Stretch your way to freedom

Posted by Marjolein Brugman on Saturday, May 20, 2017
Stretching has long been considered the panacea for a tight, tired and lackluster body. If you have taken a yoga class you no doubt understand how much more fluid and energized your body feels because all your muscles are elongated and your joints feel open and free. In most traditional exercise strength training programs the stretching component is considered essential but is often omitted.
Aeropilates magically incorporates stretching within the workout to efficiently strengthen and elongate at the same time. For example in Hug a Tree your chest is opening as you extend your arms and strengthening as you pull forward.  There are also many exercises that can be done to target specific stiffness in your arms, legs and back.
Begin by simply lying on your reformer noticing the position of your head, neck elongated on the head rest; your shoulders evenly placed against the pads and your feet centered on the foot bar.
The following exercises specifically target muscles that typically get tight.
Knee Rolls
Gently roll both knees to the right while turning your head to look left. Feel the muscles in your lower back relax as your knees drop even further towards the floor. Carefully roll back to the center. 
Inhale as you reposition your body before you roll both knees to the left turning your head to the right. Exhale and allow your lower back to relax as your knees drop gently down towards the floor.  Inhale and return to the center.
Stretch is a slow continuous movement with a focus on breathing into where you feel tightness and exhaling to relax those muscles. There is no jerkiness nor the need to pull.  
Place your feet in the straps for Leg Lowers.
Starting at 45 degrees, begin to lift your legs to 90.
Inhale as you pull your navel towards your spine and push both legs away, exhale as you lift allowing the reformer to help with the stretching of your hamstrings and lower back. Repeat these movements feeling your lower back lengthen while keeping your tailbone on the platform.
Spine Stretch
Flatten the headrest and with both feet in the straps lift your legs allowing the reformer to bring you up into a shoulder stand. Bend your knees into frog, lower your back one vertebra at a time feeling your whole back lengthen and open until your tailbone is back on the platform. Exhale and push both feet out to 45 degrees.
Stand on the platform with both heels against the shoulder pads and hands on the bar to prepare for the Elephant.  Exhale as you bend at the waist, hollow up your abdominal cavity to increase the curve in your lower back. Inhale and push back evenly with your heels until you feel your hamstrings stretch, exhale and pull both feet forward while lifting your tailbone in the air. Repeat these movements concentrating on more stretch in the hamstrings as you push away and more in the lower back as you pull forward.
Eve’s Lunge
Place the right knee on the platform, hands on the bar, your left foot on the floor and knee bent so that your leg is at right angles. Inhale and push the platform away lowering your hips to the floor. Exhale and allow your hips to sink feeling the stretch in the front of your right hip flexor.
Inhale and return to the start. Repeat the movements feeling the stretch increase a little each time you push the platform away. On the last lunge bring your right arm out to the side and bend up and over twisting your whole body slightly forward to increase the stretch in your Psoas. Come back to center and further stretch your hamstrings and calves exhale by straightening the standing leg.
Church Stretch 
Crouch on the platform with your elbows on the bar, hands clasped together.
Lower your head under the bar and feel the stretch in your triceps and shoulders. As you exhale drop the head even further feeling your whole chest and upper back release. 
Down Stretch 
Kneel on the platform with your hands on the bar. Lower your body into a long plank from head to knees. Inhale and push the platform back. Exhale as you allow your hips to lower slightly increasing the stretch in your hip flexors and the extension in your lower back.
Monkey Stretch
Sit on the platform with your bottom in the middle and both feet on the foot bar, in the center and parallel and place both hands on the foot bar outside of the feet, reaching forward. Your back is curved forward.
Inhale and gently push your feet away from the bar to straighten your legs as you reach forward continually holding onto the bar. Feel your hamstrings and back lengthen.Straighten as far as you can then bend your knees and return the platform. Inhale and exhale as you repeat the same movement this time trying to straighten the legs a little further. Repeat this stretch 5 times.
Upper Back Stretch
Sit on the platform with your bottom in the middle and both feet on the foot bar, in the center and parallel and place both hands on the foot bar outside of the feet, reaching forward. Your back is curved forward.
Inhale and gently push your feet away from the bar, attempting to straighten your legs as you reach forward continually holding onto the bar. Straighten as far as you can then exhale and pull on the bar with both hands feeling the stretch in your upper back as you pull your upper back backwards. Inhale and relax, exhale and pull on the bar with your hands further stretching your upper back. Repeat these 5 times then bend your knees and return the platform. 
Piriformis Stretch
Sit on the platform with your bottom in the middle and your right foot on the foot bar, in the center and parallel. Straighten your right leg, bend your left leg and place your left foot on your right knee.  
Place both hands on the shoulder pads behind you.
Inhale and gently bend your right leg allowing the platform to begin to return. As your right leg bends and the platform comes in exhale and feel the stretch in your left buttock. Inhale and straighten the right leg, exhale and bend the knee to feel more of a stretch in the left buttock. You may enhance the stretch by using your left hand to push gently on your left knee. Repeat this 5 times on each side.
We are offering you two ways to get our Free AeroPilates Stretching Sequence & Exercise System. First, you can Become a member now and download it from your member page.


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