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Pilates Destress

You don’t need me to tell you how stressful the holiday season can be, especially for women. We feel the onslaught of ads and holiday decor everywhere right around Halloween. It can feel like a marathon of sorts, from November first until December twenty-sixth, that you keep trying to finish. I often insert the mantra “Done is better than perfect with holiday to-do’s.”

It is important that we take time to recover and sustain our health and energy, as the holiday season is a marathon of sorts. Try to prioritize something nourishing for yourself every day, such as:

  • Order a food delivery service a couple of times a week to ensure you eat healthily. *Workout in the early part of the day before the day gets away from you.
  • Schedule a massage at least once mid-season, and maybe even after your holiday.
  • Move through a restorative yoga sequence you like.
  • Take a warm bath with Epsom salts (nothing fancy needed).
  • Put a relaxing playlist on your headphones and close out the world for a few minutes as you soak in the sound.
  • Stretch over a large physioball on your back (think supported backbend— make sure you know you can manage this).
  • …or try one of my favorite de-stressors: Pilates Mat exercises!

The very essence of Pilates exercises is for coordinating one’s mind and body through breathing and moving together. Pilates exercises can bring on a powerful experience and make us feel we have “returned to ourselves.”

After all the time and energy spent on your holiday to-do list, de-stressing can be empowering and critical to your mental and physical health.

Here are a few exercises you could easily modify to suit your needs, comfort, and capability level. Focus on your breathing and movement flow instead of the shape you make or how deep (advanced) you get. If your energy is low, just lie down and settle your breath for a few minutes.

The Roll Up: 

Step One:  Allow yourself to stretch out on your back, and if your shoulders feel ok with it, extend your arms overhead.

Step Two:  Inhale as you lift your head, neck and arms, exhale as you roll up and stretch comfortably over your legs, followed by a roll down. (If Osteoporotic, please just do step one.) Note* Hollow out your abdomen and flare your back ribs to further stretch your back and support from the front.

The Saw

Step One: Sit as upright as you can with your legs outstretched in front of you in a ‘V’ shape, and prop up your sitz bones or bend your knees, if it helps you sit upright with ease. Then, take your arms straight out to your right and left, like three o’clock and nine o’clock.
Inhale as you rotate to your left, and as you exhale “saw” your right palm toward your outer left foot.

Step Two: Inhale to return to front and center, and repeat to the other side. *Note* Do not worry if you get the breath reversed— just by focusing on your breath, you are benefitting. Additionally, feel the spinal twist with length as opposed to focusing on how far forward you stretch to your toes. Be sure to reach as much back as you do forward.

Swimming

Step One: Lie on your stomach and stretch your arms overhead, with your forehead down, so you have room to breathe, and so the back of your neck elongates; take three to six breaths just lying prone.

Step Two: Inhale to lift all four limbs slightly off the floor and lift your head with them, so you feel your ears are aligned with your shoulders and start to flutter or ‘swim’ the arms and legs as you breathe steadily for two to four breaths.

Finish with Child’s Pose or Sivasana

Relax back down as you take the last exhale and finish with child’s pose or sivasana.

Check with your doctor before starting an exercise program. Stop if you feel pain.

Cynthia Bahmani is a Certified Pilates Instructor, Movement Therapist and Guest Instructor at Rancho La Puerta. She is a Guest Presenter at UC Berkeley and, most recently, she had the pleasure of working with Cirque du Soliel’s San Francisco cast of AMALUNA. You can learn more about Cynthia on her Instagram.

 

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