Stuck back at home for the holidays, or with the in-laws, and feeling overwhelmed? Here's a quick 26 minute workout my good friend, pilates instructor Michelle Tash shared with me that you can quickly do to center your mind and your body. Take some time for yourself in an empty room, lock your door and set up your yoga mat. Click here to download the audio clip or go to this URL: https://www.dropbox.com/s/c1v7nczz22vjjnl/thankszennedmusic.mp3 Relax and let her voice take you through the workout. There will be a pause at the beginning to allow you to make it to your mat. The transcript of the workout is also available below to print out.
1. Lay on your back, with your knees up, and feet flat on the mat. Your middle toe should line up with your collar bone and your heels. Arms rest long by your side. If your back is uncomfortable, you can place a pillow under your head or place your feet on a stable raised surface.
2. Focus on your breathing. Inhaling through your nose, and exhaling through your mouth. Feel the positive and fresh air of your surroundings fill your body, channeling your air where to the areas that you need the most. Exhaling through an open mouth, feeling any tightness, or pain in your body release. Focus on channeling the positive air in through your noes, and expelling the negative air out through your mouth. Remember, in Pilates, breath initiates movement. The next 20 minutes, everything you do, you perform with a purpose, deliberateness.
3. Place your hands on your low abdominal, even below your belly button. Exhale really deeply forming the word Haaaaaaah. Pronounce the H like someone from France. See if you can feel your abs pull up and in. It's not just in (although you can do that), it's up and in. Think as if you are pulling your abdominal all the way up your spine, through your torso all the way up the crown of your head. This activation, without even moving, will give you the ability to feel the difference between initiating from your core, verse simply using your brute strength.
4. Pelvic Rocking: Now use this exhale to rock your pubic bone up towards your chest, flattening your lower back on the mat. Try to do this without engaging your butt muscles. Think all front of the body.
5. Inhale and slightly arch your lower back. While doing this notice your lower ribs. You want to think about these as pulling down and together like a triangle. We always tend to think about our ribs in front. It's time to start to think about ribs as in back as well. The ribs angle in opposite directions, encasing and protecting, your major organs like the heart and lungs, Think about two trapezoids, with the wider bottom being your shoulders, and the shorter bottom being your ribs. They naturally sit as trapezoids, but if you think about it, you can exhale, and turn the bottom shorter line into a triangle point both in the front and the back. Think about melting them together. No, going back to our arch, try to keep your ribs down and together, like a triangle point.
6. Now, find a place in between the extreme up and down of your pelvis. This will be your neutral position. I'm not going to define it as I want it to be unique to you; a place where you feel comfortable. This is where your pelvis will remain.
7. Repeat Step 3 maintaining your newly established neutral. Repeat and then use this breath to initiate the movement in Step 8.
8. Marching: Use your exhale to lift your right (R) leg to table top. The definition is: Knee above the hip at 90 degrees with shins perpendicular to the floor. This can be changed. If you feel this in your lower back or the top of your hips/thighs, pull your knees closer to your chest. This move can be more difficult for people with less flexibility or lower back issues so be careful. Continue, alternating sides using your low abdominal to stabilize your hips. Try to keep your weight equal on both sides of your body.
9. Table Top: Flatten your back with your abdominal the same as in Step 4. Then exhale one leg at a time into table top. This is when you may need to make some modifications. Here's a refresher:
- 1. Modification for Table Top: Pull your knees closer to your chest
- 2. Modification for Table Top: Drop your heels towards your bottom decreasing the angle at your knee.
- 3. Modification for Table Top: Place a small towel under your lower back
- 4. Modification for Table Top: Rest your feet on an elevated surface. Some exercises will work here, others won't. The only other alternative would be to skip table top exercises, which is totally possible without missing much at all!
10.DOUBLE LEG TOE TAPS: Now keeping your table top, hinge your legs towards the floor without arching your back or letting your stomach push into your tee-shirt. Exhale to lift both legs back up. Repeat as desired.
11.SINGLE LEG TOE TAPS: Now keeping the same range of motion, alternate sides. Allow one leg to lower and exhale to lift it up. Then do the other side. Try to only move one leg at a time. Repeat as desired.
12. WINDSHIELD WIPERS: Exhale both legs up to the ceiling. Feel free to bend your knees if need be. You want your ankles over your hips. You can always do this next exercise in tabletop. Keeping both shoulders and head pointed up towards the ceiling, drop both legs to your right side. Use your exhale to lift both legs back to the ceiling. Repeat on the left side. Repeat as desired
13.Abdominal Crunch: Clasp both hands and place them behind your head. Your feet can return back to starting position. Lay on your back with your hands clasped behind your head, at the base of your skull. Before even curling up, press your head back into your hands for a shoulder stretch. Flap your elbows in towards your midline and away slowly for a shoulder stretch.
14. Find a place where you can see your elbows in your peripheral vision (while looking at your knees). Now, press your head into your hands once more, but this time feel your shoulders releasing down your back. Feel your underarms activate and your biceps. Then, maintaining the activation of your arms (to support the weight of your head) curl up the head neck and shoulders.
15. Inhale, pushing your head back into your hands feeling the back of your neck lengthening and any pressure releasing away from your neck. On your next exhale curl up a little bit more. Repeat steps 14 and 15 four times. You will basically do an abdominal curl up in four installments, pressing your head back in between each extra lift. Keep in mind; you don’t have to go very high at all. By pushing your head back into your hands, you will be creating extra weight. You can further intensify the exercise by maintaining your neutral pelvis from laying down to the full sit up. You’ll notice it will want to tuck up. This will do nothing for your lower abdominal. It’s hard, but worth the extra effort in the end.
16.Plank Prep: Come into an all 4’s position. Place your hands under your shoulders, knees under hips. Cat/cow a couple times to find your flat back or comfortable back position. Once again, not too rounded, not too arched. Tuck your toes under, so you can grip onto the floor with your toe creases. Lift both knees the tiniest amount off the mat. The lower your knees rest (without touching the mat) the harder the exercise.
17. To make your Plank Prep a little more difficult we can incorporate the same exercise we used earlier; Marching. Float your knees of the mat using your abdominals, same as in Step 16. Now simply float one foot off the mat, and alternate sides trying to keep your weight stable. There should be no changes in the position of your lower back throughout the exercise.
18. Booty Leg Kicks: Knees stay under the hips as before, but you can rest your wrists. Place your forearms on the mat, but try to keep the back of your neck active and long. Extend one leg straight back behind you, all 5 toes on the mat. Place extra weight on the same side arm. Use your oblique to keep from collapsing into your stabilization hip. Below is the rest of the exercise series. Be sure to repeat on both sides.
- All 5 toes extended behind you. Simply lift and lower your back leg keeping all 5 toes pointed towards the floor.
- Keep your leg lifted in line with your hip (a little lower if you feel your lower back). Without shifting your hips, pulse your leg in towards your mid-line. Then extend the leg away from your center. Nothing moves but your leg and it stays at the same level, or lower, than your hip. Your inner thigh connects when you cross over your middle. Your outer thigh works when you take it away from your middle.
- Extend your leg straight back behind you. Exhale and lift your belly button to the ceiling as you pull your knee into the chest. Round your back as you draw your knee in towards your stomach, pulling your belly button away from your thigh.
- Bend your heel straight up to the ceiling, and raise the roof. Flex your foot and pulse straight up without arching your back. You should feel this in the gluteal fold and lower abdominal. The gluteal fold is another word for your butt shelf, or the banana of your bottom. Where the butt meets the thigh.
19. Full Plank: Keeping both forearms on the mat, extend one toe at a time behind you. All 10 toes down and lift into your plank position. Hold as long as possible. Repeat on each side.
- Side Plank Variation: Place one forearm on the mat so it’s perpendicular to your torso. You can either stack or stagger your feet parallel to your forearm. Lift your hips and raise your opposite arm up towards the ceiling. Repeat on both sides holding as long as possible. The goal is 90 seconds. Of course, feel free to start smaller and work your way up.
- Reverse Plank Variation: Sit with your legs extended long in front of you, your forearms on the mat by your sides. If you have knee issues, bend your knees and place your feet flat on the mat. With an exhale, lift your hips off the mat so your support is your legs, abdominals and forearms. For an added challenge, incorporate your marching from step 8. Lift one leg at a time and alternate without shifting your hips or your torso.
20.Pilates Push Up: This can be done in an all 4’s position, kneeling plank, or full plank on your hands and toes.
- Start standing against a wall with very little space between your butt and the wall. Nod your chin and start to peel your spine away from the wall one vertebrae at a time without allowing your bottom to lean back. If you need to start a little further away from the wall to make this possible. That's fine. Progressively get closer to the wall as you continue to advance through Pilates. Just know, if you feel like you’re about to topple over face first, you’re doing this part of the exercise perfectly.
- When you can’t roll any further, safely bring your hands to the floor and in three big hand-steps, walk out into your plank.
- Slowly bend your elbows, coming into the bottom part of your push up for the count of 1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi, and 3 Mississippi. Then hold at the bottom for the 3 Mississippi count. Lift up again for the count of 3 Mississippi's. The slower you go up and down, the harder the exercise. Start with one push-up. Then do 2 pushups the next time you walk into your plank. Be sure to incorporate the roll up and roll down as this one of the hardest parts of this exercise. Continue to at least 5 pushups. Repeat starting at the number you finished, and continue back until you are at 1 push up again.
Bio - Michelle Tash
Michelle is a NASM certified personal trainer, body pump certified, completed BBP mentoring and is balanced body educated. She currently teaches at Boston Body Pilates in Newtonville, MA.
Her passion is fitness, education and music. Fitness training and Pilates have truly helped her marry all three. Pilates has a rhythm and a flow to it, similar to music, and every session is an opportunity to learn something new. She scored the music to her own workout download. An all around athlete, and competed throughout high school in: ultimate frisbee, softball, lacrosse, field hockey, soccer, surfing and gymnastics. Her specialty was dance and gymnastics. She choreographed most of the floor routines in camp and her freshman year of high school.During the middle of her freshman year of high school, she was diagnosed with RSD, reflexive sympathetic dystrophy. All her gymnastic coaches told her “no pain, no gain” which led her to compete on two sprained ankles for years. Hospitalized at 14, she tried everything to make her chronic pain bearable; physical therapy, acupuncture, bio-feedback, chiropractic… Nothing worked until she discovered Pilates Reformer. Pilates mat exercises were standard in her gymnastics training, but the machine was different. Either due to footwork or the spring resistance, Pilates gave her the ability to be aware of her form and the strength to support it. She now break dances, surfs, snow boards, hikes and occasionally will throw out a crazy gymnastics move. Her trick to staying pain free is good form, lots of muscle conditioning and of course, PILATES!