Completing warm-up exercises before you start your Pilates session helps you release any tension held in your body and stretches your muscles to prepare them for the more demanding movements to come. These warm-up exercises also are effective as a morning stretch routine or a quick way to unwind after a stressful day. Whatever time of day you choose to complete them, take your time as you progress through the movements and focus on following the directions.
Focus on Breath
This exercise will help focus your attention on the rhythmic breathing sequence used in Pilates movements. Stand with your feet hips-width apart, your knees soft and your arms relaxed at your sides. Inhale through your nose to fill your lungs as you mentally count to four. Exhale through your mouth and tighten your abdominal muscles as you push all of the air out of your lungs. Repeat this relaxing exercise five times.
This classic exercise is designed to warm up your core muscles and lungs and to get your blood oxygenated. Lie on your back, bend your hips and knees 90 degrees and raise your legs so your thighs are perpendicular to the floor and your shins are parallel to the floor. Rest your arms straight by your sides, palms down. Curl your head the shoulders off the floor and flatten your lower back against the floor. Contract your abs, lift your arms an inch off the floor and start pumping your arms 6 inches up and down in a controlled manner. Inhale for five pumps and then exhale for five pumps. Continue until you have pumped 100 times. To make the exercise more challenging, straighten your legs and hold them at a 45-degree angle to the floor.
The shrugs exercise releases tension from your neck and shoulders. Begin standing with your feet hips-width apart, your knees soft and your arms hanging loosely at your sides. Inhale deeply as you raise your shoulders up toward your ears, and hold this position for a few seconds. Exhale as you release your shoulders back down to a neutral position. Repeat this movement five times.
The cat stretch will mobilize your spine as it warms up the muscles of your shoulders, neck and abdomen. Start on your hands and knees with your arms directly below your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Exhale as you curve your spine up toward the ceiling, allowing your head and neck to drop as your tailbone moves into a tuck position. Keep your shoulders and head in a relaxed position as you inhale and tighten your abs as your rib cage expands with your breath. Exhale as you return your body to the starting position. Complete three to five repetitions of this stretch.
This Pilates warm-up exercise works your abs, glutes and hamstrings. Lie on your back with your knees bent, your feet on the mat hips-width apart and your arms extended along your sides with your palms facing down. Tighten and tilt your abdominals upward as you raise your hips toward the ceiling until your body weight is on your shoulders and your body makes a straight line from your shoulders through the hips to your knees. Be careful to keep your lower back straight to prevent it from arching. Inhale and allow your rib cage to expand with your breath. Exhale as you slowly roll your hips back down to the starting position. Complete three to five repetitions of this exercise.