Time is money. And not having to pay for classes or commute to a studio, saves you a lot of both. Even so, a lot of people avoid exercising at home because they don’t have equipment or because they simply don’t have any idea where to start.
Enter Pilates. All you need is a mat or a square of carpet, and you can do a variety of moves to strengthen and tone your entire body, improve balance, flexibility and mobility. Ready to give it a try? Find a space where you have room to move — because you’ll be doing a lot of that — and try this beginner-friendly Pilates workout.
1. Roll Up
Begin lying on the floor with your legs extended straight out in front of you. Press your upper thighs and knees together. Relax your shoulders away from your ears and let your belly drop toward the floor.
Reach your arms all the way overhead and rest them on the mat. Your fingertips will point toward the wall behind you and your palms will be facing up. Keep your ribs down.
Inhaling, press down through your shoulder blades and reach your arms up over your head. Let your biceps pass by your ears, and then drop your chin and curl your torso up.
Exhale as you stretch all the way forward toward your toes. Pull in your abs and curve your spine as you raise your torso. With your head tucked, reach your fingertips toward your toes.
Squeeze your glutes and tuck your tailbone. Pull your navel deeply in toward your spine, and then begin to unroll, one vertebra at a time. Inhale as you continue this motion halfway down.
About halfway down, exhale as you lower your shoulders to the mat, reaching your arms overhead again. Then lower your head and arms to the floor.
Repeat up to six times.
2. The Hundred
Lie on your back with your knees bent and up in the air, your knees and hips forming 90-degree angles.Your back should be in Neutral Spine. If this position feels like a strain on your lower back, try keeping your feet down on the floor for now.
Inhale: Reach your arms straight up to the sky. Your palms should be facing forward.
Exhale: As you reach your arms back down to the floor, lift your head and roll up to the Pilates Abdominal Position with your shoulder blades just off the mat. Think of squeezing a tangerine under your chin on the way up. Your palms gently slap the floor in a percussive rhythm.
Inhale: Inhale deeply for 5 beats (keep the rhythm with your arms), using accordion breathing. Accordion breathing is lateral chest breathing. Imagine that your rib cage is an accordion. On the inhale, the accordion expands laterally, and on the exhale, the accordion squeezes back together.
Exhale: Using percussive breathing, exhale for 5 beats (saying shh, shh, shh, shh, shh). Percussive breathing is forced exhalation using the abdominal muscles; think of forcing the air out in short percussive blows.
old the position and continue pulsing your arms for 10 breaths. Remember that 10 breaths is 100 total beats (5 for each inhale and 5 for each exhale).
In the Teaser, you lie on your back and contract your deep abdominal muscles. You stretch your arms over your head and bring your legs to tabletop position, with your shins parallel to the floor like a table. As you exhale, you roll your head, neck and back off the floor, one vertebra at a time, while you simultaneously straighten your legs. After arriving in a V-sit position — with your legs and upper body making the shape of the letter V and your arms stretched parallel to your legs — you inhale and hold the position. On an exhale, you slowly roll back down to the starting position, aiming to place one vertebra at a time back on the floor.
Lie on your stomach and extend your arms overhead. Inhale, contract the abdominals and lift your arms, chest and legs off the floor. Keep your legs straight. Exhale and hold. Begin active breathing as you move opposite arms up and down and scissor your legs at the same time as if swimming. Use the same breathing pattern as you did in the Hundred exercise — five quick inhales and five quick exhales. Do 20 to 50 reps.
5. The Swan
Engage your abdominal muscles, lifting your belly button up away from the mat. The abdominals remain lifted throughout the exercise.
Inhale: Lengthen your spine, sending energy through the top of your head as you press your forearms and hands into the mat to support a long upward arc the upper body. The elbows are close to the body, the head stays in line with the spine, and the hips stay on the mat. Protect your lower back by sending your tail bone down toward the mat.
Exhale: Keep your abdominals lifted as you release the arc, lengthening your spine as your torso returns to the mat in a sequential way: low-belly, mid-belly, low-ribs and so on.
Repeat swan 3 to 5 times using an even, flowing breath to support the movement.
Finish by pushing back into the rest position with knees bent and body rounded over the thighs.
6. The Saw
Sit up straight with your legs extended and slightly wider than your shoulders. Open your arms out to the side, palms facing forward. Contract your abdominal muscles and turn your shoulders, arms and torso to the right so your right arm is behind you and your left arm is in front. Rotate your back hand so your thumb points down, exhale and flex at the hips, reaching your left arm toward your right foot. Inhale as you come up and return to center. Do 6 reps on each side.
Sit in a cross-legged position with your arms at your sides and your fingertips resting on the floor.
Exhale in the start position.
Inhale into the side bend, reaching one arm overhead.
Side bend further until you feel an ideal stretch along the top side of the body.
Exhale and stay. Take one more deep inhale and exhale. Inhale and come back to a seated cross-legged position. Repeat on the other side.
8. Single-Leg Kick
Lie face-down on a mat with your legs together and extended behind you.
Place your forearms on the ground and raise your torso. Your elbows should be placed directly under your shoulders. Squeeze your core and take deep breaths.
Clasp your hands together in front of you and look straight ahead. Keep your neck aligned with your spine.
Exhale and draw up your lower abs.
Lift the front of your pelvis slightly off the ground, allowing your spine to lengthen.
From this position, bend your right knee and push the heel of your bent leg close to the buttocks twice. Keep your foot flexed.
Lower back the right leg and repeat with your left leg.
Alternate legs, kicking twice with each. Exhale as you switch legs.
Squeeze your glutes and hamstrings throughout the movement to fully activate them. If you do it right, you should feel them burning after a few reps.
Repeat six to eight times for each leg. Do at least two sets.
9. Single-Leg Circle
After you have completed four of the Roll-Ups, lie on your back with your torso anchored to the mat, your knees bent and the soles of your feet on the mat. Feel that your torso is weighted, and your spine is pressing into the mat beneath you. Tuck your chin slightly, so your neck does not begin to arch and the crown of the head does not begin to press into the mat. Press your palms into the mat for stability, without letting your shoulder blades lift off the mat. Inhale and bend your right knee into your chest, exhale and extend your right leg to the ceiling at a 90-degree angle, and slightly turn your leg out from the hip socket so you can see your heel when you start and finish each circle.
Keeping the turn out from the hip socket will ensure that you are working the outer and inner thigh, and less of the quadricep muscle alone. Your left leg remains bent and the sole of your foot is anchored to the mat (no wobbling at all in the leg or hips). Begin your circle with the right leg as you inhale and stretch the leg long and out of the hip socket, across the body, brushing the inside of your left knee, then circling it down, around, and exhale as you bring it back up to the starting position, scooping your navel deeply to your spine.
The accent is on the “upswing,” as you exhale and swing your leg back up, taking a slight pause at the end of each circle, feeling the abdominal muscles at work.
Imagine your leg is a long, heavy lead pole and you are scratching circles on the ceiling with it. As you make your circle, allow your leg to only reach as far forward as you can while keeping your navel scooping deeply to your spine, and your spine and lower back completely anchored to the floor. If your lower back is beginning to arch as you circle your leg, make your circles smaller, focusing on drawing circles on the ceiling with the leg.
10. Rolling Like a Ball
Sit on the front end of your mat, with your knees and hips bent. Find your balance point. Inhale and exhale in the starting position. Inhale and lift your feet off the mat, exhale and perform the chin nod fundamental as you roll back.
Roll back in a controlled manner, keeping the same distance between your legs and your torso. Maintain the C-shape of your spine.
Exhale and come back up to your balance point, pausing for a moment. Strive to feel 100% in control of the movement.