By Ana Cabán • Edited by Amanda Altman
Over the past few years, like many others, I suffered a series of setbacks. After years of success in my fitness career, my personal life seemed to fall apart. Being an optimist, initially I just held my head up high and told myself that everything would be okay. (Some days it was, some days it wasn’t.) I simply operated in “survival mode,” focusing on what needed to get done as well as what I needed to do to provide for my son and to keep moving forward. However, somehow, while “surviving,” I forgot to take care of myself, and the first thing to go was my consistent practice.
It took me feeling depleted and defeated to finally get back into the Pilates studio. The minute I hit the mat for the first workout in ages—it had been about a year—I realized what was missing from my life: It was movement! You see, when I work out, not only does my body feel great, but my mind is invigorated and inspired. (In fact, that is when I get all of my great ideas—or “divine downloads” as I like to call them!)
We all know that Pilates is a mind/body modality, but what I have recently learned is that movement and mind-set really go hand in hand. The proof is in the pudding: Whenever I exercise, my mind clears and my mood improves, and I shift to a positive state of being. In fact, I often feel invincible after a workout. And as Uncle Joe Pilates once wrote, “Change happens through movement and movement heals.” It has certainly helped to heal me.
I created this flowing workout to arm you with a tool you can use when you’re feeling like things are too much, and you don’t really have time to exercise. The beauty of it is that all you need are a few minutes and a mat. Find a place to lie down, and let’s get moving!
Breath: Breathe naturally unless otherwise indicated.
• It doesn’t take long to connect your mind and body. This express workout is quick enough to perform every day, or do it whenever you need to center your mind and body.
• Be mindful of your movements, and as my mentor Romana Kryzanowska used to say, “Make every movement count!”
• Set an intention for your workout and have fun!
The Hundred with Varied Breath
Purpose: promotes circulation; improves coordination of movement and breath; centers and connects the body to the powerhouse
Setup: Lie on your back with your legs long and together and toes pointed. Place your arms by your sides.
1. Engage your powerhouse, and then curl your head, neck and shoulders up as you lift your legs to an angle that’s both sustainable and challenging.
2. Reach your arms long and begin pumping. Inhale for 5 pumps, and then exhale for 5 pumps. Do 5 sets.
3. Continue pumping, inhaling for 4 pumps and exhaling for 6 pumps.
4. Inhale for 3 pumps, and then exhale for 7.
5. Inhale for 2 pumps, and then exhale for 8.
6. Inhale for 1 pump, and then exhale for 9.
Tip: Keep your entire back on the mat.
Modification: If your lower back is a concern, bend your knees into your chest and work with your legs in tabletop throughout.
Purpose: works on spinal articulation; increases flexibility of the back body; strengthens the powerhouse
Setup: Lie on your back with your legs long and feet in PIlates stance (heels together, toes apart). Extend your arms toward the ceiling.
1. Lift your head, neck and shoulders as you scoop your abdominals and curl up and over your legs, keeping your arms at shoulder level.
2. Reach forward and stretch while scooping your abdominals.
3. Roll down one vertebra at a time, articulating your spine as you float your arms back and then up to the starting position. Do 3 more reps.
4. On the last rep, scoop your abdominals and curl up and over your legs, and then grab your right ankle; keeping your leg straight, bring it with you as you roll down to the tips of your shoulder blades to transition to Single-Straight-Leg Stretch.
Tip: Remember to stay perched on your bottom.
Modification: If your back is feeling cranky, do this with your knees bent and feet flat on the mat.
Purpose: increases abdominal endurance; stretches the legs, especially the hamstrings; improves total-body alignment
Setup: Keeping your hands on your right ankle with your leg straight, gaze into your powerhouse and hover your left leg above the mat.
1. Pull your right leg toward you, pulsing it twice.
2. Switch legs, grabbing your other ankle and pulsing it twice. Do 6–10 reps.
Tip: Keep your legs straight with your gaze focused on your powerhouse.
Modification: If your hamstrings are tight, hold onto either your calf or the back of your thigh.