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The Top 5 Pilates Exercises to Get You Started!

Breathing: Although simple - If you breath correctly, you will find it easy to relax and provide adequete oxygene to your muscles. You will notice the difference when you breathe correctly as it will enhance your overall experience. Breathing is a major part of all pilates exercises. You simply breathe in through your nose for a count of five, and out through your mouth for a count of 5, with a shushing sound. Make the breaths into short, rhythmic bursts - in,in,in,in,in and shush,shush,shush,shush,shush. Never rush your breathing and don't go overboard to the point that you feel light headed and fall over. Toe Lifts: This will help you with core balance. Core balance works in harmony with the alignment of your feet supporting your whole body. You will be amazed at how much strength your toes possess to balance your body. This movement strengthens the muscles on the top of your feet and increases the blood flow into your toes. Poor circulation to your feet can lead to stiff muscles and problems that affect the rest of your body. This is a very simple exercise designed to improve circulation and enhance your awareness of balance. Start standing with your feet together inlign with your body. Hold your head straight and keep your arms rested at your sides. Start simply by raising your right foot toes slowly up as far as they will go and then back down again. Do this a couple of times alternating feet. Then lift up the toes of both feet at the same time pressing the metatarsal bones at the base of your toes strongly and evenly into the floor. ** Remember - Do not roll your feet inward or outward while performing the exercise. And do not lean back as you lift ** You should be breathing in as you lift, and breathing out as you lower your toes. Try closing your eyes as you exhale and lower your toes. Keep your eyes closed for five repetitions and you will notice an improvement in your sense of balance. Finger Flicks: This exercise improves the circulation in your arms and hands. The increased blood flow into the fingertips helps to flush out toxins and reduce arthritis or stiffness in the joints. It's also a good forearm workout and is excellent for relieving aching elbows. Start standing with your feet together inlign with your body. Hold your hands down in front of you below your waist and make loose fists by rolling up your fingers with your thumb on top. In this exercise your arms should always be fully extended as they move in a circular motion into six main positions.

1. Down and in front. Hands facing inwards.

2. Raised to shoulder height and in front. Hands facing inward

3. Stretched straight up. Hands facing inward.

4. Stretched out to the sides. Hands facing upwards.

5. Lowered to 45 degrees. Hands facing down.

6. Lowered to sides. Hands facing inward. The idea is to strongly flick your fingers open continually throughout all the positions. Do eight flicks while you stand in position 1 and four flicks as you move to position 2. Do eight flicks while standing in position 2 and four flicks as you move into position 3. Continue this pattern. ** Remember - Keep your wrists still and your arms straight ** The Hundred: This is a classic pilates exercise so named because it takes a count of 100 to complete. This exercise strengthens core abdominal muscles and expands the chest and ribcage. This is a floor or mat exercise. It involves raising your legs to vertical and waving or pulsing your arms up and down in small motions. 1. Start by lying on the floor with knees bent as if you were doing sit-ups and have your arms resting palm down at your side. 2. Squeeze your abdominal muscles so that your head, neck, and shoulders raise off the floor. Keep your abdominals squeezed tight throughout the whole exercise. Stretch your arms forward toward your toes and start pulsing them up and down a distance of about 15cm. Stay is this position for a count of 20. 3. Slowly lift your legs to a 90 degree angle with your body. Continue the pumping for a further count of 20. 4. Slowly extend your legs straight up to the ceiling and keep pumping for 20 counts. 5. Begin to lower your legs at a 45 degree diagonal to your torso and keep pumping for 20 counts. 6. Keep your legs straight and lower them as close to the ground as possible without lifting your spine off the floor and keep pumping for 20 counts.

7. Lower your head to the floor. Release your arms, bend your knees, and place your feet back on the floor. Roll-up to Diamond: This exercise works your abdominals and improves flexibility of your spine. This is a floor or mat exercise and involves rolling up your upper body while extending your arms. 1. Lie with your legs in the diamond position. Keep your back flat on the floor and rest your arms on the floor above your head. The diamond position is when you point your toes and bring your legs into a diamond shape with your knees out to the sides. 2. Lift your arms toward the ceiling and slowly start rolling or peeling your upper body off the floor from your head down. 3. Keep peeling and extend your legs forward while keeping your toes pointed. 4. Stretch your arms and torso forward over your legs creating a C shape with your body. Keep your abdominal muscles tight and hold your arms directly around your ears. 5. Begin to roll back down to the floor pulling your legs back into the diamond position. Your arms should start to point to the ceiling again. 6. Finish in the starting position with your spine flat on the floor, your hands resting above your head and your legs in the diamond position. ** Remember - Keep the movement fluid and constant. Work with your abdominal muscles. Don't straighten your spine while rolling. If you feel any stress or discomfort, hold on to your thighs until you are stronger. ** For more pilates exercises check out http://www.pilates-class.com


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