Modern Movements for a Balanced Physique
By Alexa Hotz
It’s easy to forget: the body is designed to move. In fact, you don’t need a rigorous program or expensive equipment to be in good health. Apply simple movements to your everyday routine and the positive effects are endless: improved circulation, posture, flexibility, increased range of motion, and hyper-oxygenation of the brain (a no-cost analeptic). Twentieth century German physical trainer Joseph Pilates has abiding advice to neutralize the prolonged sedentary ways of modern life, seated work, stress, and immobility. Says Pilates: “A few well-designed movements, properly performed in a balanced sequence, are worth hours of sloppy calisthenics or forced contortion.” Here, five focused movements to activate the body and generate vitality. (Remember to consult a physician as pre-requisite, if necessary.)
For a seated bend, sit on a folded blanket with your legs stretched out in front of you. Inhale and slowly lean forward, hinging from the hip joints. Reach your arms toward your feet. Elbows and legs are straight. With the head raised, gently pull yourself into the forward bend. Lengthen the torso and walk the hands forward keeping the arms long. Inhale, lift and lengthen, exhale and release deeper into the bend. Benefits: Stretches the spine. Focuses the distracted mind. Reduces fatigue.
Stand up straight with your feet hip width apart. Exhale and, with control, let your head drop (chin to the chest) guiding your roll down to the floor. Shoulders and upper body rounds while you focus on moving one vertebrae at a time. Roll down with arms stretched to the floor. Remember to exhale throughout (If discomfort is present in the low back, bend your knees just slightly to modify.) Benefits: Teaches good posture. Improves spinal mobility.
The ‘Child’s Pose’ can be both restful and active. For a restful pose, start by kneeling on the floor. Sit back on your heels and separate your knees as wide as your hips. Exhale and stretch your torso over your thighs. Lay your hands along your head and let them drop onto the floor in front of you. Rest in the stretch for up to three minutes. Benefits: Relieves stress and fatigue. Calms and soothes.
For a more active approach, follow the same steps with an added dose of stretching. Sit back on the heels, separate the knees, exhale, and stretch over the thighs. Here, stretch your arms forward and let the reach in your arms, hands, and fingers stretch the torso long. Draw your shoulder blades down the back. Remember to exhale. Benefits: Lengthens and stretches the spine. Improves circulation.
Start on your hands and knees, positioned like a tabletop. Keep the knees directly below the hips. Wrists, elbows, and shoulders aligned straight to the floor. Center your head and spine in a neutral position. Exhale and round the spine—one vertebrae at a time—lifting slowly toward the ceiling. Gently release the head toward the floor. Remember to keep your arms straight and breathe deeply. Inhale and return to neutral. Benefits: Gently massages the spine. Elongates torso and neck.
Change happens through movement and movement heals.Joseph Pilates
Start standing up, with alignment, and feet hip width apart. Move hands to hips. With a straight leg, bring the left leg out and forward; about six inches off the ground. While balancing on the right leg, slowly point the toes—and flex. Repeat four times. Ending with a flexed foot, bring the left foot back to standing on the floor. Realign. Repeat on the right. Benefits: Improves arches of the feet. Strengthens the ankles. Restores balance to the body.
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