Former T.H.E. Second Company dancer and choreographer, Liz Fong, recommends some simple pilates-based home exercises to strengthen muscles and keep them operative.
“Pilates can help to correct postural imbalances and realign the mind and body after a long and tiring day at work.”
Liz started doing Pilates while studying at the New Zealand School of Dance in 2005. At that time, Pilates was meant to target the strengthening of certain muscles in order to better Liz’s dance techniques. “It was also integral to rehabilitative efforts, making sure we keep our muscles operative,” Liz explains.
Pilates is a holistic form of fitness system that helps especially busy female professionals. It is not only a stress buster, but also a vitalising connection to reinstate the body to the present.
More importantly, Pilates can help to correct postural imbalances and realign the mind and body after a long and tiring day at work.
“There are a few clients who came for Pilates for a good workout, only to realise that a quality session helped to correct their postural weaknesses and muscle imbalances. As such, they learnt to better manage neck strains or back issues related to work, and ended up feeling better in general,” Liz says.
Regular practice also tones your physique and gives a general sense of well-being. A simple workout on the mat, done in the comfort of your home, can be easily incorporated into everyday life. Try these simple moves below!
1. Pelvic Press
Works the pelvis and core (3 to 5 sets)
a. Lie on your back in neutral spine, knees bent, feet flat on the floor.
b. Inhale, engage the core and curl your tailbone.
c. Press down through your feet, hips raised. Peel each vertebra off the floor, reach a position where a nice straight line runs from your shoulders, hips to knees. Do not arch beyond this point.
d. Exhale, roll spine back down onto the mat, one vertebra at a time.
2. Pilates Hundreds
Works the abs and trains lungs (100 breaths)
a. Lie on your back with a neutral spine, knees bent, feet flat on the floor.
b. Engage abdominal muscles, curl upper spine and base of your shoulder blades off the floor. Keep shoulders and neck relaxed.
c. Inhale and exhale five short counts each for percussive breathing. Pump arms in a small, energising up-and-down manner.
d. Lengthen and lift legs off the mat for higher intensity.
3. Single Leg Circles
Works the core for stability (3 to 5 sets)
a. Lie on your back, legs extended on the floor, arms by your sides.
b. Extend one leg towards the ceiling, inhale, then circle that leg inwards five times.
c. Exhale, then circle that lifted leg outwards five times.
d. Increase the size of the circle to train core strength. Be sure to keep shoulders level and pelvis stable throughout.
Helps with back extension (3 to 5 sets)
a. Lie on your stomach with legs extended behind you, arms by your sides.
b. Brace abdominal muscles; do not let your belly flop. Engage the glute muscles to prevent compression in the lower back.
c. Extend your back and reach chest forward. Draw shoulder blades together and lift chest off the mat. Extend the arms to the back, finger tips off the mat. Hold.
d. Lower back down onto the mat.
Works the entire body (3 to 5 sets)
a. Stay on either your palms or forearms in plank position. If you’re on palms, keep your legs straight. Make sure hands are right below shoulders.
b. Activate arms, glutes, and legs fully. Draw abs towards the spine.
c. Breathe deeply and hold for 30 seconds.
d. For variations, hold in left and right side planks.
Images by Esther Yeo
Liz currently instructs matwork and reformer group sessions at Pilates Bodyworks. She helps students find upper and lower body stability, and postural alignment while working the limbs through a range of motion.