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Yasmin Karachiwala shows 5 pilates exercises for a kickass body

Sculpt and shapeweight-bearing exercises, cardio alone is not going to cut it as a way to look slim and toned. So, to help you out, here are 5 exercises from her book that you can try in the comfort of your home. All you need is an exercise mat. 

Warm Up

Everyone needs a short warm up before performing the Pilates repertoire. The following two exercises are recommended for everyone and should be performed before you begin your routine.

Exercise #1

Pelvic Curl Overall goal: Comprehensive leg and spine warm up.

Postural significance: Strengthens the gluteals and hamstrings along with deep intrinsic abdominals. Stretches the hip flexors (applicable to all postures).

Set-up: Lie face up with the knees bent and feet placed flat on the mat. Heels should be a hip-width distance apart. Arms should be by the side with the palms facing down. Pelvis should be in neutral position.

Inhale: Prepare for the movement and hold.

Exhale: Engage the abdominals and curl the pelvis under by pushing the lower back into the mat. Slowly roll the hips up lifting the lower back off the mat first, then the middle back, then the upper back.

Inhale: Prepare for the movement and hold.

Exhale: Slowly roll back down through the spine, placing one vertebra at a time down into the mat. Be sure to end in neutral position.

Notes: Keep the knees in parallel position. Don’t let the head or shoulders lift off the mat.

Repetitions: 10

Modification: For beginners or people with lower back pain, do not lift too high and move through a comfortable range of motion.

Advanced: Bring one leg up off the floor into a tabletop position with the knee over the hip and the lower leg parallel to the mat. Continue the exercise with one leg down and one leg up for 10 repetitions. Then switch legs with one foot on the mat, and the other leg in a tabletop position.

Exercise #2

Spine Twist Overall goal: Preparing the spine for rotation.

Postural significance: Strengthens deep intrinsic abdominals and obliques. Strengthens hip flexors. (Applicable for all postures.)

Set-up: Lie face up with the knees in a tabletop position, with the knees directly over the hips and the lower legs parallel to the mat. Place the arms out to the sides in a T position with the palms face down.

Inhale: Lower both legs to one side, keeping the knees glued together. Keep the opposite shoulder down on the mat. If your shoulder raises off the mat, then your legs have gone too far.

Exhale: Engage the abdominals and bring the knees back into the tabletop position.

Inhale: Repeat on the other side.

Exhale: Engage the abdominals and bring the knees back into the tabletop position.

Notes: Don’t let the top leg slide down from the bottom leg.

Repetitions: 10 on each side.

Modification: For beginners, keep the feet flat on the floor with the knees together and perform the exercise the same way.

Advanced: After lowering the legs to one side, extend the knees and straighten the legs. Hold this for a breath and then bring the legs back to the centre, and return the knees back to the tabletop position.

Hunchback-Posture Exercises

The following exercises are for clients with the hunchback posture. These are clients who have an excessive rounding forward of the upper spine. We recommend these exercises to everyone because they are important in counteracting the effects of our modern-day lifestyle, in which we are incessantly texting or hunched over a computer. This posture is most seen in people who sit in front of a computer for a living, or are constantly glued to their phones. (Please see page 34 onwards for a detailed description of all three postural deviations and risk factors.)

Please perform all seven of the exercises given below after you have completed your warm up.


Spine Stretch Forward Overall goal: Stretching the spine, strengthening the postural muscles and stretching the hamstrings.

Postural significance: Strengthens back extensors, strengthens deep intrinsic abdominals.

Set-up: Sit with the legs extended slightly wider than hip width distance. Flex the feet, bringing the toes towards the knees. Sit up tall on the sitz bones. Extend the arms out in front with the palms facing each other.

Inhale: Prepare for the movement and hold.

Exhale: Lower your chin to your chest and start to roll your spine down one vertebra at a time. Stretch the arms over the legs in front of you as if your arms are sliding on a table. Pretend that you are rounding over a small beach ball in front the abdominals.

Inhale: Prepare for the movement and hold.

Exhale: Engage the abdominals and begin to roll the spine back up, one vertebra at a time, until you reach your starting position.

Notes: Make sure the shoulders stay down and away from the ears.

Repetitions: 10

Modification: For tight hamstrings, bend the knees slightly or sit up on a yoga block to help straighten the legs. You can also perform this exercise up against a wall to feel the articulation of the spine against a flat surface for better results.

Advanced: After rounding forward, lengthen the spine into a flat-back, diagonal position and bring the arms up parallel to the ears. Round forward again and roll up into the starting position.

Exercise #4

Side Bend Overall goal: Strengthening the shoulders and obliques.

Postural significance: Strengthens obliques. Stretches latissimus dorsi.

Set-up: Sit facing one side with all your weight on one hip. Bend your knees slightly and place the top leg just slightly in front of the bottom leg. Place your bottom hand about six to twelve inches away from the hip, with the fingers facing away from the pelvis. Rest your top arm on your top leg.

Inhale: Lift your pelvis up off the floor and raise your top arm up towards the ceiling. Create a diagonal line with your body from the top of your head to your feet. You should have created a diagonal T shape of the body.

Exhale: Lift your pelvis up higher and bring your top arm overhead, creating a rainbow shape. Look down at your bottom hand.

Inhale: Release the rainbow shape and return to the diagonal line. Exhale: Bend your knees and lower back down into your starting position.

Notes: Make sure the shoulders stay down and away from the ears, especially the bottom shoulder.

Repetitions: 10

Modification: Keep your bottom leg bent with the knee on the floor beneath the hip. Keep the top leg straight out with the foot on the mat. This will reduce the pressure on the arms, shoulders and abs.

Advanced: When lowering, keep the legs straight and lower as much as possible without touching the mat, then repeat the exercise again without resting.

Exercise #5

Basic Back Extension Overall goal: Strengthening the back muscles.

Postural significance: Strengthens the mid/lower trapezius. Strengthens the posterior deltoids.

Set-up: Lie face down with your forehead on the mat. Legs should be hip-width distance apart. Arms are down by the sides with the palms facing the legs.

Inhale: Visualize you are rolling a marble away with your nose. Lift the head and chest slightly off the mat keeping your eyes looking at the front edge of the mat. Squeeze the shoulder blades together at the top.

Exhale: Lower back down on the mat.

Notes: Keep the abdominals engaged and pulled into the spine. Visualize that you are lifting from the middle of the back (thoracic spine or ‘lunch’ portion of the back).

Repetitions: 10

Modification: Lift the arms off the mat without lifting your head or chest. Squeeze the shoulder blades together at the top, then lower the arms back down.

Advanced: Lift your feet up off the mat at the same time as the upper body, and then lower everything back down onto the mat.

Sculpt and Shape, the Pilates way is authored by Yasmin Karachiwala and Zeena Dhalla. It has been  and published by Random House India. Click here to buy your copy.

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