For this routine, you will need a padded surface like a Pilates or yoga mat. This helps with alignment and protects your joints. You will also need a chair or pillows for props. It is gently challenging and you will feel the difference in your body immediately. Creating strength in our core body enables our entire body to function as it should. Pilates is done slowly and precisely. It tones and relaxes. Best of all Pilates helps us walk tall and feel confident.
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1 - Introduction
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Text Description: This is the introduction to the descriptions for the Eyes-Free Fitness Pilates Mat Level One. Jennifer has done a great job describing everything in the actual workout, but these descriptions may help you further refine the movements. This is a long workout, but you can skip over the introductory material once you have learned the neutral spine, supported spine, and Pilates breathing, and can move straight into the actual workout. It is suggested that you listen to or read these descriptions at least once after hearing the exercise routine. You can reference them as many times as you need after that. We hope you enjoy this relaxing, toning, strengthening workout. It is an important component of our exercise library. Neutral Spine: This is where everything begins in Pilates, so it is important to understand it completely. Lie on your back with your knees bent. Your feet are going to be out a little ways from your sits bone. Your Feet are flat on the floor, and your knees and ankles are in line so that each knee is in line with the ankle on the same leg. Your knees should be about three inches apart. When your spine is in the neutral position, you will feel a small curve where your head and your neck meet. If lying this way is uncomfortable, you can use a rolled towel to support this curve. The second curve you will feel is the lumbar curve, which is at the small of your back and is the place where your rib cage and your buttocks meet. Some people may have a large curve, and others may have almost none. In a neutral position, you should be able to feel this curve, and the small of your back will likely not be touching the mat.
2 - Neutral Spine
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Text Description: This is where everything begins in Pilates, so it is important to understand it completely. Lie on your back with your knees bent. Your feet are going to be out a little ways from your sits bone. Your Feet are flat on the floor, and your knees and ankles are in line so that each knee is in line with the ankle on the same leg. Your knees should be about three inches apart. When your spine is in the neutral position, you will feel a small curve where your head and your neck meet. If lying this way is uncomfortable, you can use a rolled towel to support this curve. The second curve you will feel is the lumbar curve, which is at the small of your back and is the place where your rib cage and your buttocks meet. Some people may have a large curve, and others may have almost none. In a neutral position, you should be able to feel this curve, and the small of your back will likely not be touching the mat.
3 - Neutral Pelvis
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Text Description: The pelvis is the lower part of your body, just above your legs. Your hip bones stick out in front. The pubic bone is in the front, near the top of your groin. In a neutral pelvis, while lying on your back, this will be flat. If you are carrying extra weight, you may not be able to feel these bones. Just keep in mind the idea that this should be level. This is a relaxed position, and not a particular exercise.
4 - Supported Pelvis
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Text Description: This is where everything begins and the engagement happens. Your knees are bent as before, and you are starting from the neutral pelvis. Press your belly button down toward the mat. Engage your abdominal muscles as you pull in, pressing down toward the mat. When you do this, your hip bones are going to move toward the floor, and the pubic bone is pointing toward the sky, much like tucking in your tail bone. Achieve this position by engaging only your abdominal muscles. It is important not to engage the gluteal muscles in your backside, or the hamstrings in the backs of your legs. In subsequent exercises, you will be lifting your legs from this supported pelvis position. This is what will create a defined waistline, and will help to improve back pain.
5 - Lateral Breath
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Text Description: This is the main form of breathing in Pilates. It differs from yoga breathing because the emphasis is on the ribs first moving out, then pulling the abdominals in toward the spine as your ribs pull in as well. To do this breath, inhale deeply and feel your ribs moving out to the sides, as air fills your lungs, and back. The exhale is very important and is where you imagine pulling your bellybutton into your spine and your ribs into your spine and feeling that very dense feeling of muscles wrapping around your spine. The emphasis is on a deep inhale and a strong exhale.
6 - Combined Breath with Pelvic Tilt
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Text Description: This is the foundation of movements, and it sounds more complicated to describe than it actually is. Lie on your back in the neutral spine with a neutral pelvis. Inhale to prepare, and as you exhale, pull in your abdominals and tilt your pelvis so your hip bones move toward the mat and your pubic bone points toward the sky. This is referred to both as a pelvic tilt or supported pelvis. As you inhale again, resume the neutral pelvis position.
7 - Half Curls
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Text Description: This is the Pilates version of the crunch. It is slower and more precise and will do more for you than a basic crunch. Lie on your back in the neutral spine position. Your arms should be at your sides, and your shoulders should be down and relaxed. Inhale, and as you exhale, tighten your abdominal muscles and bring your ribs in toward your spine. As you do this, lift your upper body, engaging your abdominal muscles. Keep the muscles engaged as you inhale at the top of the curl. As you exhale, lower back down to the ground. The movement has four parts: Inhale to prepare, exhale while the movement is happening, inhale while holding the tightened position, exhale as you come back down to the ground.
8 - Mini Bridge
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Text Description: This is the opposite movement of the half curl. We'll do the pelvic tilt, but with a lift that will engage your hamstrings and glutes. Begin in the neutral spine position, with relaxed shoulders and upper body. Your knees should not splay out to the sides, and are about three inches apart. Inhale to prepare, then exhale, pulling your abdominal muscles in toward the spine. As you begin the pelvic tilt, engage your glutes and lift your rear end up off the mat while keeping the abdominal muscles engaged. Hold the position as you inhale, and exhale as you slowly release back down to the mat with control.
9 - Full Shoulder Bridge
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Text Description: This is essentially the same as the mini bridge we just did, except that we will be raising the hips higher, and will be paying particular attention to the location of the rib cage in relation to the hips. Your glutes, hamstrings, and abdominals are all engaged, while all your ribs are remaining on the mat so the lifting happens from just below the rib cage to the hips. Many times, in a bridge pose, you feel you need to lift your entire mid body off the mat. By lifting from the rib cage through the hips, you are more clearly defining the stomach and waistline. It is also important to keep your knees in line so they neither splay out to the sides nor touch each other in the center. Inhale, and as you exhale, tighten your abdominals, pulling your ribs in, engaging all muscles, and pressing up with your hips. Just before you feel your ribs beginning to lift, stop. Inhale in this position, with everything engaged. As you exhale, bring your body back to the mat, slowly and with control.
10 - Spine Stretch
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Text Description: This will help to stretch your back after the previous exercise. Lie on your back with knees bent. Your arms are straight out at your sides, forming a letter T. Drop both knees over to the right so you can feel the stretch all along your left side. Exhale and bring your knees back to the neutral position. Then, Drop both knees to the left, feeling the stretch and relaxing into it. Finally, bring your knees back to the neutral position, and your knee is bent at a 90-degree angle.
11 - Toe Taps
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Text Description: Actually, your toes might not touch the floor when you do this exercise, but they will with practice. Lie on your back, and bring one of your legs into the tabletop position. This means that your knee is directly above your hip, and your shin is parallel to the ground. Once you have done this, bring the other leg into the tabletop position as well. It is not recommended that you bring both legs up at once, since this can create a lot of strain on your lower back. Inhale, and on the exhale, slowly move your toes toward the floor. Inhale, and return back to tabletop position. You may only move very little. If your lower back starts to come off the mat, you have moved too far. Your hips should hinge, allowing your toes to move toward the floor. Also, your knees should remain bent at a 90-degree angle throughout this move. You can do this one leg at a time to start, but the goal is to do both at once.
12 - Half Swan
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Text Description: This is also called an upper body lift. Lie on your stomach, with your legs spread a little wider than hip distance apart, and your toes pointed to either side of the mat. We are still holding a supported pelvis, although it feels a bit different than when lying on your back. Pull your stomach muscles toward your spine, this time away from the mat, and tuck your tailbone. This position is very supportive of your lower back. If you have pain when in this position, you can place a rolled towel under your hip bones. Your hands should be on the mat, and your wrists are near your shoulders. Your elbows should be tucked in close to your sides, and your forehead is on the mat. Do not bend your head back. If you are doing this, there will be wrinkles in the back of your neck. Inhale, and as you exhale, lift your head, neck and shoulders off the mat. Pull your shoulder blades in toward your spine and down toward your waist. Remember to keep your body in a long straight line. If you have large breasts, you can use a rolled towel to cradle your breasts and make this position a little easier.
13 - Child Pose
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Text Description: Come up slowly onto your hands and knees. Slowly press your hips back to your heels. Your arms can either be down at your sides or stretch out straight in front of you. If you need additional support, you can put a rolled towel between your rear and your heels. This is a good counter or opposite stretch to the upper body lift we just did.
14 - Watch Dog
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Text Description: This is a classic Pilates pose that will strengthen your entire body. You begin on all fours, in a tabletop position. This means that the tops of your feet and your knees are on the mat, and your hips are directly over your knees. Your wrists should be directly underneath your elbows, and your elbows should be in line with your shoulders. Finally, your shoulder blades should be pulled back and down, your neck is straight, and your chin is not tucked. If this is too difficult on your wrists, either roll up a towel or the end of your mat, and rest your palms on it. If this position causes knee pain, try kneeling on a rolled towel or fold the end of your mat to increase the thickness. The important thing is that your body is in this squared, tabletop position. Remember to keep your abs pulled in. Inhale, and as you exhale, lift your right arm straight out in front of you so your elbow is next to your right ear. At the same time, stretch your left leg out behind you with your toes flexed, or pointing toward the floor. Reverse this pose by stretching your left arm out in front of you and your right leg behind you, all while keeping your core engaged.
15 - Knee Floats
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Text Description: This exercise may feel fairly easy, but if you do it often enough, you will feel muscles you didn't know you had. As with the previous pose, we are on all fours. You can use the same modifications if you need them, to ease knee or wrist pain. Curl your toes under so the balls of your feet -- the place where your toes meet the main part of your feet -- are on the matt. Lift up a little, just hovering your knees over the mat while maintaining proper alignment. Tuck your abdomen into your spine. Inhale. As you exhale, engage your core to raise yourself up on the balls of your feet a few inches. Inhale as you return back to the start.
16 - Cat Cow Stretch
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Text Description: From a neutral tabletop position like you used in the previous poses, inhale. As you exhale, arch your spine up, bringing your abdominals in and up toward the spine. You will feel the stretch along the length of your spine. As you inhale, drop your spine toward the mat, feeling the curve in your spine. Repeat by arching your back like a cat on the exhale, and allowing your spine to curve like the cow on the inhale.
17 - Side Lying Setup
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Text Description: This is the basic side-lying posture you will be using for the next few exercises. This is definitely a time where you ideally will use a mat. If you do not have one, you will need a blanket or something with a straight edge you can use to orient yourself. It is vital to make sure that each part of your body is properly aligned. To begin, lie on your right side, with your right arm stretched out above your head. You can either bend it at the elbow and rest your head in your hand, or you can keep the arm straight. What we want is for your shoulder, hip, knee, and ankle joints to be lined up along that right edge of your mat.
18 - Leg Circles
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Text Description: From the position previously described, point your toes and lift your top leg until you feel all the muscles engaging in your leg while keeping a tight core. You may place your hand on the floor in front of you for balance. Move your knee in small circles -- first in one direction, then in the other. If your circles are too large, it will be difficult to keep your body properly aligned. If you feel yourself wobbling while doing this, try to tighten your core muscles to stop it. If you pay attention, you should see results before very long. These subtle movements will translate into better overall walking and movement. When you have finished with one side, change to the other and repeat.
19 - Straight Leg Inner Thigh Squeeze
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Text Description: Assume the same side-lying position as before. This exercise is designed to work the inner thigh of your lower leg -- the one closest to the mat. As you inhale, bring your top leg up a few inches, and holding. As you exhale, try to bring your bottom leg up to meet it. This is very challenging, so perseverance is key. When finished, repeat on the opposite side.
20 - Side-Lying Double Straight Leg Lift
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Text Description: This very challenging exercise is similar to the one before it. Instead of lifting one leg and bringing the other to meet it, the aim is to lift both legs at once. You will inhale to prepare and ensure your core is engaged. As you exhale, lift the legs up. Return to the start on the inhale. Turn to your left side, lining yourself up as before, and repeat.
21 - Seated Spine Curl Forward
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Text Description: For this exercise you can either sit on a chair, a pillow, a cushion, or whatever works for you. You can place a small rolled towel under your knees if you would like. The aim is not to stretch the hamstrings, but the action is happening in your trunk. Sit up as tall as you can, finding length in your spine. Your hands can rest on your thighs. Inhale, and pull in your abdominal muscles as you exhale and slowly begin to curl your spine forward into a C shape. Your arms will naturally move forward as your spine curls. The aim is not to touch your knees to your nose, but just to feel it in your spine. As you exhale, slowly straighten up and back into that tall elongated shape.
22 - Spinal Twist
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Text Description: Remain seated as you were in the previous exercise, with a nice tall spine. Make sure your shoulders are relaxed back and down. Bring your arms out to each side so they form a T. This time, when you inhale, do so in a series of three short breaths. Each time you breathe in a bit more deeply, twist a little farther to your right. This twist should come from your abdominal muscles and should not really involve your shoulders. As you exhale, use your abdominals to come back to the center. Repeat this on your left side.
23 - The Saw
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Text Description: This exercise is comprised of four movements, all of which we have already learned. Sit tall, with your legs a bit farther apart than they have been. Your arms should be out to the sides in the T position. As you inhale, twist your spine to your right. As you exhale, reach to touch your right little toe with your left little finger, while drawing your abdominal muscles in toward your spine. Inhale and hold the twist while straightening up. Exhale, and use your abdominal muscles to return to center. Repeat by twisting to your left, and touching your right little finger to your left little toe.
24 - Final Thoughts
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Text Description: Congratulations for finishing this workout! Doing this regularly will bring noticeable differences in your body and in the way you carry yourself. Do the best you can by reading and/or listening to the descriptions and following along as Jennifer guides you through the exercises. There will be a Pilates Mat Level Two, which will build on the foundation begun here. To find out when the next workout is coming, subscribe to our newsletter by visiting www.BlindAlive.com . If you find these descriptions helpful, or if you'd like to let us know about a problem, please write to Support@BlindAlive.com . Take care, and good health to you!