In this sequence I have focused on giving you all the tools to improve your posture and ensure that you will glide down the aisle and through every event with grace and poise.
Our modern lifestyle means we sit a lot, and our posture tends to suffer, so here are all of my top exercises for counteracting those hours spent at desk or hunched over your phone. You will not need to balance a book on your head (although that can be helpful) but I do recommend you do this session as often as possible in the weeks leading up to your big day so that this starts to become second nature and your muscle memory will kick in despite the nerves.
Worried about walking in your heels and dress? I had a wonderful client some years ago who came to my Pilates studio for several months ahead of her wedding and for the last six weeks we would spend the final 5-10minutes of her session with her walking up and down the studio in her high heels. I cannot recommend enough combining these exercises with walking in your shoes at home so that you can build your confidence and your stamina!
Remember you can join me over at Silver Linings @Home, our digital platform, to do the full session with me, otherwise all you will need is a mat and a sturdy surface like a chair or your kitchen island to support you in some of these exercises. Don´t forget to turn on some great music to carry you through. So, let’s start standing tall and proud!
Start with the feet in a small V with the toes about fist distance apart and heels squeezing together. Pull up the leg muscles and feel the gluteal muscles engage and ‘wrap’ around the hips. Start to pull the abs in and melt the ribs together. Feel the collar bones widen as you lengthen the neck and the crown of the head towards the sky. Your hands could be on your waistline or pressed into a prayer position in front of your chest. Now, you are set up for success with perfect posture right from the start.
Keeping the heels pressing together and actively hugging the calves and inner thighs towards one another, start to rise and lower the heels. This could be 1inch off the floor or to a high heel. If you are going higher make sure you press the heels back together as you lower down. Also, focus on getting taller as you lower the heels.
Top Tip: Inhale as you rise and take a smooth and long exhalation as you lower. This will help you activate all the postural muscles and work from the core to help you balance.
Keep the feet in the ‘V’ shape and bend the knees a little. Maintaining a long spine and the hands pressing on hips or a prayer position, start to lift the legs in a small ‘attitude’ with the knee wrapping outwards. The legs can start low then go higher if you are able. Keep breathing smoothly as you feel the heart rate start to lift.
Start to add a curve of the spine and move the arms from a T-shape to a circle ‘like you are hugging a beach ball’. This creates lovely spinal mobility and allows you to deepen into the abs a little more with each lift.
Keep doing the left lifts for about 1 minute and you will start increasing your heart rate and spiking your metabolic rate.
Align your chair with the side of your mat or place your mat by a steady surface such as an ironing board or kitchen island. Stand in profile to your surface with the feet back in your ‘V’ shape. Placing your right hand on chair/surface and your left hand behind your head with your left foot about 1 meter behind you and directly in line with the right heel. The knees will be pointing to the corners of your space but your hips and shoulders will be pointing directly forward. This is your curtsy position.
Staying in a low range, lower down for two counts and up for two counts maintaining a lifted posture and going as deep as possible. For a challenge, see if you can lightly graze your back knee to the floor. Aim for x10 reps.
Top Tip: Keep the knees tracking over the middle toes which should be at a 45 degree angle. This will ensure you keep your knees safe!
Staying at the bottom of your range, take tiny pulses down on the beat. You are going to really start to feel the burn in your thighs as well as getting those glutes activated.
Top Tip: As you pulse try to grow taller through the spine and increase the space between your hips and ribs so that you feel like you are elongating your torso.
Staying still in the legs and as low as you can maintain, start to bend towards your ‘barre’ then back to upright. This is going to activate your side body whilst you keep those thighs burning (and possibly shaking a little too!). Aim for 5-10 side bends.
Top Tip: Imagine you are between two glass walls so you can only bend sideways. Pressing your head back into the hand that is behind you will really help you to maintain an open chest and posture.
Guess what…….you need to do it all on the other side. Please take a minute to shake out those muscles and then reset for your second side as soon as possible so you keep your heart rate elevated.
Facing the low side of your chair (or, if you are using a higher surface you can rest onto your forearms), place your hands at the front and sides of the seat and walk back until your back is angled like a ‘ski slope’. Bring your feet back to the ‘V’ shape and bend both knees.
Extend one leg behind you pointing through the toes and rotating from the hip so just the big toe is lightly resting on the mat. With a long leg, start to lift it up for two counts and lengthen to lower for two counts. The leg will not go very high and you want to keep the spine long rather than curving the lower spine.
Imagine I am there behind you pulling your leg longer as you lift and lower. Try to do at lease 10 lifts taking 2 counts to lift and 2 to lower with control.
Keep the leg lifted and take tiny pulses up on the beat. This should start to really activate your glutes and the back of the leg. Keep the upper body strong and keep pushing the chair away beneath you. This will mean you are maintaining that perfect posture throughout.
Aim for 10-20 pulses here.
Top Tip: Imagine your foot is resting on a glass table, it can only go higher, not lower!
So, this is the ultimate in creating long lean muscles, opening your hips and raising your heart rate. Please don’t worry if your leg does not go as high as mine, this is one to work on over time and you will increase your range and flexibility, little by little.
Start with the hands on your chair or surface and extend both legs. Open your hips to the side of your space and lift the leg as high as you can. Once you are at your highest point, check you have the abs engaged and your ribs drawing together so you are not ‘hanging out’. This is an active yet supported position.
Start to take tiny pulses of the extended leg on the beat. The movement might be tiny but if you are really extending through your leg, you will feel a lot of feedback in the glutes and you will definitely be feeling the heart rate rising (you might go a bit pink!). Aim for 10-20 pulses!
For the challenge: maybe place one hand or both hands on the floor to allow you to increase the range. For the warriors out there, you could also raise the heel of your standing leg for a balance challenge.
Top Tip: Make sure you take your time rolling up to standing. You have been in an inversion and it can make you a little dizzy.
Note: Make sure you move your chair away from your mat or bring your mat away from your surface for the next section of the session.
Planks and press-ups are simply the best way to create a strong, lean physique. It’s a full-body exercise and a place where you can perfect your posture quickly.
Come down to the mat and set the hands as wide as the mat (if you have wrist issues you can slightly rotate the fingers inwards). Come to a plank position with long legs hip-width apart and draw the abdominals strongly in and up, creating one line from the head to the heels like a piece of steel!
Modified Press Ups: Don’t worry if you aren’t doing full form press-ups yet, I would always encourage you to modify and work with the best posture until you are strong enough.
Send the elbows wide as you lower the chest towards the mat for two counts and press up for two counts. Inhale as you lower and exhale as you press the mat away. Aim to 9-10 reps.
Top Tip: For a little more cardio move to one count to lower one count to lift.
Take a seat back on your heels and interlace the hands and open the chest shining your gaze and chest high.
Come to rest onto your front with the legs bent and the knees as wide as the mat, bring the heels to touch and flex the feet. The hands are placed one on top of the other with the elbows wide. Keeping the abdominals deeply pulling away from the mat, start to hover the knees off the mat then lower the whole shape down to a hover with control. Aim to do at least 8 slow lifts.
Top Tip: If your lower back is sensitive, keep the range tiny and really focus on the abdominal lift.
On the last rep, keep the knees hovering and take tiny pulses. Aim for x3 sets of x10 pulses with a brief rest in between the sets.
Top Tip: Really press the heels together to increase the feedback in the glutes and hamstrings.
You can always increase the challenge by adding a hover of the head and hands so that you work the back as well.
From lying on your front, move gently back to child pose, sending the knees as wide as your mat and the hips towards the heels.
Top Tip: if this is not easy for you or your knees are troublesome, try rolling up a towel and placing it between hamstrings and calves to create a lift and support
From child’s pose move to all 4’s and then hook the toes under and extend the legs moving into downward facing dog (or an upside down V shape). You are aiming to extend but not lock out the arms and legs and ensure they are parallel and hips/shoulders-width apart.
You could ‘walk your dog’ lifting the heels one by one or you could stay in a static hold and breathe deeply into the stretch.
From Downward Dog move the feet in small steps towards your hands maintaining the bend in your knees so you can keep the hands on the floor as you do so. Once you reach the feet simply hang forward allowing the head and arms to hang heavy towards the ground, feeling a lovely stretch for the hamstrings.
Make this transition mindful so that as you roll up slowly through each vertebra you are stacking up the spine, one by one, to give you the tallest regal posture ever. Remember to keep the arms and head heavy as you roll up, the last thing to lift will be your head and a smile!
This classical Pilates exercise is done standing and will be your final challenge in the session. It is designed to reinforce all the work you have done on your posture so far and bring you back to your breath.
Standing with the feet in the now familiar V shape with heels pressing together and legs really active and hugging to the ‘midline’. Reach the arms slightly in front of your torso and inhale.
On the exhalation, raise your heels and press the arms slightly behind your torso keeping them stick straight.
Then hold the breath for a moment and lower, inhaling and sweeping the arms just in front of the torso again. Do 5-8 reps keeping the breath long and smooth and super active legs and abdominals to maintain your perfect posture and balance!
Top tip: For the challenge, add in a rotation of the head left to right whilst holding the breath. If you take this option, make sure you alternate the way you turn your head each time and aim for 4-8 full cycles of breath.
Take a moment at the end to stand tall and proud of your efforts. With practice this posture will become more and more natural to you and you will be ready to glide through your big day with grace and poise.
I hope you enjoyed the session. Remember, you can combine these sessions to make a longer workout if that suits your schedule or keep it short and super focused. I look forward to seeing you on the mat very soon!