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Last updated on October 23, 2020

With interest spreading at a rate that might have surprised Joseph Pilates himself, it’s no wonder men and women are thinking beyond the mat and taking Pilates into daily life.

The benefits are myriad: better posture, stronger abdominal muscles, greater flexibility and reduced stress. With a pedigree like that, who wouldn’t want to start practicing Pilates right now?

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Well, no more excuses! Even if you’re sitting at the office right now, here are six simple Pilates-based exercises you can do in your chair that will instantly make you feel better.


Core Breathing

The essence of practicing Pilates starts with your core. To get a rough idea of where yours is, form a triangle with your hands and place your thumbs on your belly button. The area between your hands approximates your core.

Whether sitting or standing, find your best posture. Inhale and let your torso expand with air like a balloon (without forcing your stomach to protrude out). As you exhale, press the air out of your stomach and torso, concentrating on pulling your stomach in toward your spine.

When you think you’ve pressed all the air out, engage your stomach towards your spine another centimeter for maximum results.


Chin Tilt

Sometimes simple is best and that’s definitely the case with this stress-relieving exercise.

Sit or stand while putting as much space as possible between your ears and shoulders. Then gently nod your chin down towards your chest as if you are trying to hold an orange there. You should feel a stretch down your neck and spine.

Repeat the chin tilt several times without curling the shoulders or upper back. The tension relief from this simple move is immediate.

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Shoulder Circles

Sit or stand in a tall upright position, engaging your core. Circle the shoulders forward, up, down and back for 5 repetitions.

Reverse the circles the other way for 5 more repetitions. The slower you go, the more tension you’ll release.


Neck Stretch

A close cousin of the chin tilt, this exercise is so effective it might earn you a promotion if you play your cards right.

Sit or stand, looking straight ahead. Tilt your right ear toward your right shoulder keeping the left shoulder from creeping up.

Once you’ve stretched your head as far to the right as you can, place your right hand just above your left ear and apply a little bit of pressure, as if you are pulling your right ear even closer to that right shoulder. Feel the tension melt out of that left shoulder. Repeat on the other side.

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Ankle Flexes

This is a great move for getting circulation going in the legs if you’ve been working at the computer all day or sitting for an extended period of time.

Sitting in your chair, cross one leg over the other at the knee. Point the toes of the top leg as far away from you as possible and then flex the toes back. You should feel a slight stretch in your calf and shin.

Start with 10 repetitions. Repeat on the other leg.


Calf Stretches

One of the best things you can do during your day is to stand up and give yourself a stretch break. This one is great for getting the oxygen flowing.

Stand with your feet hip-width-distance apart. (Bonus points if you can do this looking out a window or away from your computer!)

Your feet should be parallel, facing forward, and your core engaged. Bend your knees out over your toes, then straighten back up.

Rise up onto the balls of your feet and then slowly lower your heels down to the floor.

Those calf muscles will burn after 15 or 20 of these!

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Christie Seaver
Christie Seaver
Pilates instructor

Originally from Texas, Christie Seaver is the owner of D4 Pilates and creator of the trademarked method Ballet-lates. As a former ballet dancer, she completed her Pilates training with the late John Gossett in Houston, a second-generation Pilates instructor credited with bringing the method to the forefront in Houston in the 1980s. Christie subsequently has studied with the London-based Michael King and Malcolm Muirhead of MK Pilates, who are also passionate about the classic fundamentals of Joseph Pilates’ work. A journalist who has worked in the US, Africa and Europe, Christie is also ballet critic with The Irish Times newspaper.