Health and wellbeing has become even more important as people work longer hours in sometimes more stressful jobs. Making the most of leisure time is paramount and fitness is a key contributor.

This year we will look at current Pilates exercises and their origins.

The first exercise in his book is ‘The Hundred”.

Here is Joseph Pilates demonstrating The Hundred. This version is for a strong, well-connected and centred body.

To achieve this level of control we gradually progress from a simpler exercise to develop the correct patterns in the body.

Each progression in the exercise must only be done when you are feeling strong and capable. You will get there, just don’t rush it.  Never repeat the exercise more than the prescribed number of times. Joseph Pilates said “ Patience and Persistence are vital qualities in the ultimate successful accomplishment of any worthwhile endeavor.”

To prepare start with lying on the mat, knees bent, feet hip width apart, one hand behind the head for support, one arm extended forward just above hip height, engage the pelvic floor and abdominal muscles to raise shoulders off the floor into a chest lift position.

Pulse the straight arm in small up and down movements for 5 slow exhales followed by 5 slow inhales.

Now, bring the other arm down to the side and join in the pulse movement.  Try that for 20 pulses gradually building up to no more than 100 pulses. Do this over several days.

Next, extend the legs straight along the floor, gently pressing into the floor for stability. Start as before in chest lift but this time with both arms extended.

Take care here, if you start to feel pressure in the lower back you could bring your legs into a 90/90 position. Engaging pelvic floor and abdominal muscles is really important.

Alternatively, rest your feet on a small box or a ball. The ball will make you work harder to stabilize your legs.

Once you are achieving 100 pulses with straight legs on the box/ball, you could try hovering your feet off the box/ball for 20 pulses and then back on for 20 pulses. Increase the number of pulses with your feet hovering.

Things to watch out for when you are not doing this exercise under supervision:

  • Sore neck – support with one hand until you are stronger abdominally, or lie back and pulse arms beside you with the breathing
  • Sore back – bring feet back onto floor or into 90/90 position
  • Arms tiring – make the pulse from the shoulders and keep them small

What will you feel:

  • Warmth everywhere in your body
  • Very lively as you will have done lots of lovely deep breathing
  • A sense of satisfaction as you learn to master the iconic Pilates exercise, The Hundred!