Beauty / Health

Save our sleep: three pilates exercises to calm the mind

Hannah Holman @ IMG wears RUNNING BARE bra and tights.

Daylight savings has arrived and while we’re excited for longer, balmy summer days, it can be challenging for your body to adjust to the time change. The main goal now is to reduce cortisol (the main stress hormone) levels in the body, for a deeper sleep. When your body is out of whack from lack of sleep or disrupted sleep patterns, there are certain movements you can do that will not only help get you back into an uninterrupted, consistent sleep routine, but can also help reduce cortisol levels, calm the mind, and the breath, increase body awareness, stretch out the muscles (after working eight plus hours a day our muscles are in stress from being in one position for so long), realign to create symmetry and a state of maximum relaxation in the body and harmonise your breathing pattern by using full capacity of the lungs.

Here are three Reformer Pilates movements – which can be modified to use with body weight and at home.

Shoulder stand stretching sequences

The movement
Legs in straps, supine on the carriage laying on your back, using your abdominals to help lift your legs up over shoulders. Legs split out wide to roll the spine back down onto the carriage and completing the movement with a leg circle.

The benefits
This helps to stretch the entire back of the body and improve spine and hip mobility. It’s a mindful movement, which stretches and adds length to your spinal extensors and hamstrings. A low intensity movement which aims to release tensions through the back, neck spine and hips.

Arabasque lunge

The movement
Your front foot will be on the floor next to the reformer, whilst the back foot is against the shoulder pad with the back leg held long and stable behind you at hip height, which helps open up the hip flexors. Hip flexibility is important for diaphragm movement and shoulder mobility.

The benefits
This is a low impact movement which actively strengthens your hamstrings and glutes, which subsequently, helps to improve knee & hip stability. Additionally, this movement adds harmony to the body as it provides unilateral strengthening patterns for better symmetry and body alignment as well as promoting flexibility of the hip flexor muscles which can restrict breathing and shoulder mobility if excessively tight.

4-point kneeling swimming

The movement
Choose a light weighted spring, place your hands on the rails and knees against the shoulder pads. Find your neutral spine by doing several cat / cow raises, walk your body up the rails. Holding the carriage suspended on the rails, breathe out as you lift a single leg out long behind you, to the height of your hips. Then inhale to place the leg back down and exhale to lift the other one. Focus on keeping your body stable, still and neutral, keeping a steady breathing pattern and staying mindful. Keep your shoulders down away from your ears.

The benefits
Promotes core strength and mindfulness as the movement is slow and controlled.

Aaron Smith is the founder and pilates expert at KX Pilates