Pilates exercises take the "big yawn" out of getting up.
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Pilates offers a gentle but effective way to start the day: you naturally feel like stretching your body and limbs when you wake to jump-start your circulation, wake up stiff muscles and get you on the move. A few Pilates stretching, toning and tightening mat exercises will also put you in the right frame of mind to make the most of the rest of your day.
Before You Start
Even though these exercises are gentle, it's a good idea to wake up properly before starting so that you're aware of the movements you're making rather than going through the routine still partly in dreamland. Drink some water or juice once you're out of bed. Don't eat your usual breakfast before your exercise routine, although you may find that a small yogurt or half a banana helps stabilize your blood sugar level and provides the energy to get moving.
Any exercise routine requires a warmup session. Have a Pilates or yoga mat on hand. It is possible to do these Pilates exercises on a firm bed mattress, but there is something to be said for separating your sleeping space from your exercise space, even if you just move to the floor beside your bed. To warm up, shake your hands and feet as if you are getting rid of water. Swing your arms above your head and bring them down behind your back. Rise on the balls of your feet as you raise your arms and lower them as you bring your arms down. This only takes a couple of minutes. Consciously relax your body: breathe slowly and deeply while releasing tension by dropping your shoulders, and visualize breathing into the spaces between your spinal discs.
Abdomen and Spine
To work your abdominals muscles and flex your spine, sit on your mat with your knees bent, and place your hands on your knees. Allow your spine to curve naturally in this position. Inhale and rock back on your butt until your shoulder blades touch the mat. Exhale and pull your navel toward your spine as you rock back up to a sitting position. Repeat six to 10 times. Coordinating your movements with the inhale and exhale is an aspect of Pilates that often takes a bit of practice. Don't be discouraged if you don't get it right the first time.
Hips, Thighs and Hamstrings
Lie on your mat and extend your right leg with your foot pointing toward the ceiling. If you have tight hamstrings, you may need to keep your leg bent at the knee. Keep your left leg flat. Inhale and point your right foot. Trace a circle on the ceiling as you exhale. You should feel you're moving your leg from the hip socket. Do six to 10 circles, then repeat with your left leg.
Finish this routine with a torso twist that stretches the spine. Lie on the mat with your knees bent, and extend your arms to either side, keeping them relaxed. Inhale, relax your shoulders and, on the exhale, push both of your knees to one side of your body. Inhale and repeat the movement with your knees to the other side. Repeat six to 10 times.