Pilates Hundred

My latest article for the Stanly News and Press:

Sweet Pilates sisters, Joan and Jana
Sweet Pilates sisters, Joan and Jana

Anyone who has ever taken a Pilates class is familiar with the Hundred.  It is the exercise that is typically practiced at or near the beginning of class to warm up the body and the breath for the movements to follow.  It is not an easy exercise by any means, but there are many ways to modify it to fit your fitness level.

I like to curl up into a few Hundred Preps before I go into the full Hundred so that I can establish my hollow scoop in the belly and find my C-curve with the body, from tailbone to head in the shape of a C. You can do this by placing the feet on the floor, hip distance apart as you place the arms above the head as far as you can without letting the shoulders creep up toward the ears.  Take an inhale through your nose in preparation, then as you exhale through your mouth, lift the arms up as you lift the head so that your body looks like a letter C.  With the tips of the shoulder blades touching the floor, the arms will come down by the sides, parallel to the floor and the chin is tucked toward the chest as if you are holding an egg under the chin.  Look at your belly while you are there to be sure that it is scooped and hollow, pressing down toward the spine.  As you inhale, roll the head back down and bring the arms above the head.

If you are just starting a Pilates practice, you may want to practice the Preps for a while.  When you are ready to kick it up a notch, you can bring the knees toward the chest at ninety degrees in the starting position.  As you lift the head and arms to curl up, you can either keep the legs bent or extend them out to “working level” with the feet in Pilates V (heels together and toes apart).  Working level refers to position of the legs in many exercises in the tradition of Joseph Pilates in which the legs are straight and extended as low as possible while maintaining a neutral position of the spine and a scooped out belly.  If you find that the low back arches or the belly sticks up, then you have gone too low and should bring the legs up higher.

Once you have established this curled up position and feel strong and ready, you can begin to pump the arms in a small, but powerful movement. Keep the fingers long and reaching forward as you inhale little puffs of air 5 times, then exhale little puffs of air 5 times.  Repeat this 10 times so that you have eventually pumped the arms one hundred times.

You will get the heart, arms, legs and stomach warm by practicing this exercise.  Remember that in this, and all exercises from this tradition, engage the whole Powerhouse, which includes abdominals, inner thighs and gluteals.

To finish, stop pumping the arms, bend the knees and roll back to the floor.  Try to practice the Hundred everyday and feel your body getting stronger from deep inside.

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