The 100 is an exercise that is simultaneously simple and intimidating. It’s a defining exercise for Pilates and the heart of the mat workout.

The Basics of the 100

First off, let’s lay out how to do the 100.

  1. Lie on your back, knees bent to form a right angle and hips at a right angle, or for the advanced form with legs outstretched and feet six to eight inches off the floor. Toes pointed.
  2. Inhale as you reach your arms out.
  3. Exhale as you roll your head, neck and upper shoulders off the floor, imagining an orange between your chin and chest. Draw your belly button towards the floor to engage your abdominals.
  4. Inhale deeply as you pump your arms for five controlled beats, pulling the air deep into your lungs as your ribcage expands laterally.
  5. Exhale for five beats with control as you pump your arms with each beat, using percussive breaths as you say “shh, shh, shh, shh, shh.” Be sure to completely empty your lungs by the fifth exhale.
  6. Continue this cycle nine more times for a total of ten cycles and 100 beats. Again, keeping the movements controlled and rhythmic.
  7. Slowly lower your head and shoulders to the floor, then your arms, and finally your legs.

If this exercise seems familiar, it’s because you see an animation of it at the beginning of each 100s to Happiness challenge!

It’s common for those who are new to the practice of the hundred to find that their neck and shoulders become strained. To prevent this, focus on using the core to pull the head and neck off of the ground.

Breathing for Pilates exercises

Breath is extremely important in Pilates exercises. In fact, breath control is a pillar of the system as a whole. That importance is very much true when it comes to the hundred, as it encourages practitioners to engage breath in a focused way during a challenging exercise.

In the 100, breath becomes a tool for empowerment, pulling you through the exercise. Rather than being an overwhelming beast of one hundred counts, the hundred is boiled down to just twenty breaths – ten in and ten out. When viewed from that lens, the whole thing doesn’t seem nearly so intimidating. Exercise is in many ways about perspective, so changing perspective through the use of breath control offers a way to look at things in a whole new way.

Deep breathing encourages slower and more controlled movements. It releases tension, allowing the body to work more efficiently and with less strain. Pilates is all about control and precision, things that are greatly improved with proper breathing.

Another piece here is that deep, lateral breathing during the hundred pushes oxygen to all parts of the body. Flooding the body with oxygen during a tough exercise allows you to have a greater ability to go further and to feel better through exercise.

Controlling the breath through this strenuous exercise pulls the mind and the body closer in sync with one another. It focuses the mind on the task at hand, and pushing out all other distractions.

The Mechanics of the Pilates 100

Starting off a workout with this exercise is a great idea, because it offers a full body warm up. When done correctly, the 100 pulls in all of the major muscle groups and pushes them to get to the next level. It’s one of the reasons that beginners find the hundred to be so challenging, but by that same token it’s the thing that makes the hundred so wonderful. Arms pumping, legs engaged, head up, toes pointed and core on fire, the hundred is fittingly a centerpiece of the mat workout, though it’s great to do any time with any fitness routine to get you started and ready to go.

What makes the 100 different from other ab exercises is that it uses both the upper and lower body to create resistance for the core.

Think about the 100 in contrast to a sit-up, where the lower body stays still and only the upper body moves. By only engaging half of the body, only half of the core is utilized. The same is true for a move like flutter kicks, which only use the lower portion of the body and therefore only engage the lower half of the abs. By using both the upper and lower parts of the body, the 100 engages more than either one on its own.

Why 100?

One hundred of anything is a big number, and that’s part of the magic of this exercise.

The hundred is different from everything else that Pilates created in his exercise system, which he called “Contrology.” His emphasis in every other exercise was on doing just a few repetitions, but doing them with absolutely perfect form so as to get the most out of the body. The hundred is the only exercise he created that pushes repetition to such a high level. It’s important to recognize that though the exercise goes to a high number, perfect form is still of central importance. Arm pumps should be controlled and rhythmic, body still and breaths deep.

Joseph Pilates was a master not only of the science of exercise, but also of the science of motivation. A central reason for the success of his system is that he captured what makes us want to get things done, what motivates us to mold our bodies.

Mastering the 100 pushes us to see how amazing our bodies are, what incredible things they’re capable of. Though for beginners the movement can seem intimidating, with practice it quickly becomes a comfortable and wonderfully awakening exercise. By breaking it down into just twenty breaths, Pilates offers students a way to see things in a new light, empowering them to get more out of their bodies.

The uniqueness of the 100 is part of the reason that we love it so much. Doing the 100 every day is not only a way to a fit body, it’s also a way to a fit and empowered mind. In fact, it’s what our 100s to Happiness app is named after. Check out our app for 100 days of Pilates exercises just like this — if you can do this, then you can do anything. The hundred can really take you to happiness!

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The way that you start the day is the biggest indicator as to how your day will progress. Starting your morning with focused meditation can set your intention for the rest of the day, preparing your mind to be open, curious, peaceful and relaxed—regardless of what the next 24 hours throw at you.

Mornings are crazy times for most of us. We’ve generally gotten less sleep than we should have, have more things to do than we have time to get done, are running from project to project at an insane pace and have an overall sense of panic and a lack of control. Mindful meditation in the morning promotes a sense of calm, increasing your ability to remain focused throughout the chaos. It’s like a big box of Wheaties for your brain, giving your mind the energy to find happiness and success!

Incorporating morning mindfulness

Won’t adding something else to your already packed morning routine just make things worse? Not at all. Mindfulness is all about bringing yourself into the moment. You’re not adding anything else to your morning; you’re really just changing the way that you approach it.

Including simple mindfulness practices into your morning routine is a wonderful way to expand and uplift your ability to navigate the day. Here are seven quick morning meditations that will bring you happiness even through the hustle and bustle.

All of these meditations take one minute or less. The point here isn’t to sit in a lotus position for hours on end, but rather to pull the practice into the things that you’re already doing. Adapt these as you see fit, as most easily translate into your lifestyle. Mindfulness is a deeply personal practice, one that you need to make your own in order for it to be successful.

When waking

First off, a calming alarm like a chiming bell is a far better way to start your day than a harsh buzz. It will ease you into your day much more smoothly. It’s much easier to transition to a mindful state when you wake peacefully.

Before you even get out of bed, open your eyes wide and look straight up towards the ceiling. Lay your hands at your sides, palms facing up. Breathe in deeply through the nose and out of the mouth, allowing the oxygen to wake up your brain. Do this for three to five cycles, then close your eyes and check in with your body starting at your feet, releasing any tension that you might feel and letting go of any stress that you have for the coming day.

This is your time for you – nothing else matters. Take a few more deep breaths before getting up and moving on with your morning, taking that calm with you.

During your shower

A morning shower is a powerful place to harness the mind. Pull yourself into the moment as you feel the water cascade across you. Allow yourself to become lost in the pitter patter of the drops as they strike your body and the hard surface of the shower. Pull your shoulders down away from your ears and breathe into your muscles as the water washes away tension. Breathe in again through your nose and out of your mouth, savoring the sweetness of the smells and textures of something so simple as a shower.

While brushing your teeth

What do you usually think about when you’re brushing your teeth? Most people fret about the things that are going to happen in the coming day, making lists and ignoring the world that they’re living in. Teeth brushing is an incredibly kinetic experience, which makes it a great way to pull the mind into the body.

Take a few moments when you’re brushing your teeth to feel the brush, to check in with the way your body is moving and feeling. Think about the weight of your body on your feet, the cool edge of the counter, the bristle of the brush against your gums and cheeks. Simply pulling yourself into the moment during this simple task will help you to be less stressed and happier.

While making breakfast

Though the morning meal can be a stressful one, there is still room to be mindful. Prepare breakfast without racing through the thoughts of the day. In mindfulness, simple tasks become powerful ways to connect. Focus on the food that you’re preparing, being thankful for its nourishment and the energy that it will give you for your day. Think about how this food will power you and the people that you’re preparing it for towards happiness and productivity. Then as you eat, think again about how this meal is so important and how it will afford you the fuel that you need to feel energetic and fulfilled.

Drinking morning coffee

Many people use their morning cup of coffee or tea as a meditative tool without realizing it. Consciously take your time with that cup, allowing it to clear your thoughts and free up your mind. That warm feeling that you sense going down into the center of your chest as you drink? Pull it in even further and feel it manifest as happiness that starts right at your heart. Each sip becomes nourishing to both your body and to your mind, loosening stress and increasing awareness.

As you walk out the door

Don’t just run out the door, even if you’re running late. Stop as you get to the threshold and take several deep, cleansing breaths. Whatever the weather is outside, experience it for just a moment before you hop into the car or run for the bus. Take this time to transition yourself from home to the world outside of your home, bringing your awareness to the environment around you. Clear your mind and focus on your breath. Leave home with the intention of being happy and fulfilled by whatever is coming, knowing that you will be able to take care of any problem.

When you get to your destination

As you get where you’re going, again recognize that transition. Take a few moments to release any stress that might have come from the ride over, to let go of any hang-ups that you might have about this day and to instead go into the day with a positive and happy outlook.

Incorporating mindfulness into your everyday life is something that happens everywhere you go, with every step that you take. This is a practice, like Pilates, that you take with you every single day and that affects your wider life. I’d love to be part of your mornings for the next 100 days, helping you take just 5 to 10 minutes to start your day with gentle Pilates, mindful meditations, and inspiring quotes. Make your mornings your own by using these easy meditations for happiness and trying my 100 Day Challenge.

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While there are certainly aspects of life that are difficult and cause us to struggle, there is truly so much pleasure to be had that it just takes unlocking the door to open the floodgates. Give in to silliness. Give in to wackiness. Give in to hope. Give in to being happy. You are in control of your happiness, in control of how you navigate this world and the attitude that you bring to it. In so many ways, happiness is a choice, a conscious one that we have to make every single day. What’s lacking in life isn’t the number of things that could make us happy, it’s knowing how to see them—and then choosing to see them!

Happiness is a conscious choice

Happiness is also contagious. When one person takes up the mantle of being happy, that joy spreads from person to person. It only takes a little effort to be kind to someone, to do something that you didn’t have to do in order to make their day brighter. It only takes a small spark to brighten a day. What’s more, that happiness builds on itself within you. When you create that spark in the life of someone you know, you’ll find that your own fire is a little brighter.

But just in case you need a reminder today, here are one hundred little things in life that bring joy and happiness. This list is a great starting point, but it’s up to you to use it as a jumping off place to find your own mindfulness and happiness.

100 everyday things that make us happy

  1. Singing – the song doesn’t matter at all.
  2. A good hair day.
  3. Snagging a great parking space.
  4. Catching every green light.
  5. A great song on the radio.
  6. Rolling in the grass.
  7. A smile from a stranger.
  8. Popping bubble wrap.
  9. Waking up just before the alarm clock goes off.
  10. A clean kitchen.
  11. Freshly vacuumed carpets.
  12. The silence after the vacuum is turned off.
  13. Riding with the windows down.
  14. Clean sheets.
  15. Unsubscribing from a junk email list.
  16. Getting mail that is not a bill.
  17. Finding surprise money in your pocket you’d forgotten about.
  18. A purring cat in your lap.
  19. A dog who greets you at the door after a long day.
  20. A great movie trailer.
  21. A bubble bath.
  22. Dancing when no one is watching.
  23. Washing your face with a warm washcloth.
  24. Looking for shapes in the clouds.
  25. An elevator that arrives immediately after you press the button.
  26. Arriving just in time for your bus/subway car/plane
  27. Looping your favorite song.
  28. Remembering a happy time in childhood.
  29. Beating a level in a video game.
  30. A hug.
  31. Warm clothes out of the dryer.
  32. A perfectly popped bag of popcorn.
  33. Baby animal videos.
  34. Stepping outside to find that the weather is just right.
  35. Wrapping a present.
  36. Fireflies
  37. Gazing up at the stars.
  38. Hearing birds singing as you open the window.
  39. Running through a sprinkler.
  40. Getting retweeted.
  41. Your team scoring a point.
  42. Your favorite meme.
  43. Someone liking your post.
  44. A sticky note in the middle of a computer screen.
  45. A phone that’s charged 100%.
  46. Catching your phone just before it falls into the sink.
  47. A new episode of your favorite show.
  48. No one in the checkout line.
  49. The perfect sandwich.
  50. How crunchy foods feel in your mouth.
  51. The first bite of an apple.
  52. Peeling and orange in one piece.
  53. The smell of good cooking.
  54. Running your hand along a wall.
  55. Stepping over the cracks in the sidewalk.
  56. Jumping rope.
  57. Dangling bare feet into water.
  58. Skipping down the street.
  59. Finding a great deal.
  60. Coupons.
  61. Picking up a penny.
  62. Tossing a penny into a fountain.
  63. Babies giggling.
  64. Kittens.
  65. Puppies.
  66. New clothes.
  67. Fuzzy socks.
  68. Freshly brushed hair.
  69. The smell of coffee.
  70. Holding a warm mug.
  71. A full moon in a clear sky.
  72. A flower in bloom.
  73. Sunlight through a window.
  74. Finishing the 100.
  75. Constructive rest.
  76. Twists.
  77. Shoulder massages.
  78. Foot massages.
  79. Watching a ceiling fan.
  80. Afternoon naps.
  81. Sleeping late.
  82. A productive morning.
  83. Singing happy birthday to someone.
  84. Donating to charity, even just a dollar.
  85. Giving blood.
  86. Helping someone who needs you.
  87. Being needed.
  88. Someone saying “thank you”.
  89. Saying “you’re welcome”
  90. Holding the door for someone who needs it.
  91. Bagging your own groceries.
  92. Leaving a great tip.
  93. Getting a great tip.
  94. Being early for an appointment.
  95. A childhood cartoon.
  96. Having just enough milk for that last bowl of cereal.
  97. Eating an ice cream cone.
  98. Candles.
  99. Straightening a picture.
  100. Getting to the end of a list.

There are so many little things in life to make us happy! We don’t have to wait around for the major events in order to find joy in life. Look around you every single day and you’ll see so many potential ways for you to find happiness.

Take a moment for yourself today with a quiet moment for wellness and reflection – try it for the next 100 Days and see how it changes your life!

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Many athletes are surprised to discover that a basic groundwork in Pilates provides many benefits across a great number of sports, including tennis. In fact, incorporating cross training with Pilates can help tennis players to improve their speed, stamina, balance and control. Whether casual tennis players or competitive athletes, there are lots of great reasons that that Pilates and tennis work well together.

Here are four Pilates exercises for tennis players you can try right now!

These four mat based exercises will help tennis players to get more out of their game. None of these moves requires anything in the way of equipment – other than the mat. For great results, use these exercises to form a mini-routine that you practice every day or a few times a week. With just a few minutes of effort, tennis players will find that they get a great bang for their buck in the pursuit of making their tennis game better.

1.   Hip Circles

Stability on the court is an essential part of the puzzle for tennis players in order to prevent injury and to allow for more controlled movement in pursuit of the ball. Hip Circles will help tennis players to strengthen the upper body as well as the core and thighs.

  • Sit on the mat, arms bent behind you at shoulder width. Palms are on the floor with fingers pointed back, away from the body.
  • Bend the knees and shift the weight to the arms as you pull your belly button towards your spine.
  • Pull the legs in firmly together, inhaling as you draw your legs up towards the ceiling until they are at a 45 degree angle.
  • Extend the arms behind you and press the palms down into the mat, fingers still pointed behind you.
  • Point the toes straight up towards the ceiling and exhale as you swing the legs together in a clockwise motion towards the floor but not touching it. Inhale as they come back around in a large arc towards the starting position.
  • Repeat the same process going counterclockwise for one full cycle.
  • Start by completing three total cycles, pushing yourself to ten over time. Each circle should be bigger than the previous one, with more stability in the upper body.

 

2.  Side Bend

The Side Bend helps tennis players to take better advantage of lateral movement through improved core and inner thigh strength. This is another move that improves stability, which again is a key to great tennis.

  • Sit on the mat, legs folded in to one side.
  • Extend the legs out, placing the top foot on the floor in front of the bottom foot.
  • Place the palm of the lower arm on the floor.
  • Push down from the hips, using the top arm for stability.
  • Pulling in the abs in, allow the shoulders to drop down and the spine to lengthen.
  • Inhale, pressing the lower palm into the mat as you lift the upper arm and straighten the legs to lift the pelvis off of the mat.
  • Preserve that long line, exhaling as you reach the top arm in a wide arc over your head. Pull the shoulder blades back as your arm reaches the top.
  • Be careful not to either lock or hyper-extend the elbow of the lower arm.
  • Inhale, lowering the arm and gently returning the hips to the starting position.
  • Repeat 5 times on each side.

 

3. Pilates Push-up

Great tennis is all about powerful, controlled movement. This variation on the classic push-up will give tennis players stronger core muscles, shoulders, back and legs for total body challenge that will offer more speed and control on the court.

  • Stand up tall on the mat, arms straight overhead.
  • With control, allow your arms to lead your head, neck and shoulders as you roll down towards the mat.
  • Tighten the core muscles as you roll, pulling the abs in towards the spine.
  • As your arms reach the ground, bend your knees and walk your hands forward, inhaling deeply and slowly.
  • Exhale when you reach plank position.
  • Inhale, bending the arms straight back along your ribs. Keep shoulder blades steady and firm on the back. Controlling this part of the exercise will improve stability in the shoulders and torso.
  • Exhale, lifting the abs and push up slowly, the body in one continuous line.
  • Inhale, pushing up and walking the hands back as you reverse the movement. Try to keep the legs as straight as possible. Extend the arms all the way above the head
  • Repeat for ten total reps.

 

4.   Rocker with open legs

To finish off this mini workout, the rocker with open legs is a lot of fun. The core is the focus of this movement, and building these muscles will help to preserve the muscles through strenuous exercises like tennis. Fatigue is a serious issue for tennis players, and it’s important to build the right muscle groups in order to keep that stamina.

  • Sit up on the mat, back straight, legs long in front of you and arms to the side.
  • Bend the knees, then scoop out the stomach by pulling the belly button towards the back.
  • Grab your ankles and lift first one leg, then the other.
  • Maintain head and neck control, with both staying up.
  • Inhale, rolling back towards and then onto your shoulders, keeping that belly button pulled in.
  • Exhale, rolling back up and balance, legs extended up.
  • Repeat 8 times, then bring the leg back down.

 

Final thoughts

Pilates exercises are focused on control of the body and should push to the point of being a challenge, but never to the point of pain. Take as much time as you need to with each exercise and keep it slow and simple. Slow down and ease up if you feel that an exercise is too much for your body, then build up to more challenging movements.

Though tennis is a fast-paced game, Pilates is a slow jam that allows players to learn control of movement in an environment that’s far less stressful and hard on both the body and mind. Regular Pilates is a wonderful way for tennis players to enrich their game. Improved bodily awareness, stability and control, along with a tremendous boost in mental clarity mean that tennis players not only get a better game with Pilates, but also that they enjoy themselves on the court even more.

Try spending as little as 5 minutes a day for the next 100 days, and let us know how it improves your game!

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That ache in the lower back – the one that comes on swiftly when picking up a heavy object, or slowly after a long day of strenuous exertion – doesn’t have to be something that people just “have to live with.” Eight out of ten people suffer from some form of issue with their lower back, and the discomfort can cause serious pain and put a serious strain on the ability to get things done.

People have this sense that the pain that’s felt from this kind of lower back injury is just a part of getting older, it’s something that adults simply have to deal with. However, that notion is patently false. Let’s explore the reasons for and ways to solve lower back pain. Life can be pain free.

Causes and solutions for lower back pain

Lower back pain is typically caused by issues with the muscles in the lower back. In order to combat those problems, getting the right kind of treatment is vital.

You’ll notice that most of these causes are simple. Lower back pain is a widespread issue because it’s most often caused by the common habits that can easily be changed.

1. Sleeping on the stomach

It’s cuddly. It’s comfy. It’s lovely. Sleeping on the stomach is comfortable for many of us, but it can cause some serious discomfort later on.

Cause:

Sleeping with the back to the ceiling means that the spine isn’t in a good position of alignment. That kind of misalignment causes all kinds of trouble for the lower back by putting strain on the muscles and ligaments in the back.

Solution:

If you really can’t sleep any other way, don’t worry, there’s a solution. Slip a narrow pillow underneath your hips to bring them up and to create the natural curve in your spine. This simple addition can prove to be an incredibly powerful one.

2. Smoking

Though smoking is becoming less and less common, there are still a great many people who light up. What’s truly amazing is that smoking has effects on a wide variety of parts of the body – not just on the lungs.

Cause:

Chemicals in cigarettes affect just about every part of a smoker’s body. In the lower back, those chemicals restrict blood flow to the vertebrae, causing lower back pain. That lack of blood can actually create an increase in deterioration of the structures in the lower back that do come with age, and smoking can even leech calcium from the body, bringing on back pain caused by osteoporosis.

Solution:

Quit smoking. Or vaping. The nicotine found in vaping has the same effect on the body as does traditional smoking. Other kinds of smoking can cause issues as well – so just quit!

3. Posture

This is perhaps the most common reason for lower back pain to flare up – poor posture. Poor posture is rampant today thanks to the amount of time that people spend in front of screens, either for work or for pleasure. If you are hunching over a desk, you might not feel discomfort in the moment, but sitting in this position for hours on end can lead to back problems that stick around and just won’t go away.

Cause:

Just as with the sleeping on the belly problem, poor posture causes a misalignment in the spine that puts pressure on the structures in the lower back. Over time, that pressure eats away at the ability of the back to stay in alignment and causes a whole host of long term issues.

Solution:

There are actually several great solutions for improving posture, but they boil down to just two – fixing the environment and fixing the body. To fix the environment, get a better chair or even look into a standing desk. It might seem like a low priority, but taking the time to solve the problem will mean a lower likelihood of pain. To fix the body, take stretch breaks and work on an exercise system that will pull the body back into alignment. Pilates helps to improve posture by strengthening the muscles that support the lower back and increasing bodily awareness in order to bring the body back in line.

4. Core weakness

Core work isn’t just about having great abs. The muscles that wrap around the midsection of the body are important when it comes to having a pain free lower back.

Cause:

A weak core is a direct cause of lower back pain, as without balance and strength that comes from the core muscles, the spine is left to do all of the work. The spine needs the support of strong muscles in the abdomen and in the back in order to pull it into alignment and to relieve pressure on the vertebrae and spine.

Solution:

Work out the core to create more support for the spine. Pilates focuses on core development that’s done with balance, pulling the spine into better alignment and creating more effective support for the spinal column. Developing the core muscles can even help to relieve strain on the lower back that’s been caused by an injury to the spine.

Keep in mind that this is just a short list of possible causes of lower back pain. The complexity of the muscles, nerves and organs in the back means that there is a wide variety of things that could potentially cause lower back pain. It’s important to talk to your doctor about the pain in order to ensure that it is musculoskeletal in nature and that it’s not indicative of a kidney or other internal issue.

Pilates can be a great solution for strengthening muscles and alleviating lower back pain. Try practicing Pilates briefly every day for our 100 Day Challenge and see if these exercises can lessen or completely get rid of the ache, by working the muscles to allow for a life that isn’t a pain in the back.

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