There are many types of Pilates stretches, including warm up stretches done before exercising and cool down stretches done to relax the muscles after physical exercise. Leg stretches will typically target the hamstring or thigh muscles, while arm stretches will assist flexibility to joints at the shoulders and upper arms. Some Pilates stretches also incorporate more complex yoga stretches to combine benefits of the two.
Standing with the back against the wall while rolling the back downward is a type of Pilates stretch that can benefit the back. It is also meant to strengthen back muscles. This is a great posture-enhancing exercise as well. Extending both arms above the head, the spine is then slowly moved away from the wall.
A Pilates stretch for the spine is also a good exercise for the back as well as posture. Here the individual will sit on the floor, preferably on an exercise mat. Both arms will be drawn out in front of the individual, while deep breaths are taken. The spine will then curve slightly as the person exhales. This is often a starting stretch to loosen up and promote circulation before exercise.
Other Pilates stretches are done while sitting. Side stretching can be done by lifting one's arms over the head on one side of the body. There is also a type of stretch that targets the hips, and this is more complex.
Lying on the floor with knees slightly bent, as the person practices a form of relaxation breathing techniques is another type of stretching for Pilates and yoga. A series of several deep breaths done in succession will help the individual relax. This should be done on an exercise mat for better control and comfort.
A variation of the typical toe-touching stretch is another way to perform Pilates stretches. As the individual begins, both hands will touch flat against the floor, while leaning forward. This will improve circulation and flexibility of the lower back. If it is difficult to touch the floor, the individual may begin by touching her ankles. If necessary, bending the knees slightly while attempting to touch the toes is acceptable.
Warm up stretching for Pilates will generally increase circulation to various parts of the body. Warm up Pilates stretches will also warm the muscles before exercise, reducing the risk of injury. It is import to warm up prior to physical activity to avoid muscle strain and soreness later.
Just as essential is performing a few cool down stretches after an exercise routine. If the individual stops exercising abruptly without cooling down, the heart may be prone to an irregular rhythm. Cool down stretches will help the heart rate slowly decrease at a safe pace, while promoting relaxation.