This exercise is a variation of the classic Pilates Single Bent Leg Stretch. In this variation the hands will add support to the head, neck, and shoulders, but while offering support this position also challenges the abdominals
To do this exercise you will need a mat. Start by lying on your back with your knees pulled into your chest. Take your hands behind your head and use your fingertips to make a hammock for your skull. Inhale to prepare and then exhale as you narrow the ribcage and lift the head, neck, and shoulders into the air. Using the sniffing breath, inhale as you reach one leg long beneath you and then inhale again as you switch your legs. Then take to short exhales as you complete two leg switches. Continue this movement pattern until you have completed ten breath cycles and then allow your head, neck, and shoulders to lower to the ground.
Things to think about
If you have osteoporosis then you should do this exercise without lifting your head, neck, and shoulders. This will make the abdominal work quite challenging. If necessary, modify by reaching the legs toward the ceiling instead of long along the floor.
The hands are providing support for the head, neck, and shoulders, but they shouldn’t be doing the work of the abdominals. The hands provide support but it is important to allow the air to leave your lungs, lengthen your spine so that the flexion of the spine is coming from your deep abdominal muscles.
Be sure that your head, neck, and shoulders are still and not waving in space as you are moving the legs. Use the exhale which allows the diaphragm to release and the upper abdominals to anchor the ribcage to the ground. The only movement is in the swish, swish, swishing of your legs.