3 Pilates Moves for Flexibility

Practice these poses for a strong and limber physique

Photo: Woman stretching on yoga mat

Yoga may get the love, but its sister sport pilates is all kinds of good. These flexibility-boosting exercises stretch your legs, lengthen the spine to improve posture, and strengthen back and abdominal muscles, says Viktoria Pesak, pilates & yoga trainer at Your-Movement Wellness Center in Manhattan, New York.

More Pilates Perks

Relieves stress
Pilates requires focus. Tuning in to how you move and breathe could take the mind off outside stressors, Pesak says. “Pilates teaches you to control your whole body, making you more mindful of your movements on a daily basis.”

Reduces muscle pain
Pilates toughens your core, which takes strain off back and leg muscles and evenly distributes body weight, Pesak says. Bonus: It also works as a foundation for other types of exercise, such as running or tennis. Pilates has been shown to help women manage lower back pain.

Improves breathing
“You begin to train your body how to breathe properly and use this breath to your advantage: helping to build stamina, endurance, and increase your lung capacity. Suddenly, you can walk up five flights of stairs or run to catch the bus without losing your breath,” Pesak says.

Grab your mat and try these moves!

Rolling Like a Ball

Difficulty Level: Easy
You’ll work your abs, improve balance, and get a feel-good spinal massage, Pesak says.

Photo: Woman demonstrates Rolling Like a Ball exercise

1. Sit at the front of your mat and hug your knees into your chest. Open the knees to shoulder width and bring heels together with toes apart. Place hands at the ankles.

2. Lift toes 2” off the mat and bring your chin to your chest. Inhale and slowly roll back until the tips of the shoulder blades reach the mat. On your exhale, roll back up to sitting.

The Single Leg Circle

Difficulty Level: Intermediate
“Articulate, stretch, and strengthen your leg at the hip joint,” she says.

Photo: Woman demonstrates Single Leg Circle exercise

1. Lie flat on your back with arms at your side. Flex your left foot. Hug your right knee to your chest and lower it to the floor.

2. Lift your right leg toward the ceiling with toes pointed (press your spine evenly into the mat and relax the shoulder blades). Circle your right leg counterclockwise and back to center. Repeat 5-8 times, and reverse the circle for 5-8 reps.

3. Hug your right knee to the chest and lower it. Repeat the sequence on your left leg.

The Roll Up

Difficulty Level: Challenging
Stretch your hamstrings and ignite your core in one swift move.

Photo: Woman demonstrates The Roll Up exercise

1. Lie flat on your back with legs straight and feet flexed.

2. Inhale, lift your arms up to the celling, and bring your chin to your chest. On exhale: begin to roll up one vertebra at a time, and keep rolling until you stretch forward past your toes.

3. Inhale and reach a bit farther past your toes. Exhale and slowly roll back down to starting position. Repeat 3-7 times.