Pilates is an exercise method developed by Joseph Pilates in the early 1900s. The Pilates method focuses on building core strength, increasing circulation, promoting flexibility and sculpting and toning your body. You can learn Pilates by taking a class, using a DVD or reading a book, and you can easily perform many Pilates exercises at home. Consult your doctor prior to beginning an exercise program, especially if you have a medical condition.
Single Leg Stretches
Stretches are an integral part of any Pilates routine and should be performed as part of your warm-up. Lie on the floor on your back for single leg stretches. Bend your knees toward your chest. Open your knees to shoulder-width, but keep your feet touching. Curl your head and shoulders off the floor as you slide your hands down to your ankles. Keep your navel drawn toward your spine throughout the exercise. On your next exhale, extend your right leg, while drawing your left knee closer to your chest. Inhale, and then on your next exhale, repeat on the other side. Do 10 times on each side, alternating sides as you go.
The roll-up is a beneficial Pilates exercise for strengthening your core muscles and toning your abdominal area. According to "Fitness" magazine, this exercise is more effective than standard crunches because you use a fuller range of motion. To perform the roll-up, lie on your back with your legs straight on the floor and your arms above your head. Inhale as you extend your arms upward toward the ceiling; then gradually roll your upper body off the floor, ending with your arms pointing straight in front of you. Roll down slowly and repeat 10 times.
According to "Fitness" magazine, the hundred can help to tone your abs and thighs. It is one of the core exercises in most Pilates programs. The hundred is performed while lying on your back, with your legs bent and your arms by your sides. Lift your legs off the floor, keeping them bent. Curl your head and shoulders up, keeping your lower back pressed into the floor. Contract your abs, pulling them in toward your spine. Pump your arms up and down by your sides, keeping your arms straight and making a small, controlled motion of no more than 6 inches. Breathe in for five arm pumps and exhale for five more. Perform 100 arm pumps.
Single Leg Circle
The single leg circle helps to isolate your adductor muscle, located on the side of your thigh, and mobilizes the hip joint. It also helps to tone your abs and thighs and stretches your hamstrings. To perform the single leg circle, lie on your back with your legs straight and your arms by your sides. Extend your right leg in the air at about a 45-degree angle from the floor with your hip rotated outward, keeping your left leg on the floor. Inhale and make a small circular motion with your right leg, as though you are outlining a circle on the ceiling. Perform five clockwise circles, then five counterclockwise circles. Repeat on the opposite leg.