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Incorporating Pilates into Your Everyday Life

Part of the Pilates For Dummies Cheat Sheet (Australia/New Zealand Edition)

Even if you were to do Pilates for an hour every day, you wouldn’t get the profound results that Pilates has to offer if you reverted to bad postural habits for the rest of your day. Some people naturally take what they learn from Pilates and bring it to their non-Pilates activities.

  • Do the Basic Cat stretch every morning: If you were a cat, you’d do the Basic Cat every morning without even thinking about it. Start your day with a spine stretch to get the blood circulating and to get the kinks out before starting your day. The Basic Cat is a particularly good stretch for the morning because it’s very safe and gentle and doesn’t put unnecessary strain on a stiff spine.

  • Think of a golden string pulling you up from the back of the top of your head: Holding an image in your head can help you change your body dramatically. Working out with a regular Pilates routine does wonders, but thinking about proper alignment for the rest of your day does even more. Try to remember to stand up with the back of the top of your head pulled up towards the sky, thereby lengthening your spine.

  • Keep your shoulders relaxed and pulling down your back: It’s easy to unconsciously hunch your shoulders. This movement is one of the most common misuses of muscles, and working at a desk or computer exacerbates this tendency. Relax your shoulders, and keep pulling the shoulder blades down and away from your ears.

    Think of using the muscles underneath the shoulder blades to keep the shoulders in their proper dropped position. Doing so works wonders for your neck!

  • Remember to breathe deeply: Take a moment each day to breathe deeply and slowly. Most people use only about half of their lung capacity. Try to take a breath that fills up the lowest portion of your lungs.

    This style of breathing is relaxing and good for your health. Lungs are three-dimensional and extend as far back as your ribs go. Breathing wide into the ribs, instead of up and down, can actually stretch the back and release muscle tension.

  • Get a lumbar support pillow for work and your car: A lumbar pillow supports your lower back and helps you maintain Neutral Spine while you work and drive. Remember that improper posture is the number one reason for back pain.

    You can buy lumbar support pillows at most large pharmacies, variety stores or back care stores. You simply place it in the small of your back and, voilà, you can feel your posture improving effortlessly!

  • Sit up tall when working: If you don’t have a lumbar support pillow, then you must support your back all by yourself. You can do so just by thinking the right thoughts. Most back pain is due to faulty posture and sitting incorrectly. Sit up tall, trying to lift up from the lower back, so that you have Neutral Spine when sitting. Your head should be balanced in a straight line on top of your hips, not jutting out in front.

  • Get a cervical pillow for your bed: A cervical pillow (or neck pillow) looks like an oversized hot dog and goes behind your neck when you’re lying on your back or on your side. The pillow functions to support the natural curve of your neck. Chronic neck soreness often results from an improper sleeping position. This type of pillow is especially useful if you wake up with neck pain.

  • Walk the right way: Imagine that you’re a supermodel on a catwalk. When you stride down the street, think of walking with a long stride, initiating the movement from the hips and butt, not just the knees.

    This way of walking increases the length of your stride while stretching out the front of your hips (your hip flexors). Walking with long strides helps reverse the tightness in the hips and back that comes from long bouts of sitting.

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