Pilates, the body-conditioning method invented by Joseph Pilates, is based on the principles of breath, concentration, centering, control, precision, and flow. Its exercises typically use small, controlled movements to lengthen, tone, and stretch while connecting the mind and body.
And while you may be familiar with the Reformer, which is an apparatus that creates resistance to work against, you can get the benefits of Pilates on the floor.
WW tapped London-based Pilates instructor Julie Driver to create a quick Pilates workout that you can do anywhere. “These exercises are meant to increase your flexibility and move your body in the different ways the spine is designed to move,” says the 17-year Pilates veteran. “By improving our posture with these exercises, we can look taller and slimmer.”
The 7-minute Pilates workout
Do the following exercises in the order presented, twice through. While performing each move, remember to breathe.
Improves spinal mobility and helps strengthen the backs of the legs and buttocks.
Start position: Lie on your back with your feet hip-width apart. Find your neutral pelvic position by positioning your hips level with each other and your pubic bone.
- Inhale to prepare. Exhale and begin to peel your spine up starting from the pelvis. Lift away from the mat one bone at a time until you reach the tips of the shoulder blades.
- Inhale keeping the spine lifted and still.
- Exhale and begin to roll the spine back to the mat. Imagine lengthening the spine one bone away from the next until the pelvis returns to the mat. Repeat for nine more reps.
Achieves spinal mobility with rotation and upper body release.
Start position: Lie on your back with your feet hip-width apart and knees bent. Find your neutral pelvic position by positioning your hips level with each other and your pubic bone. Place your arms either behind the head with the hands clasped together or out to the side for more release across the upper body.
- Inhale to prepare. Exhale and begin to turn the pelvis to the left by moving your knees to the left. Try to turn each bone of the spine individually. Keep the right shoulder blade on the mat.
- Inhale while holding this rotated position.
- Exhale as you unwind the spine from the rib cage downward to return to the start position.
- Alternate sides for reps.
Expert tips: “Breathe deeply into the ribs when the spine is rotated to the side to help open the ribs,” Driver suggests. “Also, make sure you are moving from the spine and not letting the weight of the legs pull the body over.”
Mobilizes the upper back and strengthens posture muscles to prevent slouching.
Start position: Lie facedown with your forehead resting on the floor or mat or a small flat cushion. Position your hands by your sides, palms facing up to the ceilling. Rest legs hip-width apart on the mat.
- Inhale to prepare. Exhale while lifting the head and then the spine, bone by bone, away from the mat so the chest is raised, and the lower ribs are in contact with the mat.
- Think of lengthening the spine as you inhale.
- Exhale as you lower head and chest back to the mat. Repeat for nine reps.
Expert tip: Driver suggests imagining that you’re lengthening the top of the head away from the feet to encourage more movement through the bones of the upper spine.
Stretches the muscles in the torso and opens the sides of the body.
Sit on the mat with the legs bent to the left side.
- Inhale and raise right arm so the upper arm is near the ear.
- Exhale as you reach over to the left, think of lengthening up and over to the side.
- Inhale deeply and think of lengthening up and over even more.
- Exhale as you return to the start position.
- Repeat reps on one side and then do them on the other side during the second set.
Before starting any new exercise routine, make sure to check in with your doctor.