It’s Monday morning, you get up, what part of your body groans or niggles at you? Notice the area that is the tightest on your body and target that first. Is it your hamstrings? Is it your knees? Is it your shoulders? Sadly, there is no one size fits all type of stretching you should do every day. Each individual is different and the areas of their body that they have trouble with will vary. For some guidance on where to begin on your daily stretches, here is some advice from the owner here, Chris Blagdon, on the types of Pilates stretches you can do in just 10 minutes to target different areas.
What’s the difference between normal stretching and Pilates stretching?
Pilates stretches focus on stretching and strengthening the muscle that is part of the stretch. This allows you to maintain and build physical alignment and integrity. As one part of the movement strengthens the muscle, the other increases the flexibility at the joint. Whereas normal stretching only works on increasing the range of motion at the joint and, if done incorrectly, it can cause damage rather than help. Also, having a Pilates coach on hand to direct you in the stretch and make any corrections always helps!
How do you get into a targeted muscle?
Firstly, use the six Pilates principles to get the most out of each stage – breath, centering, concentration, control, precision, flow. Engage and grip the muscle and then you move into the stretch inhaling, and then out of the stretch exhaling.
If need be, you can target the outer hamstrings alone. This means that you will have to do fewer repetitions as it is working the problem area. For example of how Chris does this in the studio, watch the video below.
As you get older, bad knees can be a common complaint. The good news is that there are simple exercises that you can do to ease the tension.
- Roll up a towel, sit on the floor with the knee you want to work first straight and your other leg bent. Then place the towel under your knee, point your toes to lengthen your leg. This will make the muscles near your knee work. If you are feeling the stretch close to your hip then you are shortening your leg by bringing your toes forward, and this isn’t what you want. Repeat whilst tightening as much as you can without any shooting pains.
- Stand parallel with your feet hip-width apart, tighten your knees and roll your feet in whilst bending at the hip. You will feel it on your inside quad.
Shoulders and Core
Quite often, tight shoulders can be a part of the daily stresses and of sitting at a desk all day. There are three simple stretches that Chris advises for loosening the shoulders.
- Sit with a straight back, breathe in and lift your shoulders up to your ears and feel the tension in your shoulders. Then exhale whilst relaxing your shoulders. Repeat this 10 times.
- Once your shoulders are feeling a bit more relaxed, sit with a straight back again. Then bring your elbows close to your body and hold your arms at a right angle in front of you. Breath out and open your arms out from your shoulder blades. This will strengthen your shoulder blades and ease some of the tension out.
- To stretch out rounded shoulders, hold onto a door post or an edge of a wall, pull your shoulder blade down, breathe in and out.
If you have any questions about these stretches, or if you would like help with your specific groans and niggles, then we’d love to hear from you.