March Mat-ness Challenge Day 19

Neck Pull Prep

Today we will be doing the Neck Pull Prep.  The full exercise is quite challenging so we will practice the prep.  It is great for strengthening your abdominals and lengthening your spine.

Start sitting very tall on your sit bones.  Legs will be bent with your feet flat on the mat.  Legs should be shoulder width apart.  Place your hands behind your head, keeping your elbows pointed to the sides and fingers tips lightly touching the head.  Pull your shoulders down and back.

Before you start to move, inhale.  On your exhale, tilt your pelvis back by pulling your belly in and rolling behind your sit bones.  Roll back about half-way.  Keep the abdominals flat and the lower back off the mat. Inhale and hold this position.  On your exhale, pull your abs in more as you fold forward over your legs with a round back until you are back on your sit bones.  On your inhale, start sitting up like your back is against a wall.  You want to feel as if you are placing one vertebra at a time against a wall.  Head should be the last thing up.

Perform 5-8 repetitions.


March Mat-ness Challenge Day 16

Breast Stroke

On day 2 of this challenge, we performed the Breast Stroke Preps.  Today’s exercise is the full exercise.  If you were able to complete the third version of the Breast Stroke Preps, you should be ready for today’s exercise.  If you struggled when lifting your arms away from the mat, then you should keep practicing your Breast Stroke Preps until you feel strong enough for the full Breast Stroke.

So begin by lying on your stomach with your legs extended behind you on the floor and your hands palms down next to your shoulders.  Make sure you keep your abs pulled up as if pulling away from the floor, and keep your shoulders stabilized by slightly pulling them down and back.  You should be looking straight down at the floor.

Before you begin moving, take a breath in.  On your exhale, reach your arms forward by your head and hover them off of the floor.  Your head and shoulders will stay where they are as you reach your arms forward.  On your inhale, circle the arms to the sides while lifting your head and shoulders up and away from the floor.  Be careful not to lift with your chin, so that you are lifting with your neck.  Use your back muscle to lift your upper body and just let your head stay in line with your spine.  Keep your bottom ribs on the mat and keep your abs pulling up away from the floor.

As you exhale, you will lower your upper body and send the arms forward by your head again.  Your feet should stay on the floor by pressing the tops of the feet down.  This can be done with the legs together if it doesn’t create any pain in the lower back.  If you experience lower back pain, separate the legs so that there is more flexibility in your back.

Perform 5-8 repetitions.

March Mat-ness Challenge Day 15

Heel Squeeze Prone

This exercise will definitely work your back side!  It’s not complicated to do, so there is no excuse not to do it!

You start lying on your stomach with your head resting on the back of your hands.  Your legs will be bent with your knees slightly wider than your hips.  Flex your feet and squeeze your heels together. (Get it? Heel Squeeze Prone?)  You’ll want to pull your abs up as if you are lifting them away from the floor.  You should also feel like your hip bones are pressing into the floor.

Then all you have to do is exhale and lift your knees slightly off the floor while keeping your heels squeezing together.  Lower your knees on the inhale.  It’s not a big movement.  Just a lift and lower.  Don’t let your heels come apart.  Keep squeezing them together.

Another thing that can happen when you do this, is that you can bring tension into your shoulders when lifting the knees.  Try to stay relaxed throughout the upper body.

Perform 8-10 repetitions.

March Mat-ness Challenge Day 14

Roll Over

Get read to have some fun!!!  Today’s exercise is the Roll Over.  This may be challenging at first.  Don’t be discouraged!  You can’t expect to be able to do every exercise perfectly the first time you try them!  If you are unable to perform the exercise at first, practice reverse curls where you lift your hips off the mat instead of lifting your head and shoulders. This will strengthen the abdominals so that you can get stronger to perform the Roll Over.

The starting position is lying on your back with the legs together reaching away from the body on a diagonal as low as the abdominals can be pulled in and flat. Arms will be by your sides on the mat, palms down.  Make sure the shoulders are stabilized by pulling them away from the ears and they maintain contact with the mat.  Head is resting on the mat.

On the inhale, begin to lift the legs up towards the ceiling.  On the exhale, start to roll the back up off the mat one vertebra at a time until the legs are reaching over your head parallel to the mat.  Make sure your weight is into your shoulder blades and not your neck.  Try to lower the legs so that the toes touch the mat without putting your weight on your neck.  This move will be determined by the flexibility in the back of your legs, so don’t try to touch the mat by rolling onto your neck!

On the inhale, lift the legs back to parallel to the mat and take them about shoulder width apart.  On the exhale, begin to roll the back down to the mat with control, reaching the legs out away from the body at the diagonal position your started in.

Perform 6-8 repetitions. For 3-4 of those repetitions, roll over with the legs together and roll down with them shoulder width apart.  For the other 3-4 repetitions, roll over with the legs shoulder width apart, and roll down with them together.

If you can’t complete the roll over as described, practice your reverse curls until you can safely send your legs over and keep the weight of the body on the shoulder blades.  Putting the weight onto the neck is dangerous to the vertebra in the neck.  Always keep the weight of the body over the shoulder blades.

March Mat-ness Challenge Day 13

Shoulder Bridge

For this exercise, we will begin lying on our backs with our legs bent and our feet flat on the mat.  Have your feet somewhat close to your body.  Keep your legs in line with your hips.  Arms should be down on the mat, by your sides with your palms down.

Begin with an inhale.  On your exhale, lift your hips off the mat so that your body is in a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.  Squeeze your buns so that there is no crease in the front of your hips.

On your next inhale, lift one leg straight up to the ceiling and point your toes.  Make sure both hips maintain their lifted position.  On the exhale, flex your foot and lower the leg as low as you can while keeping the hips in the same lifted position.  The hips should not drop as you lower the leg.  Inhale and lift the leg back up to the ceiling and point the toes.  Repeat the lower lift 2 more times.

On the next exhale, bring the lifted leg back to the mat.  Repeat the series with the other leg.

To finish, inhale and hold the hips up with both feet on the mat.  Exhale and lower the hips back to the mat.

Perform 3-6 repetitions of lowering and lifting each leg.

March Mat-ness Challenge Day 12


Today’s exercise, Scissors, is the fourth of the Fabulous Four abdominal exercises.  So once again, it begins lying on your back with your head and shoulders lifted off the mat.  This time your legs will be lifted up and pointing straight up to the ceiling.  Reach your hands towards your ankles.  Keep the abdominals pulled in slightly.

Begin with an inhale.  On the exhale, reach one leg straight down towards the mat, bringing the other leg towards your body. Exhale again and reach the legs straighter and longer in the same position.  Hands should reach towards the ankle of the leg pulling towards the body.  On the next inhale, begin to switch the legs.  Exhale and reach the opposite leg down towards the mat while the other leg reaches towards the body.  Exhale again and reach both legs longer and straighter in the same position.  Continue to switch the legs as you inhale and exhale in the same manner.

Perform 8-10 repetitions.

To finish, inhale and bring both legs up and point them towards the ceiling.  On the exhale, lower the head and shoulders to the mat.

March Mat-ness Challenge Day 11

Double Leg Stretch

Double Leg Stretch is the third in the Fabulous Four series.  So, it also begins with you lying on your back and your head and shoulders lifted off the mat.  Legs should be in the table top position.  Reach your hands towards your ankles and stabilize your shoulders by pulling them down and back.  Keep the abdominals pulled in slightly to maintain stabilization.

Begin with an inhale. On the exhale, reach your arms overhead as if you are taking off a hat.  At the same time, extend the legs straight as low as you can maintain your abdominal stabilization.  On the inhale, bring the legs back to table top, and circle the arms around to the ankles.

Perform 5-10 repetitions.



March Mat-ness Challenge Day 10


Today we will be doing the second of the Fabulous Four abdominal exercises – Obliques.

The great thing about the Fabulous Four exercises is that you don’t have to change positions for any of them.  You can go from one exercise to the next without stopping!  So this exercise also begins like Single Leg Stretch – lying on your back with your legs in table top (feet off mat legs bent with knees over hips).  Head and shoulders lifted off the mat with hands behind your head.  Let your head rest into your hands.  Keep the elbows pointed to the sides to prevent you from pulling on your head with your arms.  Stabilized the shoulders by pulling them down and back.  Keep the apple sized shape between your chin and chest by looking right above your knees.

Begin by taking a breath in.  On your exhale, reach on leg straight as low as you can keep your abdominals pulled in and flat.  Turn your upper body towards you bent leg.  On the inhale, return your upper body to center and begin to switch legs.  On your exhale, extend the other leg and rotate the upper body towards the bent leg.  Continue switching legs.

Perform 8-10 repetitions.

March Mat-ness Challenge Day 9

Single Leg Stretch

Single Leg Stretch is the first in a series of abdominal exercises that are sometimes referred to as the “Fabulous Four”.  These exercises are usually performed in a series which is great for strengthening the abs.

The starting position for this exercise is lying on your back with your head and shoulders lifted up, legs bent with feet in the air (table top position), and hands gently resting on the sides of the calves.

Take a breath in before you begin the movement.  On your exhale, extend one leg taking your outside hand towards the ankle, and the inside hand toward the knee.  On your next inhale, begin switch your hands and leg, and exhale to complete the move.  Again you would inhale to begin switching, and exhale to complete the move.

Keep the abdominal muscles pulled in and flat as if you are pulling them away from your shirt the whole time.  Try to keep tension out of your neck and shoulders by keeping the shoulders pulled away from the ears and the collar bone open.  Eyes should be looking right above the knees to keep the space between the chin and chest as if you are holding an apple there.

Perform 8-10 repetitions.

March Mat-ness Challenge Day 8

Rolling Like a Ball

Today’s exercise is a lot of fun!  It will make you feel like a kid again while at the same time strengthen your abdominals and massage your back.  Sounds great, doesn’t it?

To begin, sit in a slightly rolled back position with your weight behind your sit bones.  Leg will be bent and feet lifted off the mat, so you are in a balance position.  Hands should rest gently on the top of your shins or even the back of your calves.  Keep a nice round shape to your back – like the Letter “C”.  Engage your abdominal muscles and keep the engagement throughout the exercise.

On your inhale, begin to roll back with control to your shoulder blades.  Do not roll onto your neck.  On your exhale, pulled your abs in even more and roll back up to your balance position.  Try not to use momentum to get you back up or you may go past your balance position and tap your feet to the floor.  Come to the position you started in behind your sit bones.

Keeping the connection with the abdominals is key to keeping control of the exercise.

Perform 8-10 repetitions.

Have fun!