles than the Arms Over move and helps you learn how to use your shoulders and arms without throwing your ribcage and back out of natural alignment. From your neutral position on the floor, breathe in and sweep your arms out to your side. As you exhale, bring your arms back to your sides. During this maneuver, keep your abdominal muscles engaged, your shoulders away from your ears and your ribcage down.
4. Folding knees - A knee fold should be accomplished without bothering the stability of your pelvic region. From your neutral position on the floor, inhale, bringing your leg up off the floor and create a deep fold at the knee, all the while making sure your abdominals remain engaged. As you exhale, allow your leg to return to position on the floor, ensuring your thigh is not controlling the movement but rather keeping your abdominal muscles taut. Your hip should not move off the floor with the knee folding maneuver. Keeping your tailbone against the floor during the process should help.
5. Pelvic clock move - This move helps build up strength in the pelvic area. From your neutral position on the floor, imagine a clock in on your belly. The belly button serves as the 12 o’clock position, your pubic area is the 6 o’clock position while your 9 o’clock is the right hip and the 3 o’clock is your left. Engage your abdominal muscles and move in order around the entire clock sequentially, and then hit the main highlights of 12, 3, 6, and 9. The key to this move is to keep your hips on the floor and maintaining stability in the pelvic region.
If you can master these five Pilates move, you have the basis for any number of workout routines. Whether you take classes or prefer your own company with a DVD or some other type of self-instruction, these five moves are a great foundation and should be mastered first, especially if your focus is Pilates mat exercises only.