Whether or not you have a desk job, it's common in our fast-paced lives to go an entire day without taking a few minutes to stretch, move and breathe consciously. The three exercises described below provide an easy and enjoyable way to incorporate Pilates, renowned for it's core-strengthening and spine lengthening capabilities, into your busy day. These moves are so subtle that you can slip them in at the office or while watching your child's soccer game.
"The Hundred" Breathing
Place your hands on your lower ribs, with the heals of your hands near the side seam of your shirt and finger tips facing forward. Breathe in and out three times, noticing your natural breath - the subtle rising of the ribs and belly on your inhale, and the gentle falling of these areas on the exhale. Now, using the placement of your hands for feedback, inhale deeply, expanding the side and back ribs even more, feeling your hands travel away from one another. This time as you exhale, add a gentle pulling in of the navel towards your spine. Keep the belly "buttoned" to your back body as you continue the lateral movement of the ribs, inhaling fully through the nose for five counts and exhaling fully through the mouth for five counts, making sure to empty your lungs completely, or as Joseph Pilates said, "... squeeze every atom of impure air from lungs until they are almost as free of air as a vacuum!" Repeat the inhale and exhale cycle 5-10 times.
Sit on a chair or bench, perched near the edge of it, both feet firmly planted on the floor with the legs glued together. Inhale to reach your left arm up by your ear, exhale to side bend to the right, keeping your left sitting bone firmly grounded. Take a deep inhale, opening the left side body, and exhale to return to center. Change arms, inhaling to reach up, and exhaling to side bend. After doing this a couple of times you can fluidly move from one side to the other, inhaling through center and exhaling on the side bend. For a super subtle version, do the exercise exactly as explained but without the lift of the arm.
"The Wall Roll Down"
Stand with your back against a wall or, if you're outdoors, a tree trunk works wonders! Place your feet about one foot in front of you and in the Pilates stance: heels together, toes apart in a small "V" shape, inner thighs hugging together. Your back should be long and tall against the wall to begin. Take a deep inhale to prepare, and as you exhale, deepen your navel in towards your spine, finding your "scoop." Drop your chin down towards your chest and begin to peel off the wall, one vertebrae at a time, feeling your breastbone hollowing into the back of your body as you allow the weight of your head and arms to lead you down towards the floor. Keep your legs straight and your low back connected to the wall as you hang over you legs, very gently shaking your head side to side. To round back up, hollow the belly in towards your back, imaging each vertebrae as a stamp, imprinting the surface behind you as you return to vertical. Repeat 3 times.