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    5 Pilates Moves You Can Do Anywhere (with videos!)

    Photo: Stephanie Hirasawa
    Photo: Stephanie Hirasawa

    Pilates Guide by Jessi Albin, founder of Jessi Fit Pilates in Oakland, California. Follow her on Instagram

    With the New Year here and winter just settling in, we know how hard it is to stay motivated to workout. But maybe you’ve seen the Victoria’s Secret Angels and have heard about their secret weapon to stay in such great shape? It’s pilates, of course! But what is Pilates really?  We know it’s a celeb favorite—Madonna, Kate Hudson and Adriana Lima are all big fans—form of exercise all developed by Joseph H. Pilates in New York City during the 1920’s.

    Pilates is a mind and body form of exercise and body conditioning that focuses on using your core—or center—to move your limbs. Dancers originally used this method in New York City over 80 years ago and it’s been a mainstay in Hollywood for quite some time, too. What makes Pilates unique are the six founding principles. Here are the six principles followed by 5 Pilates Moves You Can Do Anywhere! 

    1.  Concentration Awareness on the movement at hand and feel where the challenge is and listening to the teacher or video. We bring our minds into our bodies in order to mind our bodies.  
    2.  Centering We strive to work evenly on both sides of our bodies and we align our bodies from our center. We begin our moves from the transverse abdominals or deep ab muscles and we align our joints accordingly.
    3.  Control It’s all about total body muscle control, not just feeling the burn on one body part or letting gravity take over. We keep focused on our movements and don’t wander off into unrelated thoughts.  
    4. Precision Every movement is performed as properly and precisely as possible in that moment and with purpose.
    5.  Breathing Essential for movement, we are consciously trying to align our breath with movements and direct our breathing into the lungs fully. Remember that your muscles need oxygen to keep moving!
    6.  Flow Your movements are smooth and graceful and we flow between one exercise and the next seamlessly.  

    Now here are the 5 Pilates Moves You Can Do Anywhere! Do these on the road when you travel or just roll out of bed and onto the floor before work. No membership or equipment required!

    Roll Down with Twist

    Heres a twist on a classic Pilates core move. It’s all about “scooping” your belly muscles in and up to keep the lower back long. It also feels like squeezing into a pair of tight jeans. You’d pull your abs in towards your spine to avoid hitting a button on your jeans!

    1. Start seated, feet inner hip distant apart and parallel. Knees bent with knee caps pointed to sky. Press heels into mat and reach arms long at shoulder height.
    2. Round your lower spine a few inches slowly at a time back into the mat. Keeping hips square, start to twist the ribs to one side. Exhale.
    3. Pause then slowly round up one inch at a time and then center the shoulders to your hips untwisting while inhaling.
    4. Repeat on the other side.

    Concentrate on pointing your heels down to the mat and keep shoulders down toward your waist with collarbones wide open. Keep legs, feet and hips parallel. Knees stay reaching to ceiling and toes are all parallel to each other. Keep the moves small for beginners. Go back further to advance!

    Double Leg Stretch Hundreds

    The Hundreds are considered the ultimate Pilates warmup!  Here it’s combined with the Double Leg Stretch—another Classic Pilates move—we’re sure you’ll feel the abs work to control that spine as you extend the legs!

    1. Lay on mat and come to a table top position—bend knees into chest so they are directly above your hips.  Feet should be about knee height. Open the collarbones here and press your hips into the mat.
    1.  Imprint low spine to mat on an exhale. This means the lower back bones are GENTLY spread.  Focus on keeping the pelvis and bottom down and still, as well as the spine long and spread on the mat all through this exercise.  
    1. Come to abdominal curl position by lifting your head towards your chest and then lifting the chest up from the core.  Keep shoulders open and lift straight arms up a few inches from the mat.
    1.  Pump them up and down by hinging at your shoulder joint. The fingertips are long and the arm bones are deep inside the shoulder sockets, even with the arms pumping up and down about 6-12 inches in height. Inhale for 5 pumps.
    1.  Then exhale for 5 pumps and reach feet out by extending legs long at 45 degrees from hips.  Make sure to keep the lower spine imprinted to the mat, the tail heave and the abs pulling in deep!  The higher the leg height, the easier this will be.  Keeping the legs low ups the intensity.
    1.  Then bend knees back in for 5 counts, inhaling and extend it out, exhaling for 5 counts. Keep going for 10 full breaths and pumps.  Make sure to keep the weight of your head in your hands but lift your chest up. This should help your neck from tiring out before the 10 breaths or keep your head down.

    This is clearly a breathing exercise and we encourage you to fill your lungs completely with air then exhale completely. Also try to keep your pelvis still, low spine imprinted and your elbows wide.  Scoop those abdominals in and up towards the lungs to really fire up the whole core—melt the lower back to the mat and stabilize your torso as you move your limbs!

    Single Bridge

    This is a great way to balance out sitting, working that booty and strengthening your lower back.

    1.  Lay face up on your mat with knees bent and feet flat. Feet should be parallel and an inch apart with all ten toes pressing evenly into mat.
    1.  Roll spine up, reaching hips high and pressing the upper back and triceps into the mat. Keep fingertips and arms long with abs tight. This is your bridge position.
    1.  Then raise one leg up towards the sky. Keep both shoulders and hips aligned. Bottom foot presses evenly across all 5 toes into the mat. Point the top toes.
    1.  Simultaneously roll spine and hips to the mat, keeping leg high as you exhale, then roll back up on an inhale.  Repeat 8-12 times.
    1.  Repeat for the other side.  

    Keep both sides of the hips at the same height and do not allow the hip of the lifted leg to drop.  Keep tightening your abs to keep your lower back long. Doing just a few with lots of control, alignment and good form are more valuable than sloppy jerking movements—remember precision!

    Plié Burpee

    Here’s a Pilates take on a total body conditioning move. If you do not want to jump, feel free to walk back into your plank if you’re not ready for the full versions I’m showing.

    1. Stand and bring heels together and toes apart. Lift heels up. Raise arms to shoulder height, pulling abs in tight around your waist, dropping tailbone and shoulders down.
    1. Keep spine tall and pliè—or bend knees over toes, lowering hips straight down.
    1. Then reach hands to floor, pressing palms down firmly and jump feet back into a plank position keeping heels together and toes apart. Pause and take a breath.
    1. Raise one leg a few inches from mat. Place it back down in plank.  Then alternate with the other leg.  Try to keep shoulders over hands and hips in a long line from feet to head.  Come back to plank.
    1.  Jump feet to hands and reverse the plié back to standing,
    1.  Jump at the top, landing in a plié. Heels should never come apart or touch the ground.
    1.  Repeat. You can also add in a push up after the leg lifts in a push up from plank 🙂  Remember to keep abdominals tight around the waist as you bend, the elbows tight to the body with a long spine.  Try completing 5- 15 of these with good form.

    If these are too much for you, honor your body and hold an elbow plank instead.  Flowing between each move, finding grace in between each step and transitioning smoothly between each is where the magic is.

    Reverse Plank

    If you’re like me, you do a lot of planks and spend a lot of time looking down at a smart phone, tablet or laptop.  These both lead to tight chest and shoulder muscles, and a reverse plank is the perfect ay to counter balance a plank.  It will also tone triceps, hips, thighs, and of course, abs and lower back muscles.

    1.  Come into reverse plank—from a seated position, reach hands back and feet forward. Lift hips up as heels press down into the mat.  Exhale and spread your collarbones wide open to the ceiling.  Keep waist line long and hollow or scoop out your abdominals. Your thighs should be squeezing together.   My fingers are facing back but you can modify on your elbows for wrist injuries or weakness.
    1. Press hips towards the sky, forming the body into a long line and inhale.
    1. Exhale and kick one leg up, keeping the torso high and long. The hips should stay at one height. Keep engaging your booty muscles and opening the chest wide so you do not bear down into your hands.
    1.  Inhale. Lower the leg back down.
    1.  Alternate with other leg. Repeat 5-10 times for each leg. Use your bottom leg to help stabilize the reverse plank position by activating the back of the thighs and pressing the bottom heel to the mat.

    Try not to sink into the shoulders or wrists. Use the core legs and powerhouse to lift up. Think about creating space for your lungs to fill up inside of your rib cage as you inhale.


    Try repeating all five exercises in a row with as little rest as possible.  You can then do the whole series again or even three times more for a total body Pilates blast!  But remember to always check with a physician before starting an exercise plan. Good Luck!

    Jessi Albin is a Fitness Trainer, Nutrition Coach, Private, Group and Online Instructor and Pilates Goddess.  She has been teaching and sharing her passion for over 15 years and has an absolute zest for helping people reach their full potential through movement.  She currently resides in Oakland, California but you can keep up with her every day on Instagram. Sign up for her newsletter so she can let you know when she launches her online Pilates Video App, coming soon!!

    stevie benanty

    stevie benanty

    Founder of a conversation.

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