Get Pilates Strong: The Double Leg Stretch

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Get Pilates Strong: Double Leg Stretch: Step 1

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If you've ever seen any of the Pilates equipment you would have noticed the powerful springs that provide the resistance you must work against. The quality of the springs is evident in each of the Pilates exercises as well. Even on the mat where there is no equipment required, the body is meant to mimic the activity of the heavy metal springs. The Double Leg Stretch is the perfect example of the body performing the way a spring would. There is extension and recoil. The muscles lengthen and retract. This pattern is repeated throughout the Pilates system in many other moves but here in this one exercise you can lay down the basis for many moves to follow.  Please note that this version is from Joe Pilates Return to Life book as it was originally intended. If you have a delicate back, this is a move you'll want to approach with discretion. For the normal healthy body, dive on in.

Begin on your back with your knees bent into your chest. The hands are on the ankles of each foot holding tight. Lift your head and bring it as close to your knees as you can by activating your abdominalsHug the knees in deeply to the body and inhale to begin.

Form: Keep the base of your shoulder blades on the mat. Don't come up higher or go down lower.

Timing: This is a dynamic exercise powered by the breath and the idea of a spring moving in and out. Don't linger too long on this start position. Get in and out briskly.

Focus: Pull the abdominals in deep so they hollow away from the thighs.

Tips and Tricks: Keep the feet pressing together although the knees can come apart to make room for your head. If you want to work more strength and stability, keep the hips and pelvis anchored to the mat in Steps 1 and 2. If you want to work more back mobility with a bit of a variation, hug your ankles in tight and allow the hips to curl up towards you. Bring the head in even tighter to the knees. 

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Get Pilates Strong: The Double Leg Stretch: Step 2

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Exhale and reach the arms forward alongside the hips at the same time you extend the legs forward to 45 degrees. Do not move your torso. Stretch the limbs strongly as though you were being lengthened forward. The abdominals pull in the other direction, inward and upward away from the limbs to anchor the body. With control, smoothly pull the arms and legs back in to return the legs back in to the start position, knees to chest. Repeat 5 more times.

Form: Your torso from head to tail does not move as the limbs work in and out. Apart from the abdominals drawing inward, you remain stock-still.

Timing: Keep the rhythm of the breath propelling you inward and outward.

Focus: Concentrate on drawing out the breath. Then time the moves to the breath cycle.  If you can breathe longer breaths you can challenge yourself at a higher level.

Tips and Tricks: If it's too tough with legs at 45, bring them higher. If you feel neck strain, you may not be using your abdominals enough. Focus on curling up higher and bringing the weight of the head forward.

The Double Leg Stretch is a move you want to know well. It will teach you to work your body like a spring. In addition, it will improve dozens of other moves in your Pilates practice and in your everyday life. 

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