Exercise – not just for dead bugs

Exercise is important for everyone.

I have assembled a short program you can try in the comfort of your own home. The key is to get started. Begin slowly and concentrate on performing the exercises correctly rather than quickly with too many repetitions.

Begin lying on either side of your body, legs bent and arms straight in front of you in the prayer position. You may rest your head on a small cushion if you feel the stretch on your neck is too great. Inhale to begin, and exhale as you take your fingers, in constant contact with the floor, in a half moon shape over your head and towards the back of your body to meet the sacrum. If you cannot keep your hand on the floor, lift it slightly or go back to the prayer position. You should also go back to the prayer position if you feel any discomfort or impingement in the shoulder girdle. Each repetition should get easier. As the arm passes over the centre of your body towards the hip, exhale, feel the ribs melting into your mat one by one down the outer thoracic region. The front of the thoracic should give you a feeling of a long stretch especially in the pectoral muscle of the working arm. Inhale and take your arm back to the starting position. Repeat this warm up exercise approximately eight to ten times and then roll over and repeat the other side. This exercise can be called a circular book opening.

Now you can go into various versions of the dead bug exercise. (I know, what a name). Lying on your back, place your legs in a tabletop position, also called 90/90 or stair position. Both arms reach strait upwards towards the ceiling, with fingers extended. You can begin by either dropping the right toe forward towards the floor and the left arm backward towards the floor behind you. Continue to alternate the movements of the limbs. You can also lower the same side, toe and hand together ipsilaterally. Exhale as you lower the limbs keeping the back firmly on your mat, and inhale to come back. Ensure that the back stays in contact with the mat during this entire exercise. When you hold your spine in firm contact with your mat, the position is called imprinting. As you gain strength through the weeks you may progress this exercise by lowering both the legs and arms together in the same direction or in opposition. Again, remain in an imprinted position with your spine. You can also add articulation of the ankles and the toes by lowering the heels and metatarsals alternatively.

Next you can try a series of exercises beginning in a side sit. This position is often called the mermaid (merman) or cleopatra (ben hur). Remember to keep the head in line with the torso. The head should feel like an extension of the spine. In this position, gently lift the hips up and slowly lower back down taking great care in feeling the humerus rotating laterally and stabilizing the shoulder as your weight lifts onto the supporting arm. This can be modified into a more challenging exercise by lifting the top leg as your hips lift toward the ceiling and placing the second hand on the upper hip. Holding this position, you may also add the leg pulling front and back on the same plane of movement. Strive to accomplish a full hamstring stretch going forward and as best a hip flexor stretch going back, supporting the abdominals at all times. The bottom ribs should feel as if they are pulling towards the top ribs.

Lastly, roll onto your stomach. You can always put a cushion under your hips to help alleviate any discomfort. This position is called prone. Place your forehead on the back of your hands and feel long behind your neck. Your shoulder blades should feel that they are being pulled towards the buttocks and the abdominal wall must be activated at all times. Gently lift either leg up towards the ceiling, feeling the muscles activate down the spine into the gluteus, down the hamstrings and continuing with the energy down through the foot. Lower the leg and then alternate the leg lifts. Perform this sequence eight to ten times each side. You should aim to keep the hips level, feeling both of the hips on the mat throughout the exercise. Your shoulders should feel relaxed and comfortable. This exercise is a modified version of the swimming exercise.

When you have finished the last sequence, pull your torso back so that the buttocks sit on your heels and your arms should be straight out in front of you on the floor. The chest should soften towards your mat. Relax into this position until you are ready to rise. Slowly stand erect and take a few deep breaths. Well done and you are on your way!!

Remember to acquire permission from your physician before any new exercise program. Wear comfortable clothing and find an exercise area that has a moderate and comfortable temperature. Ensure that you have ingested your last meal or snack at the appropriate time for your individual condition before you begin your exercise regime. You will soon feel more confident in your own home program and will begin to promote a healthier lifestyle for yourself. Enjoy!

Mermaid exercise

Prone exercise

Last sequence








Heidi Wright is certified in Pilates Mat, Allegro, Studio and Post Rehabilitation with Polestar Pilates and Pilates elder Lolita San Miguel. She is also a member and certified instructor with Pilates Method Alliance and a Post Rehabilitation practitioner with Pink Ribbon.