I get the opportunity to teach both Pilates and yoga every week because it’s my job. But for those of you who don’t have time to attend a class, here are two mini workouts that do double-duty. Not only can they each be done in about 10 minutes, but these workouts will help you get moving in the morning (or anytime you need a little pick-me-up) or help you wind down from a stressful day.
5 Pilates exercises to start your day
If you have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning, an energizing Pilates routine may be just the thing to jumpstart your internal alarm clock. This workout will get you going even before you get out of bed. Or, if you want to do the moves on a harder surface, use the space at the side of your bed — you don’t even have to change out of your pajamas! These five Pilates exercises will lengthen you, stretch you and help “align” your day.
1. Single-leg stretch (works the abdominals)
Lie on your back with your knees bent to the chest and toes pointed. Engage the abdominal muscles to lift your head and shoulders off the bed or floor. Relax the front of your neck as you hold yourself up with the strength of your abs and mid-back; look at your knees. Inhale and draw your left knee toward the chest as you extend your right leg about 45 degrees above the bed or floor. Switch and do eight to 10 repetitions on each side.
2. Rolling like a ball (works the abdominals, massages the spine)
Sit on the bed or floor with your knees bent and your spine rounded into a C curve. Lightly place your hands on the knees. Inhale and rock back until the bottom of your shoulder blades touch the bed or floor, and then exhale and pull the navel to the spine and come back up to a balance. Repeat eight to 10 times.
3. Windshield wiper (torso twist, spine rotation)
Lie on your back with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle and your arms extended out to your sides. Keep your shoulders relaxed and on the bed or floor as you inhale. As you exhale, drop both knees to one side. Inhale again and slowly lift your legs and switch to other side.
4. Single-leg circles (works the hips, inner and outer thighs, hamstrings and abdominals)
Lie with your right leg extended to the sky (bend the knees 90 degrees if your hamstrings are tight) and your left leg flat on bed. Engage your abs and point your right foot and rotate the leg; inhale and trace a small circle on the ceiling with your toe, moving the entire leg from the hip socket. Think of your leg like a spatula scraping the sides of the bowl (the hip socket). Do eight to 10 circles and repeat on other side.
5. Half roll back (works the abdominals, stretches the back)
Sit tall with knees bent, hands placed lightly behind the thighs and feet on the bed or the floor. Inhale and contract your abdominals and roll halfway back — your spine should be rounded into a C curve. Hold this position and take three breaths. Then roll back up to a seated position, lengthening the spine. Repeat three to five times.
6 yoga poses to wind down
At the end of the day, it can be difficult to transition out of work mode. These six yoga-based exercises (including a relaxation pose) will help reduce tension and improve flexibility. Try it first thing after work or right before you go to bed, whichever works best for you. The workout begins with a few strengthening poses and ends with several stretches and a relaxation pose for stress relief. Focus on your breath and create a relaxed and serene environment — light some candles and turn on some soothing music. This workout is guaranteed to make you feel stronger, more relaxed and ready for a good night’s sleep.
1. Warrior I (opens the hip flexors, stretches the lats, and strengthens the quads, glutes and torso)
Step your feet wide apart and lunge forward with your front leg. Point your front toes straight ahead; turn your back toes in slightly. Keep the knee over the toes and your back leg straight; your back foot should stay flat on the ground. Extend your arms high overhead, lifting through the chest and heart. Try to stay as low as possible in your lunge and take four to six deep breaths. Repeat on the other side.
2. Side plank (strengthens and stretches the obliques and shoulders)
Sit on the floor with your legs to the right side. Place your left hand on the floor, directly below the shoulder. Stack the feet or keep the bottom knee on the floor as you lift your body off the floor. Engage the abdominals and keep the core tight as you extend the right arm up toward the ceiling. Keep the body in one plane and hold for several seconds and lower back down. Repeat eight to 10 times on each side.
3. Forward bend with chest expansion (stretches the hamstrings, deltoids and pectorals)
Interlace your hands behind your back (use a towel if hands don’t reach) and bend at the hips into a forward bend. Drop your forehead to your knees. Keep a slight bend in the knees if your hamstrings are tight. Stretch the arms up toward the ceiling, feeling a stretch throughout the chest, and hold for about 20 seconds.
4. Cat/dog stretch (strengthens and stretches the abdominals and spine)
Begin on all fours, with your knees under the hips and wrists under the shoulders. First, round your back up toward the ceiling; drop your head and look for your belly button (cat). Next, look up and arch your back as you extend through the whole spine, including your neck (dog). Repeat eight to 10 times, inhaling as you move into dog stretch and exhaling as you move into cat stretch.
5. Pigeon pose to sleeping pigeon (stretches the hip abductors, hip flexors and glutes, relieves stress)
Begin with your hand on the floor on either side of your right knee and your left leg extended back on the floor behind you. Drop the right knee toward the right hand and turn the foot so that the top of the foot is toward the floor, close to the left hand. If this is uncomfortable, the foot can move back toward the groin. Sink into the hips while keeping them square to the floor. Walk your hands out in front of you (sleeping pigeon) to stretch the back and relax into the pose. Hold for at least 20 seconds.
6. Legs up-the-wall pose (relieves tired legs and feet, calms the mind and body)
This is your final relaxation pose. Lie on your back with your feet up the wall or the side of your bed at a 90-degree angle. Extend both legs in the air and straighten the knees as much as you can. Relax your arms at your sides, close your eyes and breathe deeply.
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