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Pilates and Digestion

Updated: May 28, 2022

The holiday season, full of Christmas celebrations and New Year’s parties, often centring around food, can leave us feeling bloated and sluggish. The average British person consumes over 6,000 calories on Christmas day alone, which is over 3 times the daily recommended amount for women. The struggle to regain a balance and feel lively again is real for many of us.

Any exercise can be beneficial in getting the metabolism going, but Pilates is especially effective for easing digestive issues because of the way many of the exercises focus on stretching and lengthening the core area. Along with deep breathing these Pilates movements can help massage and stimulate the digestive organs, get things moving and help shift stale air/gas out (those embarrassing moments in a class are actually a good sign).

There is also some benefit from the mind body focus of Pilates in triggering the parasympathetic nervous system, our so called rest and digest system. This can help with conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) which is often triggered by stress.

Try these 5 simple Pilates exercises to help keep your digestive system on track and start the new year well.

Hip Rolls

These are a favourite of mine because they are so good for us in many ways including stretching and mobilising the lower back whilst strengthening our back body. However, here we are focused on how rolling through the core to raise the hips gently mobilises our abdominal organs.

Lie on your back with your arms resting long by your side, knees bent and feet flat on the floor, just beyond your sit bones. Initiate the movement by tipping the pelvis in towards the rib cage using the abdominal muscles, when you can roll in no further by just using the abdominals start to push through the feet to raise the hips high, reaching your tailbone towards the back of the knees. Take a deep breath in at the top of the bridge position and then slowly exhale whilst rolling back down to the start position.

Repeat 5 times.

Seated twist

Sit with your spine as upright as possible reaching the crown of your head to the ceiling (you can sit on a chair or on the floor with your legs crisscrossed or long in front of you, the important thing is to sit tall). Take your arms out into a ‘T’ now rotate to the right for a count of 3 exhaling, inhale back to center, sit tall and then exhale twisting to the left. I imagine my core area like a dishcloth that is getting wrung out as I twist, expelling as much air from the lungs as possible whilst rotating the torso as much as I can, massaging the internal organs.

Repeat 3-5 times in each direction.

Single leg stretch

Lie on your back, flex up with the upper body and pull the right knee into your chest with your hands on the shin, reach the left leg long and hover it above the mat. Inhale deeply to prepare, then exhale as you switch legs, reaching the right leg long and pulling the left knee into the chest. Pulling one knee into your chest whilst the other leg is long helps to massage and stretch the abdominal organs and muscles.

Repeat 8-10 times each side.

Oblique twists

Lie on your back, interlock your hands behind your head and bring both legs to a table top position. Now reach the right leg long whilst flexing up and over with the upper body to rotate the right shoulder towards the bent left knee (keep supporting the head but do not pull on the head). Inhale back to center, exhale extend the left leg and reach the left shoulder up and over towards the right knee.

Repeat 8-10 to each side.

Breast stroke prep / Swan

Lie on your stomach, elbows bent, forearms on the mat and legs reaching long behind you. Press your pubic bone into the mat, now imagine there is an ice cube underneath your belly button you are trying to draw your stomach up and away from. Lift your upper body up away from the mat, drawing your shoulder blades down and back.. Stay on your forearms for a breaststroke prep position or rise up onto the hands for a bigger swan exercise. Try to focus on your back muscles to lift you away from the mat, more than your arms, they are just there for support not to push into. This move gives the stomach a natural massage.

Rise up away from the mat and lengthen back down to the mat 5 times.

Try and do these exercises a few times a week or even daily if possible. Take a few minutes to move at the start of your day before you eat breakfast or at the end of your day, at least an hour after you have eaten. They are easy and quick to do, no equipment is needed, you just have to build in the habit of doing them!

A final note for this month to say a big THANK YOU for reading this article and I hope you have enjoyed reading previous blogs throughout 2021. I wish you all the very best for 2022. I hope that we may finally move beyond the Covid pandemic and have a year full of health and happiness!

Please do e-mail or add to the comments any feedback on the articles or ideas for topics you would like to see covered in 2022:

Karen x


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