Feeling weighed down by mince pies but can’t face working out? Pilates expert Gaby Noble, founder of Exhale Pilates London, talks us through the best Pilates exercises to do whilst watching TV…
The Christmas period is a time where many of us will enjoy digging into ample festive meals and kicking back for the first time in ages. Many of us will relate to that lethargic feeling we can get when we’ve been sitting around at home for too long and can’t be bothered to move! It can feel difficult to adapt outside of our regular exercise regime.
It is important to have balance during the holidays and take a breather, however, if you’re feeling that urge to get active, then don’t let Christmas or Covid restrictions get in your way. Pilates is an extremely powerful tool to use and have for optimum health, and so, what better way to get moving than with some simple exercises you can do yourself from home in your sitting room.
Try these ten Pilates exercises to help you feel better this festive season – you can even do them whist watching the TV! Why not even do them with your friends and family for some bonding time?
Breathing exercise are perfect if you’ve had a stressful Christmas.
1. Start with consciously breathing.
2. On your back, lengthen your arms and legs, your back and neck, and take control of your breathing.
3. Consciously scan your body to feel its condition. Feel the ribs expand sideways as you inhale, counting slowly for five seconds until your lungs are full.
4. Exhale evenly, drawing the ribs together and pulling the abdomen in and up, squeezing out all the air.
5. Repeat this nine more times.
The tendon stretch is often done on the Pilates reformer, but you can simply adapt it to do on your living room floor.
1. Bring your heels together and push your heels away as you stretch your toes toward your head for three seconds.
2. Now, point the toes away from you.
3. Finish by pulling the toes back towards your head & feeling the stretch behind the leg.
4. Repeat this nine more times.
1. Lie down on your back with knees towards your chest and arms stretched long alongside your body palms down.
2. Inhale deeply and feel your navel sinking to your spine and tail bone firmly planted on the floor.
3. Raise your head to look at your navel, lifting arms a few inches off the floor and lifting the upper body only to the base of the shoulder blades. Feel them sinking into the floor.
4. Extend your legs to 45 degrees.
5. Pump arms up and down (reaching long from your armpits) as you inhale for 5 counts and exhale for 5 counts do this 10 x (100 pumps).
6. Extend the legs long but make sure your back isn’t lifting, if it is or you feel discomfort in your lower back keep your legs at 45 degrees (table top).
7. Finish by bending your knees into the chest, lowering the head neck and shoulders
Rolling Like A Ball
This one can be a little more challenging for some people, but the benefits are great – stimulating & massaging the spine, working the abdominals and focusing on breath.
1. Sit with knees bent into the chest. Knees are slightly apart, keeping the heels together.
2. Lift your feet off the floor, whilst lightly holding onto your ankles (or for more support, underneath the knees).
3. Inhale and draw in the belly button towards the spin, creative a c-curve, and exhale.
4. Chin to chest, Inhale to roll back. Use this time to massage the spine, exhale and roll back up, trying to keep feet hovered above the ground.
5. NB: Roll back & up from your centre without using the momentum to lift you back up!
This exercise is great to open up the chest to and tension built up in the spine – an super common area of tension for so many of us.
1. With legs still out in front of you, take the hands behind the head – elbows are wide (if possible).
2. Inhale and lift the spine, then exhale and twist to one side – imagine you are rinsing your spine out like a towel using the breath.
3. Inhale and lift back to centre, and finally exhale and turn to the other side.
4. Do this 3 – 4 times each way
Double Leg Stretch
Double leg stretch works the abdominals, radiating from a strong centre. This one will really help your core feel better after those Christmas feasts!
1. Bring both knees to your chest and hold onto your shins or ankles, stretching your lower back.
2. Lift your head and shoulders keeping your eyes focused on your navel.
3. Inhale as you stretch your arms above your head and legs out to 45degrees, hold for 1 second as you exhale circle the arms around to hug your knees back to your chest. Do this 5 x
4. NB: The stronger the exhale the more it will massage the inner digestive organs to release gas from the intestines
This exercise will release and stretch the shoulders and upper back whilst strengthening the pelvis, shoulder extensors and back stabilisers – a nice one to wake up the muscles we neglect slouching on the sofa over the holidays.
1. Lie down on your back with your legs bent and upper back (Thoracic spine) elevated on 1 / 2 a cushion from the sofa (or pillow from the bedroom, keeping the chest open. If you haven’t got too much tightness, slightly drop your head off the back of the cushion to create more rotation in the shoulders. If you own one, a foam roller can also be used placed length ways from the tailbone to the head. Holding either small arm weights, bottles of water or even weighty Christmas gift in each hand, begin these next steps…
2. Move 1 – Keeping the legs bent with your knees in line with the hips & your feet flat on the floor, lift the arms up to 90 degrees, with palms facing inwards. Inhale as you open the arms away from one another and stretch the chest. Exhale draw the abs into your spine as you keep the arms long and bring them back to centre. You can hug yourself to get a further stretch each time you bring the arms back to the centre. Do this 3 to 5 times, deepening the breath whilst maintaining a stable pelvis and keeping your abs drawn into your back.
3. Move 2 – Arms up to 90 degrees rotate the hands so the knuckles are facing away from you. Inhale keeping the arms straight as you drop one hand behind you and the other hand towards your hip. Alternate as you exhale. Do this 3 to 5 times.
4. Move 3 – Keeping your range within your shoulder socket, make large circles taking both your arms back to the side and then bring them back to centre. Do this 3 to 5 times each way.
This one will work the articulation of the spine, stretch the quadriceps and strengthen the glutes and hamstrings.
1. Lie down on your back with knees bent in line with your hips and arms long by your side. Keep reaching the fingers towards your toes whilst the chest remains stretched and open.
2. Inhale and lift your pelvis off the floor, squeezing your glutes & lengthening your knees forward to open up your hip flexors.
3. Hold the breath 3 counts and then exhale deeply, melting the spine vertebrae by vertebrae back onto the floor. (Make sure your bum is the last thing to touch the ground!)
4. Do this 3 to 5 times, deepening the breath for the body to release further tightness in the hips, chest and spine.
Perfect if you’ve not been very mobile over Christmas, this exercise will stretch and strengthen the thighs and is great for quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and abs — very challenging and great for tight hip flexors!
1. Begin in a kneeling position, legs hip width apart.
2. Reach the arms straight out in front of the body at shoulder height (small arm weights can be used). Make sure there is one line from your knees, hips, shoulders and ears and no arch in your lower back.
3. Drawing your abs into your spine, inhale as you lean back and grow taller through the crown of your head.
4. Exhale and return to the starting position, bringing your arms back down to your sides.
5. Do this 3 to 5 times and each time get longer and stronger.
Do this exercise to strengthen your shoulders and elbow extensors, plus develop trunk stability. It is also great for posture, breathing and is a controlled neck stretch.
1. Take to in a kneeling position with knees hip width apart and arms long by your side.
2. Create opposition in the arms by drawing the fingers to the floor as your neck lengthens up to the ceiling.
3. Keeping the line from the knees to the ears, draw your abs in and up as you inhale to take your palms behind your waist, maintaining length in the neck.
4. Keeping your body still with your shoulder blades drawing towards one another, turn your head to the right, then left and back to centre.
5. Lastly, exhale as you bring the arms back in line with your hips. Keep your glutes switched on and abs connected throughout.
6. Do this 3 to 5 times, alternating your head turns.
Gaby Noble is a leading Pilates expert and owner of award-winning Classical Pilates studio, Exhale Pilates London. Find out more and book on at exhalepilateslondon.com
Hettie is the editor and co-founder of DOSE. A keen runner, she’s also partial to a blast of high-intensity and hot yoga. A country girl at heart, she divides her time between London and the lush rolling hills of North Devon. When she’s not jetting off on her next adventure, Hettie can be found in a candle-lit alcove with a laptop, a spaniel and a full bodied Malbec.