Eventually, no matter how many times you extend into upward dog and stretch back into downward dog, your body will start to adapt and you will hit a plateau in strength and endurance. While we know the goal of practicing yoga is not always about muscular development, when you do want to get stronger, adding Pilates to your yoga sequence is a great way to make that happen.
The following two Pilates-inspired exercises will help you wake up your core and take your yoga practice to an entirely new level. For best results, practice each exercise back-to-back, and in the middle of your yoga sequence, when your body is warm and limber.
Criss Cross Exercise
From a supine position, bring both hands behind your head. Bend both knees and stack them directly over your hips. Lift your head and chest and twist your upper body to the right while extending your left leg at a 45-degree angle. As you cross over into a twist, bring your left shoulder toward your right knee. Without laying your upper body back down, twist to the other side while switching legs. Inhale and exhale on each side. For example, inhale as you twist to the right then left, and exhale as you twist to the right then left. Practice for at least five full breaths.
Modified Swan Exercise
From a prone position, place both hands under each shoulder with your elbows along the sides of your waist and slightly elevated. As you inhale, use the muscles along your spine to lift up your upper body as if to go into the yoga pose called half cobra. As you exhale, lower your upper body down and simultaneously raise both legs. Inhale to lift your upper body again, exhale to lower your upper body and raise both legs. Continue in a rhythmic fashion for up to five full breaths.
After performing these two exercises, come up onto your hands and knees. Flex and extend your spine two or three times (yoga’s cat and cow pose) and then release your hips back over your heels to move into child’s pose. Rest here for up to five deep breaths before continuing with the remainder of your yoga sequence.