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Perfect Your Pilates Form With This 15-Minute Mat Routine

Young Asian woman with earphones sets up a music playlist before exercising.
You probably don't have a Reformer at home, but as long as you have a mat (or even just a carpet!) and the right instructions, you can get in a low-impact Pilates workout while social distancing.

In fact, according to Club Pilates instructor Vanessa Johnson, "mat workouts force the body to make up for the assistance that springs provide on the Reformer."

That means mat-based Pilates routines should focus on smaller, controlled moves.

Being very cognizant of those movements is also key during at-home Pilates workouts. Because an instructor isn't there to correct your movements, Johnson recommends constant self-body scans to ensure you're practicing proper form.

As far as what routine to follow, we recommend this 15-minute sequence curated by Johnson. Check out her step-by-step guide below, and visit Club Pilates on Instagram for more virtual workouts.

Chest Lifts

  • Start on the mat on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the ground or under the couch.
  • Bend your elbows out to the side and support your head with your hands. Keep your elbows open wide and lift up your head, neck, and chest — all as one unit.
  • Tip: Keep space between your chin and chest. Keep your lower half of the body stable during this. It may help to straighten the legs a bit.
  • Repeat 4-6 times.

Roll Down With Bent Knees

  • Start seated, knees bent, and feet under the couch or against the wall.
  • Tilt your pelvis under to articulate your low back onto the mat and slowly recline down to a supine position, one vertebra at a time.
  • To return to the seated position, do a chest lift, then slowly articulate your spine back up to a seated position. Hold onto the back side of your thighs as you go down and up for more support.
  • Tip: Keep your lower half of the body stable during this. It may help to straighten the legs a bit.
  • Repeat 4-6 times.

Hinge Back and Hinge Back With Rotations

  • Start seated, knees bent, feet under the couch or against the wall, and arms folded across your chest like I Dream of Jeannie.
  • Keep your back straight and lean your torso back until your abs start to activate.
  • Keep your back straight as you return to the start position.
  • Repeat six times.
  • Next, repeat the hinge back and hold the hinge while you rotate through your torso to one side.
  • Rotate back to the center, and then repeat on the opposite side.
  • Hinge back to a seated position.
  • Repeat six times.

Side Leg Work

  • Start lying on your side with your knees bent into a 90-degree angle. Your back should be straight with your hips stacked on top of each other. Your arm or a pillow can support your head.
  • Lift and lower your entire top leg so it is a mirror image of the bottom leg.
  • Repeat six times.
  • Keep your top leg lifted and extend it out to point to the front bottom corner of your mat.
  • Bend it back into the hover position.
  • Repeat six times.
  • Keep your top leg lifted and extend it.
  • Keep your leg long, point through the toe, and draw small circles, coming from the hips.
  • Repeat six times in each direction.
  • Switch sides and repeat on the opposite side.
  • Tip: Find your range of motion by making sure the underside of your body does not move when the upper side is moving. If the lower part of the body moves, make the leg movements smaller in size. Challenge yourself to see how big you can go while staying in control.

Sphinx Plank

  • Start with your forearms on the mat and your legs in push-up position, with your feet flexed against the base of the couch or the wall.
  • Hold sphinx plank for five long breaths. Take a break.
  • Return to sphinx plank and lift one leg to hover the foot above the ground.
  • Keep your leg up for two breaths, then bring it to the ground and switch legs.
  • Do not let the back cave in or rock side to side.
  • Repeat each side five times.

Child's Pose Stretch

  • After the last sphinx plank variation, fold your toes over and shift your weight back into your heels as you bend your knees and stretch the arms long in front of you.
  • Relax the shoulders and neck and take five deep breaths.

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Image Source: Getty Images / FreshSplash
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