A Pilates Routine To De-Stress, Soothe Stiff Muscles & Increase Flexibility

Mermaid Side Stretch & Rotations

In a seated position, bring the legs into a right angles/ a zig zag position, with the left knee in line with the left hip, externally rotate and the right leg behind, internally rotated.

Start by taking a gentle rock back and forth to ease into the hips. Then allow the back hip to sink down into the mat whilst still maintaining a lengthened spine.

Take a side bend over to the left, pressing into the right site bone and making sure the shoulders are away from the ears. Take 3-6 or these.

Now take the side bend but this time rotate towards the mat and place your right hand down. Adjust your left hand as needed. Drag your chest through your arms into an extension, maybe coming up onto the finger tips. Don’t worry about your sit bones staying on the mat. Continue with this movement, which is very similar to cat / cow. Push the mat away to flex and imagine dragging it towards you to extend.
This is a wonderful rotation for the upper and mid back.

Repeat around 6-8 times and then reverse out of it, spiralling the ribs back into the side bend and up to seated. Take a counter stretch the other way (this may feel very tight).
Switch the legs and repeat.

Shoulder Bridge

Lye on your back, arms down by your sides, palms down. The feet are parallel, slightly towards the bottom and around fist distance apart.

The neck is long and the chest open. Take a smooth breath in and feel the back and side of the body expand. On the exhale start to curl the tailbone under and roll the hips up. Articulate the spine, bone by bone just until you hit the bottom of the shoulder blades. You should be in a long diagonal line, with the ribs just lower than the hips.

Sweep the arms behind you to stretch and start to melt the spine back towards the mat, again bone by bone. Come back to the starting position and repeat 5-8 times, really focusing on the breath with the movement.

One Leg Circles

Lying down on your back, extend your left leg (or keep it bent) and press your arms by your sides, palms down, chin up. Bring the right knee over the hip and relax the calf and foot so they are floppy. Circle the thigh bone as if you’re drawing circles on the ceiling, whilst keeping the other leg still and parallel. The aim is to isolate the right hip and massage into the joint.  Circle one way slowly around 4 times and then reverse it. Repeat on the other side.

Roll Down

Start standing with parallel feet about fist distance apart and soft knees. Take a moment to notice the weight through your feet and allow the shoulders to relax. Bring the arms to shoulder height, palms down, and start to dive up and over forwards. This is a spine stretch rather than a hamstring stretch, so soften the knees and try not the hinge from the hips. Instead round the spine and keep the biceps in line with the ears. Stretch forwards pulling the abdominals back and the tailbone under. Recover back up, imagining the back of your hips pulling down towards your heels.

Repeat this 3-6 times and on the last one allow yourself to hang, grabbing onto the elbows, swinging side to side, nodding the head and decompressing the spine. Take a moment for some smooth breaths in and out, before you slowing and gently roll back up.

Gemma Folkard, Founder of Shape Pilates 

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