Rebecca Convey, Pilates expert and Owner of Kinetic Pilates, shares her Basic Mat series – 7 of her favourite Classical Pilates exercises to boost physical and mental wellbeing.
This series incorporates the fundamentals of Classical Pilates, which was developed by Joseph Pilates almost 100 years ago and has a proven track record of positive results.
Rebecca says, “Exercise and moving regularly is important, not only for fitness but movement can also help our bodies to release tension, avoid pain and feel better generally. Regular exercise can also help you lose weight, prevent and recover from injury, and release endorphins to improve your mental health. Even a few minutes a day will make a difference. Consistent practice will help you look and feel better and will, increase your strength and flexibility and lead to better body awareness and overall wellbeing.
“Classical Pilates is an excellent method to help with flexibility and body toning. Pilates exercises are designed to build strong, lean muscles and create length in the body. It helps to lift your core in and up, creating a lifted spine and long narrow waist. By using the correct muscles, you will not only stand taller with better posture, but your abdominals will also become stronger.
“Setting unrealistic fitness goals will only lead to disappointment and stress, which is not good for your mental or physical health. I suggest the Classical Pilates Basic Mat*, a simple set of exercises that you can do anywhere and do not take up a lot of time. Try to do it every day! Consistent training will lead to solid technique, and with time your personal practice will improve, as will the overall benefits.
In the beginning, work slowly and carefully to ensure good technique, but once that is established, you will progress quickly and really see and feel positive results. You will have more control over your body and less pain, more strength, flexibility and tone and therefore, more motivation. You will look and feel better!!”
Rebecca instructing her students on the correct form for their pilates exercises in the studio.
Try this series of exercises as part of your morning routine and feel the positive results.
1. The 100
This is a wonderful warm-up and breathing and strengthening exercise. It will prepare your body and focus your mind for the rest of the mat. Lie down on the mat and bring your knees into your chest. Engage your core, lift your head and shoulders, keep your back supported, and stretch your arms and legs out long. Only take your legs as low as you can maintain a supported back.
2. The Roll-Up or Half Roll Down
This exercise works on the abs as well as stretches the back and legs.
Start with the Half Roll Down: Sit tall with your knees bent. Place your hands behind the thighs and feet on the bed or floor. Engage your core and roll halfway back on your pelvis; as you do so, your spine should be rounded into a curve like a C. Try and hold this position for three counts, and then roll back up to the seated position and lengthen the spine. Try to repeat this four or five times.
Full Roll-Up: Once you have mastered this, you can start to try to roll yourself all the way down onto the mat, lengthening the legs and all the way up again, keeping the knees bent. Eventually, you will be doing a full roll-up.
3. Single-Leg Circle
This move works to stretch the hips and hamstrings, work the inner and outer thighs and the abdominals. Lie on your back with your right leg extended straight into the air, feel free to bend your knee slightly if you have tight hamstrings, and lay your left leg flat on your floor. Engage your core and make a circle by moving the whole leg from the hip. Try to keep your body as stable as possible; the only thing moving should be your leg in the hip socket. Only move as much as you can control- less is more! Do five circles in each direction, then repeat with the other leg.
4. Rolling Like a Ball
This stretch works the abdominals and massages the spine. Start by sitting on the bed or your floor with your knees bent, place your hands on your ankles, drop your chin and round your spine into a C-curve position. Your body should look like a little ball.
Maintain this ball position and rock back until the bottom of your shoulder blades touches the floor, pull your stomach into your spine and then come back up to a balance. You should try to repeat this around six times. If the rolling seems impossible, start by just holding the position and balancing on your sit bones. As you get stronger, the rolling will become easier. It is always about progress, not progression!
5. Single Leg Stretch
This exercise works the abdominals predominantly and will do wonders to strengthen your core. Lie down on your back and bring your knees into your chest. Place your right hand on your right knee and your left hand on your right ankle.
Engage your core, lift up your head and shoulders (try and relax your neck and hold yourself in position with your abdominals) and stretch your left leg; make sure to only stretch your leg as low as you can keep your back supported by the mat. Switch your legs and hands (Left hand on your left knee and right hand on your left ankle, right leg stretched). Repeat 5-10 times while maintaining a strong connection to your abdominals.
6. Double Leg Stretch
This exercise is a deep breathing exercise, a core strengthening, and a full-body stretch- it has it all!! Lie down on the mat and bring your knees into your chest, hold onto your ankles, engage your core and lift up your head and shoulders. Inhale deeply, stretch your arms and legs out, keep your back supported by the mat, pull your abdominals in, and try to lengthen your waist and spine as much as possible. Exhale and circle your arms around and then bend your legs back into your chest and hold back onto your ankles. Repeat 5-10 times.
7. Spine Stretch Forward
This exercise does what it says on the tin! It will stretch your spine and work your abdominals. Sit as tall as you can with your legs open wider than your shoulders; if your hamstrings or hips are tight, you can bend your knees. Lift your arms in front of you and take a deep breath. From the top of your head, round yourself forward, like you are rounding over a big beachball in front of you, keep your tummy pulled and exhale. Inhale and sit back up again as tall as you can. Repeat 3-5 times.
If at any point these exercises (or any exercise) cause discomfort or pain, your must stop. It may be that you are starting to exercise too soon and need more time to heal. Or you may need help with your body placement and technique; this is where an experienced teacher is useful to help you execute the exercises correctly to avoid discomfort.
You can watch their quick instructional video of the Basic Mat on the Kinetic Pilates London website.
You can visit Rebecca at her studio Kinetic Pilates in London.
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