3b-singlelegstretch-finishThis week, I’ll continue this series by starting the traditional “ab series.” I find the name a bit ironic since all of Pilates is focused on your core! The first exercise in this series in the Single-Leg Stretch, which transitions from Rolling Like a Ball in the classical mat sequence, but can also be flowed into from a table top position, laying on your back.

On an inhale, curl the head and shoulders off the mat, gaze toward the navel, neck long and chest open, shoulders down the back. For beginners, you can keep your head on the mat if needed.

One leg remains bent in toward the chest, with one hand will be on the outside of the ankle and one on the inside of the knee (or shin for either hand). The other leg reaches out long, hovering off the floor at an angle that allows the back to remain flat against the floor. For some, this may be close to 90-degrees — feet pointed to the ceiling.

Inhale, drawing the navel in deep to the spine, and exhale switching legs. The toes stay pointed and extended leg reaches toward the midline of the body, trying to touch the toes to the same spot each time.

Several breathing patterns are taught for this exercise. One is to inhale as the leg draws in, exhaling and then inhaling as the opposite leg draws in. Another is to inhale for both legs, then exhale for both.

The focus of the movement is on keeping the torso stable while moving the legs and engaging the core. Legs should remain lengthened, toes pointed, providing a good leg stretch.

Complete 6 reps for each leg, then lower your head with control. You can bend both knees to the chest and rock side to side or back and forth to release the back.