The digestion-boosting Pilates moves that need to be on your radar

These exercises can be used to stretch and lengthen the body, increase blood flow, mobility and improve digestion.

Photo: iStock

The key is choosing movement patterns of rotation, flexion and extension through the spine and torso.

Sure, nothing will replace a healthy, balanced diet, packed with nutrients, but these stretches – rooted in Pilates and Barre – boost movement in the body, while our livers and kidneys do their job.

Then, of course, there’s the feel-good element, potential for an improved posture and greater flexibility. But you already knew about that.

Pelvic lifts

This exercise is great for pelvic stability and gaining mobility through the spine, while massaging the back. The pelvic stabilising muscles of the body,(glutes, pelvic floor) are essential for core strengthening and pain relief, too, not to mention toned legs.

Starting position: lie on your back with knees bent, and feet hip width apart.

Action: Lift the bottom up towards the ceiling by rolling through the spine, bottom should press up on one long diagonal line from the knees to the shoulders while grounding the feet into the floor.

Inhale as you curl the bottom up and exhale and as you articulate the spine back down to the floor.

You should feel the scoop through the pelvic floor to tilt the pelvis and the hamstrings and gluts will start to engage as you press the bottom higher to the ceiling.

RELATED: Five stretches that will make you more flexible

Knees from side to side

This exercise strengthens your abdominals and lower back, while opening the chest and shoulders, making a smaller waist and a better posture, too.

Starting position: Bend your knees and lift to 90 degrees. Make sure the knees are in line with the hips and the feet in line with the knees. Lengthen out your arms in line with the shoulders, like the letter T.

Action: Tip the knees to the side, keeping the shoulders anchored and return them back to the centre.

Alternate which sides the legs are going, inhale the legs across on the diagonal line, exhale and scoop the tummy to return.

You should feel a gentle stretch through the lower/ mid back and shoulders, while engaging all of the core muscle groups to create a flatter tummy.

Cat stretch

This exercise is a great stretch to lubricate your spine and release tight muscles – think of it as internal and external massage for your back and tummy

Starting position: Kneel on all fours, so the knees are under the hips and the hands are under the shoulders.

Action: Tuck the pelvis under and round through the spine so the tailbone draws down to the floor, then extend and stick the tailbone out looking forward and arching the back.

Flow into a rhythmic action, exhale as you round through the spine and hollow the abdominals, inhale as you extend and lengthen the spine.

You should feel a gentle realising and opening through the back, mobilising stiff parts of the spine.

RELATED: The best stretches you’re not doing, but should be

Side plank with rotation

This exercise strengthens the stabilising muscles of the body, while opening up the thoracic spine… Think tight tummy, smaller waistline.

Starting position: Sit on your side with knees bent slightly in front of the body, press into the bottom hand (or elbow, if preferred) to lift your hips and torso up into one long diagonal line.

Action: Once lifted up into a side plank, lift the hips up a little higher and reach the top arm under the body while slightly rotating the torso.

Keep the hips lifted away from the floor, exhale as you reach under the waist and inhale when you return and reach the arm to the ceiling.

You should feel the abs, shoulder, glutes and spine engage just to hold the side plank, as you weave under with the arm the obliques around the waist will engage and tighten further.

Dynamic hamstring and lunge stretch

This exercise is vital for hip mobility and lengthening all the muscles that tighten while we sit at a desk all day. Say goodbye back pain, and hello better balance and posture.

Starting position: Kneel with one leg extended in front of the body, both knees bent to 90 degrees, with your torso lifted.

Action: Press the pelvis forward, transferring your weight onto the front foot, while resting the hands on the thigh and stretching the back hip.

Then, shift the pelvis back and straighten the front leg while taking the hands to the floor to stretch the hamstring.

Gently continue to alternate the stretch, inhaling to stretch the front of the hip and exhaling to stretch the hamstring.

You should feel more energised and lengthened through the hips, legs and lower back, not to mention, you’ve just worked out and activates – or at least, supported – your digestive system.

RELATED: The top moves for toned arms

Renee Scott is a Pilates instructor, former professional ballerina and the founder of Barre Attack.

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