Six Pilates Mat Exercises In the Morning End Joint & Back Stiffness
Here are six quick and easy exercises I use to end morning back pain and stiffness. I’ve been using them for decades and sharing them with my students with consistently effective results.
Easy to learn and I guarantee the instruction is clear and simple and not wordy just the way Joseph Pilates originally taught.
Several of these exercises are among the original 34 created by Joe Pilates almost 100 years ago!
Try them yourself!
I’ve always been intrigued by how effective Pilates is for back and joint pain, partly because nearly every physical therapist prescribes Pilates for back injury, but mostly because my passion for Pilates began when it saved me from back surgery!
Decades ago I seriously injured my back at work. I was facing surgery and who-knows how much pain medication. Even worse, I was facing the possibility of an abrupt end to a new and exciting dream-come-true – I’d just begun performing in a modern dance company!
A chance encounter with a strange lady changed everything! The ‘Pilates Elder’ Mary Bowen whom I’d never met, stopped me on the street and asked me to follow her to her studio for just a couple minutes! There she showed me strange exercises I’d never heard of called Pilates. And they were a miracle! I felt near-immediate back pain relief! Best of all I avoided surgery and soon returned to dancing with more strength, energy and confidence than ever before! So began a passion for Pilates and a teaching career that’s now celebrating 40 years!
BUT…anyone with a back problem knows it never goes away completely. I start each day with mild stiffness and pain from this injury, and now that I’m in my 60’s I also have a lot of baggage from an active body that’s getting older such as mild aches and pains from who knows where!
So I start my day with a these easy Pilates mat exercises that take less than five minutes and deliver tremendous relief. I feel young again and the rest of my day is pain-free…
Exercise #1 – ‘The 100’
I start off with one of the original mat exercises first created by Joe Pilates nearly 100 years ago! Most Pilates teachers start every class and every student with this it – ‘The 100.’ Joe suggested that we always use it to start a Pilates workout, because it warms up the body like nothing else.
My easy morning version is legs a bit bent instead of straight, and high off the ground instead of only inches. Pump your arms 100 times – don’t let 100 get you down! it goes quickly!
While I pump my arms I’m breathing deeply to get all that shallow sleep breathing out of my system and charge every cell of my body. I inhale for 4 pumps and exhale for 6 to reflect the natural pattern of breathing in which our exhale is slightly longer than our inhale. Check it out for yourself! But don’t bother with this pattern if it’s the slightest bit overwhelming. The important thing is just to breathe. Deep breaths cleanse the lungs and energize the body! Great way to start any day!
Fascinating thing about pumping the arms: research shows that it stimulates the lymph system like nothing else! Lymph is key to recovery from illness and injury, and preventing disease. An insurance company once did a study to find out which profession has the greatest longevity. They discovered that music conductors live the longest. Maybe it’s all that arm movement? Joe didn’t know about any of these studies since they occurred after his death, but he intuited the importance of it – just one example of why he’s the ‘Einstein of Fitness.’
Exercise #2 – ‘Leg Circles’
Next come ‘Leg Circles,’ but once again I do an easy version. As I circle each leg, both are comfortably bent instead of straight. 5 circles in one direction and 5 in the other. Slow and controlled.
What a marvelous Pilates principle – slow and controlled. It means I’m engaging my mind while I’m moving and not causing any wear and tear on my joints. Safe. Healthy. Body and mind. Brilliant!
This is just one of a number of fabulous Pilates principles, but hey it’s morning and I don’t want to think too much so let’s leave all the other principles for another time!