"In ten sessions you will feel the difference, in twenty you will see the difference, and in thirty you'll have a whole new body." - Joseph H. Pilates
The Pilates method, originally developed by Joseph H. Pilates, is a wonderful mind-body exercise for anyone who wants to tone, streamline, and realign their body. The hundred is a classic Pilates mat exercise designed to begin circulating your blood to warm up the body in preparation for the full pilates routine. You will be asked to perform it during the beginning of almost any Pilates class you take. It builds core strength, stamina and coordination, as well as being a dynamic warm-up for the abdominals and lungs. It requires that you coordinate your breath with the movement, and be strong and graceful at the same time. It is challenging, but the hundred is an easy exercise to modify (make harder or easier).
- Lie on your back with your knees bent in toward your chest. Deeply inhale, and as you exhale feel your chest and belly sinking into the mat beneath you.
- Keep that feeling of a weight pressing your torso down into the mat as you bring your head up to look at your belly button (make sure you are folding forward from your upper torso and not your neck).
- Lift forward until you feel the bottom of your shoulder blades pressing into the mat beneath you.
- Stretch your arms out beside you, reaching from deep in the pit of your arm (as if you were trying to touch the wall across the room with your finger tips).
- Begin pumping your arms straight up and down (as if you were slapping water). Keep your arms straight and pumping just above the mat.
- Inhale for five counts and exhale for five counts, reaching forward as you breathe.
- Maintain this position, pumping your arms and breathing, for as close to one hundred counts as you can manage.
You can place a small pillow or rolled towel under your head to support your neck if it is too difficult to hold lifted. Begin with thirty breaths and gradually increase to one hundred. As you progress, allow the exhalations to get longer and longer in order to improve cardiovascular capacity. Begin to straighten your legs to the ceiling at a ninety-degree angle as you continue pumping your arms.
If your neck hurts, put it down! Do not push to the point of strain.
If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, I highly recommend taking a class at Dharmaspace Pilates Center http://www.dharmaspace.com/dharmaspace_homepage.html. For those of you that like to exercise in the privacy of your own home (my personal preference!), I really like the book "The Pilates Body" by Brooke Siler. Brooke is the owner of re:ab, a renowned studio for pilates training in Manhattan. I've been using my own dog-eared copy of her book for the past 10 years, but she also came out with a DVD called Element: Pilates Weight Loss for Beginners that I definitely recommend. You can order your own copies by clicking on the Amazon link on this blog.