Friday fitness: Here are 5 simple Pilates exercises to keep you flexible and strong

It has been more than eight months since the world came to a halt due to the Covid-19 pandemic. As we quarantine ourselves in order to keep our family and friends safe, reduced physical activity poses a serious risk to our health. An inactive lifestyle saps our muscle strength and increases body fat resulting in illness. It also contributes to poor mental health. Working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic has been stressful. Sitting for long hours can result in cramped muscles and back pain. Pilates can help you to stay fit, become more flexible and help maintain a good postural balance.

Pilates is a form of physical fitness developed in the 20th century by a German physical trainer Joseph Pilates and named after him. Pilates comprises of low impact exercises which helps to strengthen muscles, improves body posture and increases flexibility. They reduce back pain and release tension from the body. The exercises emphasise on the core, strengthens the arms and the muscles, makes one focus on their breath and works on the other parts of the body too. The movements in Pilates are slow. As we are all staying home during the pandemic, Pilates can be done easily with only a yoga mat as a prop. The workout takes about 30 minutes

Here are some Pilates exercises that can be easily done at home:

1. Bridging (The Pelvic Curl)

The pelvic curl is a mat exercise which targets the abdominals, spine and hamstrings. Lie down on your back with your arms placed flat on the mat.

Bend your knees and keep your soles flat on the floor. While inhaling, lift your spine and count from 1 to 5, exhale and bring the spine back down. Repeat the sequence 10 times.

2. The Chest Lift

The chest lift should be a part of your workout as it reduces neck and back pain when done correctly. The focus areas are the torso, upper back and abdominal muscles.

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Lie on your back and bend the knees while keeping the feet flat. Place both the hands behind your head for support and then lift your upper body away from the mat. Inhale and hold. Then exhale and bring the upper body down to the mat. Repeat this exercise for 30 seconds.

3. The Criss-Cross

The criss-cross is a mat exercise which focuses on the abdominals with an emphasis on the obliques. It helps in postural stability and flexibility. The obliques help in defining the weight. It is a good form of exercise which is very effective for the abs and the obliques.

Lie down on your back, place your hands behind your head and bring both the knees towards your chest. Raise your upper body and bring the right shoulder towards the left knee. Then bring the left shoulder towards the right knee. Do the sequence 15 times.

4. The Hundred

The hundred is a classical mat exercise, named after the 100 beats of your arm while you hold your head, shoulders and legs off the ground. It is done in most of the Pilates sessions. The hundreds work on the abdominal muscles and the laterals.

It is challenging but also easy at the same time. Lie on your back and lift both the legs together at 45 degrees angle while keeping the head curled up. With palms facing forward, reaching the arms straight up to the sky and inhale deeply for 5 beats. Exhale and count till 5 beats . Repeat this 10 time while being in this position.

5. The Leg Circle

Lie face up with both the arms on the sides with palms down. Bend the left feet and rotate the right leg clockwise 15 times and rotate anti clockwise 15 times too. Make the circle big as you can. Repeat with the other leg clockwise and anti-clockwise for 15 times each. This exercise works on the legs and the abs.

These exercises do not require any fancy and expensive equipment. They can be performed comfortably within the confines of our home. Stay fit, stay safe!

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