After you've worked your abs, try this stretch over a stability ball. "We're super short on the front of our bodies because we spend so much time hunched forward. This stretch, which opens up the front of the body, is a great counter-pose to life," says certified Pilates instructor Wendy Puckett of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, who has her students stay in the stretch for one to two minutes.
This pose - when done to the full extent - is an inversion. Avoid extending back over the ball if you're pregnant or have high blood pressure.
How to get into this stretch: Start by sitting on the floor, your knees bent in front of you, feet flat and your back resting against the side of the ball. Leaving your hands at your sides for balance, slowly push back onto the ball as you straighten your legs.
How to come out of this stretch: Bring your hands to the sides of the ball; holding on lightly, bend your knees up and roll forward until you're sitting on the floor again, with your back pushed into the ball.
- Your arms should be relaxed, whether open at your sides or overhead.
- Keep your neck relaxed. Keep feet hip-width apart. If you feel wobbly and unbalanced, bring them further apart.
- Make sure feet are flat on the floor.
- If you straighten your legs too quickly, your lower back can tighten up. Move very slowly.
- If your muscles start to feel tense and resistant halfway through the stretch, slowly come out, take a breath and try again.