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One of the main principles of Pilates is concentration and awareness, which means being aware of muscle movements, body position, breathing, and how your body responds to each movement. Whereas aerobic exercises target the cardiovascular system, Pilates focuses on muscle toning and strengthening.

- Longer, leaner, stronger, and more flexible muscles.

- Better control, balance, and flexibility.

- Ability you to breathe more deeply

- Heightened concentration.

- Better posture and energy.

- For consistent results, you should practice Pilates every day for at least 10 minutes. As you advance, you can extend your workouts to 20 minutes or more at a time. Concentration usually falters after 45 minutes, so do not overextend your workouts. The Pilates method is designed to work most effectively when done frequently every day for short periods of time.

Muscle Exercises
Single Leg Circles
- Lie flat on your back, bend right knee into chest, hold with both hands underneath your right thigh, and extend the leg up to ceiling, keeping back flat and left leg straight on mat in line with hip joint.

- Keeping both hips anchored on mat, with the control of abdominal muscles, use your leg to make small circles crossing the body, reaching the left shoulder down to meet the left leg and opening to the side and up to the right shoulder and back upright to the center of your body.

- Repeat 5 times and then reverse the circles.

- Repeat all sequence with left leg.

- These circles strengthen the leg in the hip joint, a delicate part of the body constantly under the pressure from body weight and gravity. This exercise requires a strong center to protect the back while the leg performs the circles. It's is the muscles in the center of the body that should be moving the leg.

Rolling like a Ball
- Sitting up, bend your knees into your chest, bring your heels into the buttocks, hold your ankles with your hands, and lift your feet 1-2 inches off mat and balance on your tailbone.

- With your chin into your chest, slowly inhale and press the navel to spine to initiate the rolling back to the shoulders (don't roll on your neck).

- While exhaling, return forward maintaining the ball position without touching the mat with your toes. Repeat 6 times.

- This is a great massage of the spine, as well as an abdominal exercise that improves balance.

- During rocking, you need to focus on your abdominal muscles to maintain the ball position and to roll the body down and up with a steady and controlled rhythm.

- The back muscles will gently be released and stretched.

The Hundred
- Lie on your back with arms long, alongside your body and palms facing down.

- Bring chin into chest and curl upper body up until you still feel the base of shoulder blades down on mat.

- Bend knees into chest and extend your legs out at a 60-degree angle from the mat with heels together and toes apart (Pilates stance); lift arms about 6-8 inches off the mat.

- Inhaling slowly through the nose, pump your arms up and down for 5 counts and exhale slowly; continue to pump for 5 counts and repeat the sequence for 10 times.

- This exercise improves breathing since you extend your lung capacity by inhaling and exhaling for 5 counts.

- It is a breathing exercise, an abdominal exercise, and a good warm-up exercise.

- To do this properly, you need to be highly focused on the abdominal muscles to firmly anchor the back into the mat.

- The vigorous movement of the arms up and down increases blood flow.

- A better blood circulation combined with a deep breathing will bring more oxygen to the entire body, giving the person an energetic feeling.

Side Kicks (Front and Back)
- Lie on one side, with the back at the edge of the mat, the bottom arm bent and the hand supporting the lifted head.

- Bring both hips on top of each other, legs straight slightly in front of your hips, and bring navel into spine.

- Place the opposite arm in front of the body to help support and keep the body in line.

- Lift the top leg hip height, slightly in a Pilates stance, and swing the leg forward and back behind the body as far as you can, maintaining the back stable into the correct placement.

- Repeat 10 times each side.

- Do Small Circles (same as side kicks exercise): Lift top leg hip height and perform small circles touching each time the bottom heel, 5 to the front and 5 to the opposite direction.

- Besides the legs, "kick backs" work the inner and outer thigh muscles.

- These stretch and strengthen the quadriceps and the arm strings muscles to increase strength and mobility in the hip joint.

- It requires strong abdominal and back muscles to provide a stable upper-body position as the person performs the movement.

Magic Circle Arms
- In the standing Pilates stance, take the Magic Circle between your hands.

- Keep your fingers and wrists long.

- Lift your arms shoulder height.

- Squeeze the Magic Circle with your hands and hold for 3 counts.

- Keep your center tight through the exercise.

- Repeat 10 times.

- As you perform this exercise, you improve your energy level, balance, and posture, and you constantly engage your abdominal muscles to lengthen your spine against the pull of the gravity.

- It strengthens muscles in yours arms, chest, and upper back.

Special Thanks
Cristina Gallio
Pilates Instructor, Karma Yoga in New York City

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