Pilates mat work is a great way to start your ultimate Pilates experience. However, at the same time, this is so far the hardest of all the Pilates exercises to master. The main reason for this is the fact that in Pilates mat work, there are no tricks and no gadgets. You will only be using your mind and your body. Basically, Pilates mat work involves a series of exercises designed to realign and strengthen the body. It pays a lot of concentration on your abdominal muscles or the so-called “core”. And, typically your first class might concentrate on breathing and posture and gradually move into Pilates mat work exercises.
There are originally 44 exercises that fall under Pilates mat work. These exercises are based on six principles: centring, concentration, control, precision, breathing and flowing movement. Also, all of the exercises are done in a sitting or reclining position to take advantage of the more normal position of the visceral organs of the body.
Here are few of the exercises covered by Pilates mat work:
- The Hundred – This Pilates mat method exercise is about trunk flexion initiating from cervical region. You will be asked to lie on back, extend legs in the air in line with hips, knees as straight as possible, and feet relaxed. Place arms alongside body with palms down a few inches off floor. Lift head, neck and shoulder blades off the floor and maintain such position. Pump arms up and down toward floor without touching and without moving your torso or legs. Inhale and exhale for five counts.
- Rolling Like a Ball – Sit on the mat with knees bent, legs together, forearms on lower legs and point toes. Lift toes a few inches off floor. Balance and breathe deeply several times. Then, roll back onto shoulders and roll up to starting position.
- Leg Circles – This Pilates mat method exercise is for hip rotation. Lie on back with right leg straight on floor and left leg extended straight up to 90 degrees to hip. Arms lengthened at sides, palms and shoulders down. Contract abdominals to bring entire back in contact with floor. Inhale and exhale slowly and rotate the left leg with pointed toes counterclockwise. Keep the circle controlled and keep abdominals pulled in. Repeat five times and reverse direction of circles.
- Swimming – This is a Pilates mat method exercise for spine extension. Just position prone with arms straight above head, legs extended apart, tops of feet on the floor. Keep shoulder blades down and together. Inhale and exhale, drawing abdominals in and up to stabilize torso. Lift the right arm, left leg, head, neck and chest. Alternate lifting each arm and the opposite leg. Repeat 10 to 80 breaths. Sit back on heels with upper body and head lowered to floor and arms stretched forward.
- The Saw – To do this Pilates mat method exercise, sit with legs out in a V, feet flexed, and toes pointed toward ceiling. Extend arms out to sides at shoulder level. Lift sternum, elongate spine, and drop shoulders. Rotate to face right leg, crossing the left arm to right foot. Then, contract the abdominals and flex at hip brining torso toward knee. Alternate between left and right sides. Repeat five times and remain body lifted until the rotation is complete.
There are other exercises involved in Pilates mat work, but generally they are classified according to their complexities. What I have mentioned above are just few of the most intricate movements involved in Pilates mat work.