The fundamentals of Pilates

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The fundamentals set up the basic structure for all the movements that follow in a Pilates programme. Take as long as you need to master these for the best results. When practised with conscious awareness of the essential connections, these exercises provide an intense, toning workout.

How to do the chest lift in Pilates

  • Lie on your back with your legs bent and your feet hip-width apart and a comfortable distance from your body.
  • Interlace your hands behind your head.
  • Exhale, engage your stabilisers and contract forward.
  • Inhale, hold and then exhale to return to your starting position. Soften your lumbar spine into the floor.
  • Repeat between 12 and 15 times.

You can also perform this exercise with a rolled-up towel placed between your knees. As you perform the chest lift, visualise a well in your stomach wall getting deeper as you curl up

To simplify the chest lift, lower on the inhale to reduce intensity. If you’d like to intensify the exercise, raise one or both legs to the tabletop position (90-degree bend), maintaining a lumbar release and increasing the connection to your stabilisers.

How to do a Pilates pelvic curl

  • Lie on your back with a neutral spine with your legs bent and your heels a comfortable distance from your body. Relax your arms by your sides with your palms open. Your back is long and your lumbar spine is relaxed.
  • Exhale and engage your stabilisers. Maintain this connection as your roll your tailbone towards the ceiling and peel your spine off the floor, one vertebra at a time. Your feet, upper back, neck and head should be all that remains on the floor.
  • Hold this position at the top and inhale, checking that your lumbar spine is relaxed.
  • Exhale and roll down through each portion of your spine.
  • Return to the starting position on your next inhale.
  • Repeat between 12 and 15 times.

Ensure lower limb alignment by placing a rolled-up towel between your knees. This encourages an adductor-pelvic floor connection, toning the inner thighs, glutes, hamstrings and stomach. Visualise your spine hanging from your pelvis at the top of the movement. this exercise should be felt in your glutes and hamstrings.

If you would like to simplify the exercise, place your feet on a wall with your legs in a 90-degree bend. You are less likely to engage your lumbar spine in this position. If you would like to intensify the exercise, at the top of the movement, try a knee fold while maintaining pelvic stability and lumbar release.

The cat stretch to cool down

  • Kneeling on all fours, place your wrists in line with your shoulders and your knees directly beneath your pelvis. Your spine should be flat and long. This is called the four-point kneeling position.
  • Exhale and engage your stabilisers and glutes, widening the hipbones as you flex your spine upward.
  • Inhale as you flatten your spine back to neutral and keep your lumbar spine relaxed throughout.
  • Repeat between 12 and 15 times, deepening the essential connection each time. Aim for gluteal and hamstring activity throughout.

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