Chelsea Peck, owner and instructor of the Pilates O Ka La studio, tells us that she knew Pilates was the right form of exercise for her after she noticed it cured her chronic back pain. As an active athlete who is also a certified personal trainer and yoga instructor, she realized that having a strong core through the mindful movements that Pilates brought to her fitness regime was just what she needed to improve her overall health and prevent injuries. She shares with us this abdominal series of movements to give you a taste of how having a strong core can lead to improved muscle tone and correct your posture. And who doesn’t want a flatter stomach and less back pain?
1. Single leg stretch
Bend one knee in, curling your head, neck and shoulders up as you grab your shin with both hands. Extend your other leg out as low as you can. As you stretch, be sure to scoop your belly in and up and inhale and exhale with each leg switch, in order to work your ab muscles. Roll your shoulders back and down as you repeat four times each leg.
2. Double leg stretch
Curl your head up and set your legs in a “table top” position with your knees above your hips. Inhale as you reach your arms up to the ceiling, and exhale when you circle your arms back to pull both legs back in. Repeat four to eight times.
3. Single straight leg stretch
Keep one leg stretched up to ceiling as curl your head, neck, shoulders and pull that leg twice before changing legs. As you inhale and exhale with each stretch, lengthen through both legs while pulling your abdomen back and down. Be sure to peel your shoulder blades off the mat as you move. Repeat twice, four times each leg.
4. Double straight leg stretch
With both of your legs to the ceiling, curl your head, neck and shoulders up as you hold your elbows back behind your ears and lower both legs down and raise them back up for a count of five. Be sure to keep your head curled up high, keeping your shoulder blades off the mat. Look down at your navel. Use your breath to help raise your legs up. Repeat four to eight times.
5. Criss Cross
With hands behind your head and elbows wide, bring your left shoulder towards your right knee and exhale, and then change sides. Twisting your waist and working your oblique muscles with each movement. Slow your pace in order to make this exercise challenging. After four repetitions each leg, reach your arms above your head and your legs out as far as you can to end in a whole body stretch.