Cooling down after a workout is as important as your warmup and will help you transition from the workout to the next part of your day. At the end of your Pilates class, your instructor will take you through targeted cool-down exercises to help ease tension and release toxins that may have built up during your workout.
Neck and Spine
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To stretch your neck, slowly twist it left to right and then up and down, like you’re shaking your head yes and no. You can also rotate your head in a circle, first clockwise and then counterclockwise. To stretch and lengthen your spine, ease into a seated forward bend, keeping your spine straight as you reach for your toes and then releasing into the fold. Hold your feet for 20 seconds before releasing. You can deepen this stretch by sinking further into it with each inhalation. Spend one or two minutes stretching your neck and spine before moving to other parts of your body.
Lower Back, Chest and Shoulders
The Pilates counterpart to the yogic Cat pose is the Cat stretch. This stretch can help relax your lower back, open your chest and ease tension in your shoulders. This stretch requires you to be on your hands and knees. Once you’re in position, slowly arch your back until your body looks like an upside-down U. Hold this stretch for 10 seconds before releasing your back and abs back to your starting position.
Perform a gentle stretch to relax your glutes. Bring your knees to your chest, wrap both arms around your knees and slowly rock side to side. This stretch also eases tension in your lower back. Another stretch to try is a simple twist. With both legs extended, bend your right leg at the knee, hook this foot behind your left knee and slowly bend this leg to the left until it touches the ground. Hold for 20 seconds, or the length of one inhalation and one exhalation, before returning to your starting position and repeating on the other side of your body.
A more active stretch to release tension in your hips and open your hip flexors, the reclined hip stretch begins with you lying on your back. Bend your legs at the knee, plant your feet firmly on the floor, and then lift your right leg and cross it over your left thigh. Reach one arm above your crossed leg and one arm through the space between your legs, linking hands around your crossed leg. Slowly pull this leg toward you, releasing your left foot so your left leg lifts too. Hold this leg as close to your chest as you can for 20 seconds before resetting and repeating with your left leg.
- The Mayo Clinic: Pilates for Beginners
- Basic Pilates Joint Exercise: Pilates Cat Stretch
- The American Council on Exercise: Pilates Primer
- Idea Health and Fitness Association: Pilates-Inspired Cool-Down Moves
- American Council on Exercise: Are the Warm-up and Cool-Down Portions of a Workout Really That Important?
William Henderson has been writing for newspapers, magazines and journals for more than 15 years. He served as editor of the "New England Blade" and is a former contributor to "The Advocate." His work has also appeared on The Good Men Project, Life By Me and The Huffington Post.