Favorite Exercises

Here are a couple of my favorite exercises. They rank this status because these exercises work for people at all levels and they get more challenging with time. The increased challenge comes as the body becomes able to gain greater control and therefore do the exercise with greater accuracy. I like them because I get bored easily and with these exercises there is always new territory to explore!

Pilates Leg Circles:

1. Lie on your back, either on the floor or an exercise mat.
2. Draw one knee toward your chest and extend the leg toward the ceiling, straight leg if possible or with knee bent if your hamstrings restrict full extension.
3. Turn your attention to your body on the floor. The lower leg can be held with either straight or bent knee. Bend the knee if you feel any strain in the low back in the extended leg position. Use your abdominal, pelvic floor and back muscles to stabilize the torso completely. The hips should not rock at all in this exercise.
4. Using the leg like a stylus, begin to trace circles with the foot, first taking the big toe across the mid-line of the body, reaching the leg away, and then circling it back to its starting place. Inhale as your leg sweeps away, exhale as your leg returns to its starting position. The size of the circles is determined by your abilty to keep your hips perfectly still. You might begin with circles only a few inches in diameter. Increase the circle size as you become stronger but never let your hips wobble.

Complete 6 to 8 circles in one direction, and then change the direction of the circle. Repeat on the other side

Works: abdominals, back muscles, and hip flexors, as well as stretching hamstrings and calves.

Forward facing Triangle Pose: Parsvotonasana

1. Take a long walking-stride stance and turn your hips to face in the direction of your front leg.
2. Take your hands behind your back either clasping wrists or elbows, or bringing your palms together to namaste (prayer hands) behind your back.
3. Lift your belly up and in (engaging deep abdominal muscles) and extend your tail bone down to extend and support your low back. Gently lift your heart toward the ceiling and turn your gaze upward. Continuously return to the intention of supporting the lumbar spine (low back) with your belly muscles while opening your heart toward the front of your chest. Keep your neck long and comfortable.
4. Now begin to slowly bend forward at the hips. Stop before you round the upper back and hover with an extended spine for a few breaths. Then continue to fold forward and bow toward the front leg. If you need the support, release your hands from behind you and rest them on the leg, on blocks or the floor. Hold the forward bend for 5 to 6 breaths (or up to 2 minutes), then firmly reengage your abdominal muscles and inhale as you rise to standing.

Repeat on each side 2 to 3 times.

Alternately strengthens and stretches: abdominals, legs, back, and chest musclesrs, as well as stretching hamstrings and calves.