The clocks have gone back, the nights are drawing in and the leaves have turned. Strictly’s on the telly, mince pies are in the shops and you heard the first (and sadly not last by a long shot) play of a ‘festive favourite’ on the radio last week. That can mean only one terrifyingly familiar thing: Christmas is on its way and it’s coming straight for us like a runaway freight train.

If you’re anything like me, you begin the season full of resolve to keep healthy and active but, as the festivities gather pace, your resolve starts to wane and your best intentions go out the window.  Christmas is a time for enjoying yourself and indulging in a few extra chocolates or another glass of wine after all!

 

Keep active

 

In a bid to help us all keep more active this year, I have listed below a few simple Pilates exercises which you can do at home every day.  Those of you who are regulars at The Pilates Room Bristol should recognise some of these but, if not, they are fairly straightforward so anyone* can try them, even if you haven’t done Pilates before.   They take no more than 10 minutes to do and your body will thank you for giving it some attention.

*These exercises are suitable for most people, however if you have any injuries, medical conditions or any concerns whatsoever, it is essential that you consult your doctor first before commencing.

 

A note on neutral pelvis before we start…

 

In Pilates, correct alignment of the pelvis is very important – you want to ensure your pelvis is in a ‘neutral position’.

You can check this by lying on your back with your knees bent.  Place the heels of your hands on your hip bones and making a small triangle with your thumbs and fingers (don’t worry if your hands don’t meet) – see the images below.  The image on the left hand side shows a neutral pelvis – this is the correct position as you can see that the hands are horizontal, meaning that the hip bones and pubic bone are on the same horizontal plane as one another.

In contrast, the top image on the right shows a ‘tucked’ pelvis, i.e. one whereby the pubic bone is higher than the hip bones illustrated by the hands tilting upwards, and the bottom image on the right shows a pelvis whereby there hip bones are higher than the pubic bone, resulting in an overly arched back and illustrated by the hands tilting downwards –  neither of these positions is correct.

   CORRECT NEUTRAL PELVIS                INCORRECT PELVIS POSITIONS

 

1. Pelvic curl

 

Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, hip distance apart.  Your pelvis should be in neutral.


Inhale to prepare.


Exhale and draw your tummy button down towards the mat and at the same time tilt your pelvis towards your nose.  When your pelvis has tilted as far as it will go, start lifting your bottom up slowly into a bridge, curling your spine up off the mat as you do so.  Use your hamstrings and glutes to keep lifting you higher – make sure though that you keep your ribs ‘soft’ so they don’t flare which will cause you to arch your back.


Inhale to pause at the top.


Exhale to start slowly articulating your spine back down onto the mat, keep tucking your pelvis as you come down so that it is the last thing to touch the mat.


Make sure you take your pelvis back to neutral.


Repeat 6 times.

 

2. Spine twist supine

 

Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.  Knees and ankles should be together.  Your pelvis should be in neutral.  Your arms should be in a T position.


As you inhale, take your knees over to the left – you will need to lift your right hip and right foot off the mat to ensure your right knee remains ‘superglued’ to your left knee and doesn’t slide down.  Keep your right shoulder relaxed and on the mat.


Exhale and simultaneously draw your abdominal muscles (especially on the right hand side) down towards the mat to return your knees back to the centre.


Then alternate by inhaling to take your knees over to the right hand side in the same way.


Repeat 6 times, alternating both sides each time.

 

3. Chest lift & chest lift with rotation

 

Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, hip distance apart.  Your pelvis should be in neutral.  Interlace your hands and put them behind your head.


Inhale to prepare.


As you exhale, lift your head and chest, making sure to keep your tailbone pushing down into the mat to keep your pelvis in neutral.  Your shoulders should be relaxed and your head heavy in your hands so as not to put too much strain on your neck.


Inhale to pause.


Exhale to lower your head and chest back down to the mat.


Repeat 6 times.

 

Option 1                                                           Option 2

After doing 6 chest lifts, you can move onto a chest lift with a rotation.


Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, hip distance apart.  Your pelvis should be in neutral.  Interlace your hands and put them behind your head.


Inhale to prepare and exhale to come up into the chest lift position as before.


Inhale to pause at the top.


Exhale rotate over to one side – it’s a subtle, forward movement (think of rotating your ribs to opposite hip).  Keep your tailbone heavy to maintain a neutral pelvis.  Inhale to return to the centre before exhaling and rotating over to the other side, making sure to maintain the height of your chest lift throughout.

The images show 2 ways of doing the rotation: either by keeping your hands interlaced behind your head (the column of images on the left, option 1) or, alternatively you can extend your opposite arm on the outside of your knee (the column of images on the right, option 2).


Repeat 6 times, alternating both sides each time.

 

4. Hundreds prep

 

Lie on your back lifting one leg at a time into ‘table top’ position (hips and knees bent at 90°) and arms straight toward ceiling, palms facing towards your feet.


Inhale to prepare.


Exhale and draw your abdominal muscles down, simultaneously lowering your arms to your sides so they are parallel with the floor and lifting your head & chest.


Inhale to lower back down to the starting position.


Repeat 8 times.

 

5. Leg lifts

 

Lie on your back with your knees bent, inhale and then as you exhale lift one leg up to table top position.  You can either have your hands by your sides or resting on your hip bones (as shown in the pictures).


Keeping the angle of your knee at 90° throughout, inhale as you lower your foot towards the mat.


Exhale to draw your abdominal muscles down and lift the same leg up to table top at the same time.  Your pelvis should remain stable throughout and the only thing that moves is your hip joint.


Repeat 6 times on one leg and then change and repeat 6 times on the other leg.

 

6. Spine stretch

 

Sitting upright with a straight back as if you were sitting against a wall, legs straight out in front and slightly wider than shoulder width apart and feet flexed with toes pointing to the ceiling.  If you have tight hamstrings, you can slightly bend your knees. Arms out in front, shoulders relaxed.


Inhale to prepare.


Exhale as you nod your chin to your chest and slowly roll your spine down and forward, reaching towards your feet.  Keep shoulders relaxed and away from your ears and abdominal muscles engaged throughout.  Stretch as far as you can.


Inhale to pause.


Exhale as you start to re-stack your spine back up to the starting position, making sure to keep the shoulders relaxed and away from your ears as you do so.


Repeat 6 times.

 

7. Back extension

 

Lie on your front, legs straight and together, arms down by your sides and palms pressing against your legs.  Nose just hovering slightly off mat.


Inhale to lift your head and chest off the mat.  Keep your head in line with the rest of your spine and keep your chin in.  Keep your abdominal muscles engaged to provide support for your back as you lift.


Exhale to lower back down to the starting position.


Repeat 6 times.

 

 

And relax!  Well done, you have completed all the exercises.  I hope you enjoy doing these simple (but still quite challenging) moves but if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me at ali@thepilatesroombristol.com.