My number one resort when I wish to feel more toned is pilates. It is a mat class in which you really might not sweat, but that does mean that you won’t be working hard. Pilates targets all your muscle groups within the same practice and, in most instances, within the same exercise.
I came across it once I was done competing in sports professionally (or at least I put competition aside until further notice) and was looking into a class that will keep me toned even if I’m not running and doing any heavy lifting. It is an exercise which you can look at as a less meditative and more active version of yoga. I compare it to yoga, as it uses the breath to dictate the pace of the movement.
It is moreover a low impact cardio practice that mainly builds flexibility and muscle strength. It focuses on spinal and pelvic alignment, reconnecting the breath with movement while improving coordination and balance. It requires you to focus and concentrate and is, therefore, a good practice of mindfulness. It establishes one’s body control. A constant movement throughout the practice is the contraction of pelvic muscles, making pilates a great option for all the pregnant ladies out there as well as post-delivery exercise, as it quickly strengthens them back.
Each pilates move is designed to promote proper alignment of the spine. In turn, it increases flexibility and moreover relaxes the shoulders, neck and upper back. Upright posture is one of the most prominent contemporary health issues. We tend to sit crouched behind our computers for long consecutive strands of time. Make sure to wear comfortable soft leggings and let’s start practicing!
Pilates is a great form of exercise for a couple of reasons:
- It gives strength to the body, shaping and toning the muscles.
- It decreases stress by elongating muscles and it even promotes endurance.
- I’ve seen the best results deriving from one solo type of exercise, coming from pilates.
And if I had to choose my favorite pilates moves, it would be these 5:
1. Pilates 100
- Lay down on your back, bring head, neck, shoulders, and legs just above the ground.
- Squeeze your core and relax your shoulders.
- Pulse with your arms up and down, performing 5 brief consecutive exhales, then 5 brief consecutive inhales.
2. Spinal Balance
- Done either on your knees or a more advanced option, starting from a plank position.
- Staring from a tabletop position, extending one arm forward and reaching out, while at the same time extending the opposite leg back.
3. Single-Leg Bridges
- Lay on your back with legs bent and bring hips up towards the sky.
- You’ll feel working the back muscles, booty, and hamstrings.
- Sit tall and open your arms to the side, legs wider than shoulder-distance apart.
- With an inhale, rotate your trunk and round over the opposite knee.
- With an exhale, return to the starting position.
- Then, repeat on the other side.
5. Scissor Crunches
- Lay flat on your back.
- Bring head, neck, and shoulders off the ground and hands behind your neck.
- Also, bring one leg strain up in the air while the other one is hovering just above the ground.
- Bring opposite elbow to the knee of the leg that is pointing straight up.
- Then switch and continue switching for 8 to 12 repetitions on each side.
I like to start beginners with sequences of at least 8 repetitions. They can also have a break in between. A general goal of progression is that with a regular practice a couple of times a week, you are able to do 12 consecutive reps of each move after a month of practice.
If you’re new to pilates, I hope I lighted a spark of interest for the practice especially because of its wide range of benefits. It would definitely be my top recommendation for anyone trying to tone up and improve posture and flexibility.