Jennifer Kern, certified Pilates instructor has once again done a beautiful job describing Pilates Mat Level Two. She builds more challenging core exercises onto what was learned in Level One. This is a core strengthening and mind calming workout. All you need is your mat. Everything is done there, so very little space is needed. I love this workout because your mind slows down as your muscles strengthen and lengthen.
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1 - Introduction
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Text Description: Welcome to Pilates Mat Level Two. These descriptions provide fuller explanations of the moves described in the audio. If there are modifications, they will also be listed here. This workout builds on Pilates Mat Level One, so you are encouraged to do that one first and to learn the principles taught there before moving on to this workout.
2 - Seated Breath
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Text Description: We begin this workout in the seated position. Sit in the center of your mat, with your legs out in front of you, and a small bend in your knees, so your heels dig into the mat. Your arms are down at your sides, you are sitting straight and tall, and both sits bones are pressing into the mat. While in this position, we will take several Pilates breaths. To review from Level One, a Pilates breath is a lateral breath, expanding the ribs out to the sides as you breathe in. As you exhale, your navel and waistline pull in, while contracting to strengthen those all-important core muscles. Be sure to keep your shoulders back and down during this relaxing, focused breath.
3 - Lateral Stretch
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Text Description: Stay in the same position you used for the previous exercise. Inhale while lifting your left arm up toward the ceiling. As you exhale, reach over to the right with your left arm. Feel the stretch the length of your left arm and rib cage. Keep the right sit bone digging into the mat. Inhale, and stretch even farther to the side. Exhale, and as you inhale, straighten up. Inhale, and exhale as you bring your arm back down to the left side. Repeat this stretch on the opposite side.
4 - Spine Stretch Forward
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Text Description: We are remaining in the same position as the previous exercises, except that our palms can rest on our thighs. Sit tall, and take a deep Pilates breath while feeling the rib cage expand. Then, as you exhale, bringing your abdomen in and feeling the tightening all around your waist, nod your chin toward your chest, The object is not to slump over, but to curl your spine into a C shape while exhaling. The aim is to feel the stretch the length of your spine. You will feel this even more as you inhale. As you exhale, gently come back to the position where your spine is straight and you are sitting tall.
5 - Seated Spinal Twist
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Text Description: For this exercise, we will remain in the same starting position used for the previous exercises. Inhale, and put your right hand behind you. Let your left hand rest on your right thigh. As you exhale, twist to the right. Turn your head as if looking over your right shoulder to include your neck in this gentle twist. The emphasis should not be so much on how far you can twist, but on maintaining that tall straight spine. This will strengthen and stretch the rotator muscles in the spine so important for daily movement. Inhale, and as you exhale, return to center. Then, take the twist to the opposite side.
6 - Transition from Seat to Back
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Text Description: As you are coming out of the spinal twist, you are seated very tall. Inhale deeply, and bring your chin slowly toward your collarbone. As you exhale, engage the abdominals, and slowly, with control, roll down, one vertebrae at a time, until you are flat on your back on the mat. Relax in this position, and make sure your shoulders are down and relaxed, and not up by your ears. Bend your knees so you can place your feet flat on the floor.
7 - Half Curl
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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 - Half Curls with Arm Floats
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Text Description: 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. Remain in this position, inhale and take your straight arms up above your head, and bring them down as you exhale. Continue lifting and lowering your arms with your breath.
9 - Mini Bridge
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Text Description: 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.
10 - 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.
11 - One Legged Shoulder Bridge
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Text Description: When you lift up into that straight line as outlined in the Full Shoulder Bridge, plant your right foot and tighten the glutes on your right side. Inhale, and as you exhale, lift your left leg so your shin is parallel to the floor. Your hips are still up in the air. Inhale, and bring your foot back down as you exhale, while still keeping your hips lifted. Repeat by tightening your left glutes and raising your right leg. If you need to modify this, take a small break by bringing your hips to the ground before raising them again. Pay attention to your muscles, breath, and the proper alignment of your body.
12 - Hundreds
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Text Description: This is one of the main exercises commonly associated with Pilates. This is one of many variations. Lie on your back with your feet planted on the floor, and your knees not splayed. You are in the half curl position. Remember to keep your shoulders down and not hunched around your ears. Float your arms up and down as if you are quickly and gently patting water. Your hands should go up and down about an inch or two while you are breathing the ten sets of ten counts. Depending on your current level of fitness, you can have your legs in one of three positions: 1 Leave your legs as they are, with feet flat on the floor, and knees not splayed. 2 Bring your legs up to tabletop, first one and then the other. When you are in this position, your knees and hips are in a straight line, and your shins are parallel to the floor. Remember to keep your abdominals tucked into your spine while performing the exercise. 3 Extend both legs out in front of you so they are at a 45-degree angle to the ground.
13 - Roll Up
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Text Description: While on your back, take a nice, long, relaxing stretch. Reach your arms over your head, and dig your heels into the mat. Your legs are a bit wider than hip distance apart. You can keep your knees bent slightly. Inhale, and pull in your abdomen as you exhale. Lift your head and curl your body forward until you are in a seated position with your spine curled forward. Inhale so you can feel the stretch in your spine. As you exhale, roll back down slowly and with control.
14 - Watchdog
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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. Tightening your abdominals may help stop any shakiness. Also, if this is too difficult, you can first do one arm or one leg at a time. This is the Watchdog exercise that was done in Pilates Mat Level One. To increase the challenge for Level Two, bring your right arm out to the right side while bringing your left leg out to the left side. Be sure that your arms and legs do not droop. Once you have done this, switch sides, and bring your left arm out to the left side, and your right leg to the right side.
15 - Advanced 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. It is important to take care of yourself throughout the entire process. 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. To bring this to the next level, inhale and bring your right leg up, keeping that straight line in your back, hips, and thigh. Your right foot is bent so the bottom of your foot is pointed toward the ceiling. Exhale as you bring the leg back down, but keep your knees floating above the mat and hips up. Inhale to prepare, and bring the left leg up so the sole is parallel to the ceiling. Exhale to come back down, and bring both knees back down to the ground. If this is too challenging, do the basic knee floats, minus the leg lifts.
16 - Half Swan
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Text Description: This is also called an upper body lift or a back extension. 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. 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. You want to feel the majority of this contraction in your back.
17 - Superman Variation
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Text Description: This is a slightly different take on a fairly common exercise. It is called Superman because it describes the classic in-flight position of the superhero. This position is a very straight line, and this exercise will vary that slightly. Lie on your stomach, much as you did for the Half Swan. As before, your forehead is on the mat, and your toes are pointed toward the outsides of the mat. Your pubic bone is ground into the mat, and your tailbone is tucked in. This time, your arms are down at your sides, and your palms are facing up. Pull your shoulder blades in and down, away from your ears. Inhale, and as you exhale, roll your palms in toward your thighs, and lift your head, neck, and shoulders off the mat. Inhale to hold, and relax back down to the mat and let your palms fall back open as you exhale.
18 - 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.
19 - Book
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Text Description: This is called The Book, to describe the motion of opening a book. Lie on your right side, with your head resting on your arm. Your head, shoulders, and hips should be lined up with the edge of the mat. Bend your knees so they form a 90-degree angle. Keep this position as you lift the top leg, much like the opening of a book. Stabilize yourself by resting your left hand in front of your heart. Then, continue lifting and lowering your leg with your breath.
20 - Clam
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Text Description: You will start in the same pose you used for the Book, ensuring that your shoulder and hip are in line. Remember to keep your waistline engaged to keep strengthening the abdominals. As before, use your left hand in front of your heart to stabilize yourself. Instead of lifting your entire leg, imagine that your ankles are attached, and lift and lower only the knee. Continue lifting and lowering your knee with your breath.
21 - Side Kick
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Text Description: Lie on your side as you have been doing. Place your palm in front of your heart to stabilize. Straighten your legs to a 45-degree angle, so your feet are pointing toward the opposite corner of the mat. Lift your top leg, flex your foot, and kick in the direction of your head. The important thing is not the size of the kick, but that you keep your core engaged. Kick forward in small pulses. Point your foot, and bring it back so you are kicking behind the line of your hips. Flex and kick forward again, then back. This movement may be very small at first. Stop the movement when you cannot maintain your stability.
22 - Partial Banana
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Text Description: You are still on your side, and all your joints should be in a straight line along your mat. Pull in your waist and keep your core engaged as you have been doing. As before, use the hand on your top arm to stabilize your body by placing it on the mat in front of your heart. Inhale, point your toes, and squeeze your legs together. As you exhale, lift both legs off the mat. You may not be able to lift very far, but the idea of engaging muscles is most important.
23 - Banana
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Text Description: This exercise adds another level of complexity, as it involves your upper body as well. If you are unable to do this, do the Partial Banana until you can. As you lift your legs, lift your upper body to form that crescent or banana shape. Even if you move very little or none at all, contracting the muscles is very important.
24 - Final Thoughts
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Text Description: Congratulations, you made it! When you get to the place where you can do all the exercises, along with the correct breathing, you will be sure to see the benefits! Thank you for purchasing this workout. Please either use the contact form at www.BlindAlive.com or email us at support@BlindAlive.com if we can help.