Meghan Markle's love of all things wellness has captured our attention in a big way, so it's no surprise her whole-body approach to fitness includes Pilates at the center. And what better tool to have her standing straight on her wedding day? Her trip down the aisle will be watched by millions, but even if your own nuptials are happening on a smaller scale, the moment will forever be captured in pictures. The surest way to look your best isn't with an expensive dress or fancy photographer; it's with confident posture. Because Pilates yields a balance between length and strength in the bod, it aligns the spine to create height and grace. The exercise will leave you moving and standing beautifully.
The following series of Pilates exercises can help lengthen and open up tight areas of the body all while strengthening and supporting deep intrinsic postural muscles to create awareness of ideal alignment.
1. Back Lift
Benefits: Activates the muscle in the hips you'll use to stand tall at the altar all ceremony long.
Begin lying on your right side with your knees slightly bent. Reach your top leg back to a diagonal. Stretch your leg long as you lift it up above hip height. Lower it back down to complete one rep. Do 20 reps on each leg.
2. Chest Expansion
Benefits: Tones the muscles that keep the arms long and the shoulders down.
Stand with a light weight or a water bottle in each hand. Bend your knees to hinge forward at your hips with a long, neutral spine. Lengthen your arms down to the floor with your palms facing each other. Reach the weights back and up until your palms come to your hips. Feel the collarbones widen and your shoulder blades drawn down your back. Lengthen your arms back down to the starting position. Do 15 reps.
3. Rotator Cuff
Benefits: Strengthens the muscles that open the shoulders and creates beautiful, wide, smiling collarbones.
Stand with a resistance band held between your hands and your palms facing up. Bring your elbows to your sides bent at a 90-degree angle. Keep your upper arms against your body but allow them to spiral out—like they’re rotating—as you pull your hands apart. Go only as wide as you can while keeping your shoulder blades stable. Then resist back into the starting position. Do 12 reps.
4. Bridge With Leg Lift
Benefits: Engages the muscles of the core including deep abs and back as well as the muscles of the legs that create a long waist and lifted carriage.
Begin lying on your back with your knees bent, feet flat, heels in line with your sitz bones. Press into your feet to lift your hips up into a bridge, maintaining a neutral spine. Extend your right leg straight out while keeping your pelvis and spine completely still. Bend the knee to lower the foot down keeping the hips in a bridge. Now exhale and roll down from the bridge back to the starting position, articulating through your spine one vertebra at a time. Repeat but this time lift the leg. Ensure the same amount of time on each leg.
5. T Lift
Benefits: Strengthens the muscles of the back and shoulders that keep the head and neck poised and the shoulders open.
Lie facedown with your arms stretched out, in line with shoulders like a T. Float your arms up about 2 inches as you reach your head, neck, and shoulders forward and up into a very small arch. Reach your arms back to your hips as you slightly increase the arch. Return the arms to the T, then lower the torso and arms down to return to starting position. Repeat.
6. Double Leg Kick
Benefits: Stretches the muscles of the front body including chest, shoulders, arms, and hips while also strengthening the back body including upper back, glutes, and legs.
Begin lying on your stomach with your hands clasped behind your mid back. Bend both knees to kick your heels toward your sitz bones. Keep the fronts of your hips pressed to the mat. Extend the legs straight as you reach your arms back and lengthen your upper spine into an arch. Turn the head to one side as you lower, alternating head turns with each rep. Repeat.
Benefits: Creates movement and fluidity in the ribs, shoulders, and neck for graceful, natural movement.
Lie on your right side with your arms extended forward on the mat at shoulder height. Slowly draw the left fingers along the right arm and across the collarbone to come into a twist with your upper body. Allow your head to stay heavy on the ground and follow the left arm as it opens. Keep your legs pointed to the right as the shoulders eventually open up and the left arm releases open. Take a few deep, full, opening breaths then return to start. Repeat on the opposite side.
Some other great add-ons to this Pilates sequence? Try the mbg foam rolling class—which directly targets moves to improve your posture and your overall mobility.
Curious about Meghan Markle's pre-wedding practices? We got the scoop on all her favorite wellness activities.