Joe Pilates said if you can do only one exercise a day, it should be the Double Leg Stretch (he referred to it as the Double Leg Pull)
This exercise captures the very essence (and principles) of the Pilates Method: a strong centre (stabilisation), the two-way stretch moving arms and legs away from the centre in opposition, and the breath (breathing.) Of course, you can’t perform any Pilates exercise without the other principles too; concentration, co-ordination, precision and flow.
But dive deeper into Pilates, to really understand it’s not just a workout, but a system, and you will start to see the Double Leg Stretch is everywhere! You can see it in your Stomach Massage series on the Reformer, in Rolling like a Ball on the Mat, in Swan Dive on the Ladder Barrel and loads more. Some may be trickier to spot, as you could be upside down or back to front.
But Pilates isn’t about being able to do all the exercises in a studio! Pilates teaches you movement for your daily life so you can move with more ease, with control, strength, stability, to help you breath better and to have support for your back and joints.
- Watch a toddler as they squat on the floor, what shape do they do?
- What position do women often find themselves in labour?
- If you want to reach with both hands to get something off a top shelf, what do you need to do?
Therefore the exercise we really have to nail is the Double Leg Stretch! Learn this exercise well and it will make all your other exercises better across the Pilates method and in your everyday life!
Consider it your very own Pilates Day challenge!
But how does it help me breathe better?
Joe Pilates designed his Pilates method (called Contrology) to facilitate your breathing.
“It is tragically deplorable to contemplate the millions who have never mastered the art of correct breathing.”Joe Pilates
He was famous for shouting around his studio “In d’air! Out d’air!” in his German accent.
In the Double Leg Stretch, you stretch the arms and legs away from each other. This literally sucks the air into body and helps you elongate, get oxygen into the blood to purify and help with inflammation and fatigue. Then the curling and bending part of the exercise, massages the internal organs (good for the digestion!) and squeezes the old stale air out of body.
All that moving, stretching, internal organ massaging, blood purifying, core strengthening work will be sure to return you to life…. Just as Joe Pilates intended
PHOTO CREDIT: Image taken from Joe Pilates book, Return to Life with Contrology