This article was originally published on April 24, 2017.
Stress and tension can cause muscle tightness and shallow breathing, among many other health ailments. Burning our last bit of energy with a high-intensity workout when we’re stressed isn’t the best idea. On those days, you should do something that can bring your body to a healthy relaxed state of being. Pilates is notorious for restoring balance in the body. At a less physically intense level, restorative Pilates moves are done slowly so that you can make conscious, smooth transitions between muscle stretching and contraction. Using your breath properly during these exercises will help with relaxation, release, and circulation. Try these five restorative Pilates moves at the end of a hectic day. There are no set reps in this routine. Do what feels best for your body on that day.
1. Spine Massage– Sit upright with your legs bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your hands behind the back of your thighs for support. Take a deep breath in. Exhale as you flex your feet and as your round your back by pulling your belly button into your spine. Your arms will straighten as you lean back to create more of a C curve. Drop your chin to your chest and feel the stretch in between your shoulder blades. Slowly move through your core as you inhale to reverse the movement. Place the soles of your feet back down, and use the resistance in your hands to lift your chest up to the ceiling, lengthening the back and gently arching the spine. Be careful not to crunch your lower back or the back of your neck. You should feel a stretch along the entire anterior side of your torso. Exhale to go back to the C curve and repeat.
2. Windshield Wiper Twists– Lie down on your back and pull your knees into a table top position. Pull your navel into your spine so that all parts of your back are supported by the floor. Keep your shins parallel to the ceiling. You may keep your arms straight out to the sides or encourage opening of the chest with cactus arms (as demonstrated). Use your abs to slowly lower your knees to one side of your body. Once you have reached your maximum twist position, without letting the opposite shoulder come off the ground, stay there for several breaths. Encourage the release in the lower back by letting gravity pull your knees down more with each exhale. On an exhale, use your abs to bring the legs back up to the center and repeat on the other side.
3. Press Up/Neck Roll– Lie on your stomach with your legs hip distance apart. Place your hands on the ground by your head. The farther up you place your hands, the less intense the stretch will be. Inhale as you straighten your arms and you press your upper body up off the ground. Continue to press your pelvis into the floor. Pull the abs in to lengthen the spine rather than crunching your lower back. Turn your head to one side and exhale as you do a slow neck roll to the other side. Inhale when your head is facing the other side and exhale to reverse the neck roll. Allow gravity to stretch the back of your neck while the front of your body is stretching.
4. Mermaid– Sit on one hip with your legs bent and stacked. If you have any knee problems, you may stagger the legs. Hold onto your ankles and bring the opposite arm up as you inhale. Exhale as you lean all the way over towards your legs to stretch your side body. Pull yourself towards the ground with the arm on your ankles for a deeper stretch. Inhale to come up again, placing the hand on the ground. Exhale as you lift the hand that was on your ankle and reach through the space between your hips and the hand on the ground. Your shoulder blades will be spread apart. Creepy crawl your fingers on the floor away from you to encourage a deeper stretch in the upper back. Make sure you breathe out all the air in your lungs for a cleansing twist.
5. Roll Over– Do not do if you have any neck issues. Lie down on the ground with your legs straight and hands by your side. Inhale as you use your abs to bring your legs over your head. If you can, touch your toes to the ground. Exhale as you slowly bend the knees to the sides of your head, keeping the hips high in the air. This will stretch the neck even more. Stay in this position for a few breaths and then straighten your legs on an inhale. Hold onto the backs of your ankles or calves as you roll back down one vertebra at a time while you exhale. Keep your legs straight and pull them as close to your face as possible to stretch the hamstrings. Lower your legs down to 45 degrees and use your abs to roll back over and repeat.
Rather than continue the stressful fast pace of life with a quick workout, take a moment to slow down with these restorative moves. Your body and mind will thank you.
Also by Crystal: 4 Tension-Busting Hip Flexor Stretches You Need In Your Life
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Video: Crystal Chin; Music: “Human” by Aquilo