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Pilates Mat Method Tips Print E-mail
Pilates has long been the exercise choice of the elite; but it need not be reserved for the rich and famous alone.  People of all ages, of every status, all over the world continue to practice Pilates.  Individual training and equipment sessions, however, can be steep # on average, about $50 to $100 per session.   The Pilates Mat Method, however, remains an affordable choice.

The Pilates mat method is an ideal way to begin your personal Pilates experience.  The exercises do not involve complicated equipment, and engage only your mind and body.  At the same time, Pilates mat exercises are also the most difficult to master, as there are no tricks, no gadgets, and no machines to help you along the way.

Joseph Pilates developed the "mat method" series of exercises strictly to strengthen and realign the body.  These exercises are concentrated on the "core", or abdominal muscles.  When joining a Pilates class, your first session should pay close attention to breathing and posture, and then gradually move on to an overview of the Pilates mat method exercises.

There are 44 basic exercises that fell under the mat method designation.  These exercises are based upon the six main principles of Pilates:  breathing, centering, concentration, control, precision and smooth, flowing movement.   Each of these Pilates mat method exercises is performed in a sitting or reclining position, in order to take advantage of the natural position of the visceral organs of the body.

Among the 44 mat method exercises are the following:

*  Leg Circles:  Developed to promote hip rotation.  Lie on your back with your right leg straight on floor.  Your left leg is extended straight, held at 90 degrees to hip.  Hold your arms lengthened at the sides, with palms and shoulders down.  Contract the abdominal muscles to bring your entire back in contact with floor.  Inhale and exhale slowly while you rotate your left leg counterclockwise, with toes pointed.  Keep a controlled circle with your abdomen pulled in.  Repeat five times, and then reverse the direction of the circles.

*  The Hundred:  This exercise improves trunk flexion, initiating from the cervical region.  Lie on the mat, on your back, with your legs extended in the air.  The legs are held in line with the hips, knees as straight as possible, and feet relaxed.  Place arms alongside your body, palms down, and a few inches off of the floor.  Lift your head, neck and shoulder blades off the floor and maintain this position.  Pump your arms up and down without touching the floor, and without moving your legs or torso.  Inhale and exhale for five counts.

*  Rolling Like a Ball:  Sit on the mat with your knees bent, legs together, toes pointed and forearms resting on the lower legs.  Lift your toes a few inches off of the floor.  Balance, and breathe deeply several times. Then, roll back onto your shoulders and roll up to the starting position.

*  Swimming:  This Pilates mat method exercise is useful for spine extension.  Lie prone with your arms straight above the head; legs extended apart, tops of feet to the floor.  Keep your shoulder blades down and together.   Inhale and exhale, stabilizing your torso by drawing your abdominal muscles up and in.  Lift your right arm, left leg, head, neck and chest.  Then, alternate the motion by lifting the left arm, right leg, neck, head and chest.  Repeat these motions, alternating left to right.  Sit back on your heels with your upper body and head lowered to floor, and arms stretched forward.

*  The Saw:  Sit with your legs stretched in front in a "V", feet flexed, with toes pointed toward ceiling.  Extend your arms out to the sides at shoulder level.  Lift the sternum, elongate the spine, and drop the shoulders.  Rotate to face the right leg, crossing your left arm to the right foot.  Contract your abdominal muscles and flex at the hip, bringing your torso toward the knee.  Alternate between the left and right sides.  Repeat five times, keeping your body lifted until the rotation is complete.

These are just a few of the Pilates mat method exercises; there are nearly forty more, all classified according to their degrees of difficulty.  You'll find Pilates mat exercises that are just right for you, regardless of your age, status or fitness level.
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