Pilates to go: stretch and release (part I)

Be it by plane, train, or automobile, traveling can leave your body feeling bound up and cranky. Here’s a few of our fave on-the-go stretches to get you through those tight times.  Part II, with more tips & techniques, coming soon!

What you’ll need:

Yoga strap or Thera-band
Small rubber ball
Yoga block
Room to stretch

Exercise #1: Cat-Cow

Target: Tight back, neck, shoulder & abdominal muscles

Set Up:

  • Position yourself in a quadruped position, on hands and knees, with hands under shoulders and knees under hips.
  • Maintain a neutral pelvis.

Move:

  • Inhale: Connect with your abdominals.
  • Exhale: Contract your abdominals, rounding your back, articulating from your lumbar line to the crown of your head.
  • Inhale: Expand your ribcage, slide your shoulders away from your ears, and slowly extend your back, articulating from the crown of your head to the lumbar spine.

Repeat 6-8 times.

Modify:

  • Reverse the direction of your spinal articulation (e.g. start from the crown of the head to round the spine).

Tip

  • Be careful not to overextend the back or neck in the second-half of the exercise.

Exercise #2 : Happy Cow

Target: Tight back & abdominal muscles

Set Up:

  • Position yourself in a quadruped position, on hands and knees, with hands under shoulders and knees under hips.
  • Maintain a neutral pelvis.

Move:

  • Inhale: Connect with your abdominals.
  • Exhale: Contract the abdominals and round your back, articulating from your lumbar to the crown of your head.
  • Inhale: Begin to circle your hips and head, articulating your spine into a neutral position, side-bended to the right.
  • Exhale: Continue to circle your hips and head articulating through extension to complete the circle, side-bend to the left, and return to start position.

Repeat 6-8 times.

Modify:

  • Reverse the rotation of the spine through round back, side bend and extension.

Exercise # 3: Knee Stirs

Target: Tight back and hip flexor muscles

Set Up:

  • Lay on your back knees bent, arms resting by your sides

Move:

  • Inhale: Connect with your abdominals.
  • Exhale: Gently tilt your pelvis posteriorly, bring one knee toward your chest, and then by the other.
  • Inhale: Gently grasp on to front of your knees.
  • Keep breathing: Circle your knees in opposite directions.

Continue for 4-6 rotations, and then switch directions.

Exercise # 4: Hamstring Stretch

Prop: Yoga strap or flex-band

Target: Tight hamstrings

Set Up:

  • Lay on your back, knees bent.
  • Wrap a yoga strap around the ball of one foot.
  • Maintain a neutral spine.

Move:

  • Inhale: Connect with your abdominals.
  • Exhale: Using the strap for support, straighten one leg and reach it toward the ceiling.
  • Inhale: Lower your leg toward the floor.
  • Exhale: Lift the leg toward the ceiling (stabilizing your pelvis in neutral).
  • Hold stretch for 10-15 seconds, repeat 2-4 times, and switch sides.

Modify:

  • Straighten the non-stretching leg if flexibility allows.
  • Turn out leg that your are stretching.
  • Turn in leg that you are stretching.
  • Bend and straighten leg that you are stretching.

Exercise # 5: Adductor Stretch

Prop: Yoga strap or flex-band

Target: Tight inner thigh muscles

Set Up:

  • Lay on your back, knees bent.
  • Wrap a yoga strap around the ball of one foot.
  • Maintain a neutral spine.

Move:

  • Inhale: Connect with your abdominals.
  • Exhale: Using the strap for support, straighten one leg and reach it toward the ceiling.
  • Inhale: Slowly lower stretching leg to the side (away from stabilizing leg), using strap for support.
  • Exhale: Continue to stretch leg (stabilizing pelvis in neutral).
  • Hold stretch for 10-15 seconds, repeat 2-4 times, and switch sides.

Modify:

  • Straighten the non-stretching leg if flexibility allows.

Tip:

  • Make sure pelvis does not rotate when stretching leg away from your body.

**See Exercise #6 for video instruction**

Exercise # 6: Abductor/IT Band stretch

Prop: Yoga strap or flex-band

Target: Tight outer thigh muscles & IT band

Set Up:

  • Lay on your back, knees bent.
  • Wrap a yoga strap around the ball of one foot.
  • Maintain a neutral spine.

Move:

  • Inhale: Connect with your abdominals.
  • Exhale: Using the strap for support, straighten one leg and reach it toward the ceiling.
  • Inhale: Take leg across the body (toward stabilizing leg).
  • Exhale: Continue to stretch leg (stabilizing pelvis in neutral).
  • Hold stretch for 10-15 seconds, repeat 2-4 times, and switch sides.

Modify:

  • Straighten the non-stretching leg if flexibility allows.

Tip:

  • Make sure pelvis does not rotate when stretching leg across your body.

Exercise # 7: Calf stretch

Prop: Yoga strap or flex-band

Target: Tight calf muscles

Set Up:

  • Lay on your back, knees bent.
  • Wrap a yoga strap around the ball of one foot.
  • Maintain a neutral spine.

Move:

  • Inhale: Connect with your abdominals.
  • Exhale: Using the strap for support, straighten one leg and reach it toward the ceiling.
  • Inhale: Flex your foot.
  • Exhale: Continue to stretch the calf ( stabilizing pelvis in neutral).
  • Inhale: Point the foot.
  • Hold each position for 10-15 seconds, repeat 2-4 times, and switch sides.

Modify:

  • Straighten the non-stretching leg if flexibility allows.

Tip:

  • To prevent the band from slipping off your foot and whacking you in the face (ouch!),  try wrapping it around your foot.

2 thoughts on “Pilates to go: stretch and release (part I)

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