One of the main characteristics of Pilates that differentiates it from any other form of exercise is the "from the inside out" strengthening and lengthening of the body
Synchronizing your breath with Pilates mat stretching can dramatically improve your sleep quality as it relaxes the body's muscles from the inner small muscle groups to the outer larger ones and helps produce melatonin (a sleep hormone). After all, Joseph Pilates, the founder/inspirer of Pilates, believed that exercise can relieve any tension in the body.
Easy Pilates exercises for better sleep
If you are trying to fall asleep but your body is tense the following exercises are extremely simple and beneficial, focusing on the spine, muscle relaxation, and increasing your flexibility.
Place a mattress on the floor, dim the lights and follow the exercise routine below:
1) Quadruped kneeling cat
Inhaling, I press the scapula down (collapse), so that the waist tilts, and the spine extends and exhaling I curl up, pressing the navel to the ceiling, while the head looks at the navel.
2) Attitude of the child
I place the pelvis on the heels of the feet, relaxing the neck, the head rests on the mattress and the arms stand in front outstretched. I inhale and exhale slowly extending my arms as far as possible.
3) Back - knees to chest
I hug my knees, take a deep breath in through the nose and exhale through the mouth, pressing the knees to the chest so that the waist rests on the floor and decongests.
4) Back - knees to chest (2nd part)
Following the previous exercise, with the legs bent at the chest, I gently move them to the right side, until they touch the ground. I stay there for 20 seconds and switch sides by moving them to the left.
Tip: The shoulder blade rests on the ground and I stretch my arms right and left on the ground, at shoulder height.
If you want more stretching of the spine, with the legs bent and joined sideways on the ground, you can stretch the upper leg and lengthen it in line with the knee. Stay in that position for an additional 10 seconds.
In a sitting position, I bend the knees so that the soles of the feet come together and arch the spine-head towards the soles of the feet.
Tip: Keep your neck relaxed
I do 20 small downward pressures/exhalations, trying to get my head to touch the feet. After the push-ups, I stretch my knees, hug them from below and let the neck/head relax forward. I stay there and exhale slowly for 20 seconds.
Thus the muscles are oxygenated and relaxed, creating the ideal state for the body to enjoy sleep.