Pilates is all about breathing, deep breath in and long breath out. This in itself helps release tension and stress.
Here are 6 simple exercises that we recommend if you are feeling stressed or anxious that will help release tension and also help your core stability in the process! Follow the below for a quick 10 minute Stress Release.
- Roll Up. – lying on your back on the floor with your legs straight. Bring your arms in an arc overhead until they are flat on the floor behind you. If you struggle with this, reduce your range of movement and keep your arms hovering above the mat. Inhale to prepare. Exhale and bring your arms overhead in an arc. When the arms move past your eyes, start to curl your head, neck and shoulder blades off the mat. Inhale again here and exhale as you roll up the rest of the way. As you roll through the spine, imagine a ball nestled in your stomach and rolling over it – this will keep your spine in a rounded shape. Stretch your arms towards your toes as far as you can to gain a nice stretch in the backs of your legs. Now continue the same position rolling back down. If you find this difficult you can have your knees bent or even use a band to help pull you up or bring you down.
- Rolling like a ball – this is such a fun exercise and can give your spine a great massage. Start from a seated position. Pull your knees into your chest and round your spine, scooping your abdominals to create a curve. Now take your feet off the mat, this will involve balancing and the use of your abdominals. Keeping the rounded position roll back creating a smooth roll on your spine. To make the exercise easier keep your feet on the mat to start with, then to make it harder you can roll up and back without your feet touching the mat at all.
- Criss Cross – This exercise is great to help with rotation and your side abdominal muscles. Lay on the mat and bend your knees. Bring your hand behind your head and gently curl your head, neck and shoulders. Do not rely on your hands holding your head up though! Now bring your legs up into a tabletop position and extend one leg and rotate your shoulder to the knee pulled in to your body. Now keep switching whilst using long deep breaths. Ensure you are bringing your shoulder to the opposite knee, not your elbow as we want the abdominal muscle working! If you are finding this too much then keep your feet on the floor and just bring one leg up into that table top position, this will lessen the strain on your abdominal muscles.
You are now half way through your 10 minute Stress Release.
- Shoulder Bridge– Lay on your mat with your knees bent and feet flat on the mat, hip distance apart. Inhale to prepare and as you exhale push your back into the mat and then start to peel your spine off the mat, starting by curling your pelvis to lift onto your shoulders. The move should be nice and slow lifting one vertebrae at a time. Take a deep breath then exhale to come back down one vertebra at a time. Ensure you keep your pelvis still and you don’t move your neck.
- Hamstring Stretch – Stretching your hamstrings (the back of your thigh) is so important for your entire body. Tight hamstrings can cause back pain, so it is very important to stretch your hamstrings as often as possible. This stretch is good to do with a rolled up towel, or just use your hands. Start lying on your mat, legs laid out, bring knee into your chest and start by hugging that knee in using your hands. Now with your rolled up towel place the bottom of your foot on the middle of your towel. Now try to straighten the leg up towards the ceiling. If your hamstrings are tight you may find this a challenge, if so keep a bend in the leg or bring the leg further away from your body. Use your breathe in and out to deepen the stretch. Now flex the ankle to point and flex the toes. This will also stretch your calf muscles at the same time. Release the leg slightly, take a deep breathe in and repeat the stretch again, this time you should find you can straighten the leg that little bit more. Repeat on the other leg
- Childs Pose – This is a beautiful stretch to do any time of the day. It’s a great way of really concentrating on your breathing and clearing the mind. Kneel on the floor with your feet together and your knees hip-width apart. Take a nice deep breath in and lower your body so your bum sits onto your feet. Extend your arms out in front of you with your palms facing down. Relax your shoulders toward the ground. Rest in the pose for as long as needed, taking nice deep breaths in and out. If you can’t quite get your bum onto your feet that’s fine, whatever feels comfortable.
When you stand, start by bending your knees and straightening one vertebrae at a time, slowly, making sure your head is the last thing to come. That is your 10 minute Stress Release completed. Take a nice deep breath in and out and you are ready to continue with your day.
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