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News

Using Pilates to ease stress during isolation

Coronavirus

Isolation; a daunting situation for most. Our daily routines have been compromised as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and we are all adjusting to working, living and adapting our social lives at home. For many, this global pandemic may have caused stress levels to increase and we want to offer our advice and ideas for helping you to adapt in this time of uncertainty.

Movement is a great stress reliever and we’re often encouraged to exercise as a way to manage stress, which is why we have gathered some expert advice from our Physiotherapist and Pilates Coach, Giovanni Di Stefano. Like any exercise, Pilates promotes several benefits in calming the mind, relieving the body of tension and stress and boosting energy. So, whilst we’re spending more and more time at home, a simple workout will get your body moving, give some structure to your day, keep energy and motivation levels up, subsequently helping to manage stress levels.

Giovanni has put together a simple, beginner-friendly Pilates programme to be completed in the comfort of your home. The best part? All you need is a mat or a soft area to get going.

 

De-stress with this at-home Pilates workout

Warm-up

From your standing position, reach towards your toes, keeping your knees as straight as possible, then walk your hands out in front of you and maintain control, pause for a second or two, then tiptoe with your feet towards your hands. From this position, repeat the steps; walk your hands forward, tiptoe back towards your hands, lifting the hips to the ceiling and pushing down through the heels to feel the stretch all the way down the back of the body.

Repetitions: 6

After finishing your breathing exercises, stretch your body with your legs and arms held up straight, lift your chin up to release all the tensions in your body.

Finish this by taking two big breaths, then release and…SMILE!

The Inchworm

From your standing position, reach towards your toes, keeping your knees as straight as possible, then walk your hands out in front of you and maintain control, pause for a second or two, then tiptoe with your feet towards your hands. From this position, repeat the steps; walk your hands forward, tiptoe back towards your hands, lifting the hips to the ceiling and pushing down through the heels to feel the stretch all the way down the back of the body.

Repetitions: 6

Pilates move The Inchworm

The Bird Dog

On all fours with your hands beneath your shoulders and your knees beneath your hips, extend one leg out behind you and point your toe and reach your opposite arm out in front of you. Then bring your extended leg back and arm back in, bringing your knee towards your elbow and then extend out again. Aim to hold your extensions with good technique and avoid arching your lower back.

Repetitions: 8 reps each side

Pilates move Bird Dog

Cat and Camel Stretch

This exercise helps to stretch the back muscles. Again, start on all fours with hands beneath your shoulders, knees beneath your hips and your spine neutral. Take your spine down in a curved position, known as the cat, then from there push all the way up, tucking your bottom underneath you and curving your spine upwards, into the camel position.

Continue to transition from one position to the next, slow and controlled, feeling the muscles and the joints moving and keeping your breathing steady. To finish this exercise bring your spine back to a neutral position.

Repetitions: 6

Pilates move Cat and Camel Stretch

Glute Bridge

Start in the supine position; with your back flat on your mat, arms down by your side and knees together, bringing your heels slightly closer to your bottom. Keeping your weight distributed evenly between both heels, exhale as you slowly lift each vertebrae bit by bit, from the lower back up to the shoulder blades and inhale as you hold this position. Then exhale, slowly rolling the spine back down into the starting position. Throughout this exercise if you can feel any tensions, this is your time to acknowledge them and release them.

Repetitions: 8

Pilates move Glute Bridge

Lumbar Rotations

Following on from your glute bridges, keep your supine start position but this time extend your arms outwards. Engaging your core and keeping your back firm, rotate your hips to your left hand side, making sure to keep your knees and heels together. Ensure you are moving your body with control, remembering to keep your breathing steady. Then bring your knees slowly back to the centre and repeat exercise to your right hand side.

Repetitions: 10 reps each side

Pilates move Lumbar Rotations

Lumbar Stretch

From your lumbar rotations, bring your arms back down by your side. Straighten one leg and bring your opposite knee over the straightened leg, pushing your knee towards the floor with your opposite hand. Then, reach out with your free arm to the opposite side and turn your head to look in the same direction. Repeat steps on the opposite side of the body.

Repetitions: Hold for one minute on each side

Pilates move Lumbar Stretch

Child’s Pose to Cobra

Start on all fours and sit all the way backwards in to the child’s pose with your arms out in front. Then, walk your hands forward and extend through your hips, pushing up through your arms. Keep your chin lifted and remember to focus on your breathing. This is called the cobra.

Repetitions: 8

Pilates move Child's Pose to Cobra

Thread the Needle

Thread the needle is an excellent exercise to release tension over the thoracic spine and work on mobility. For those working in a new home-office set-up, this exercise may help any new niggles from sitting at your computer.

In the all fours position with your hands beneath your shoulders and your knees beneath your hips, take one arm and reach across your body before reaching and extending your arm up, turning your head, looking beyond your fingertips and stretching. Repeat steps on the opposite side.

Repetitions: 6 each side

Pilates move Thread the Needle

Spine Twist (sitting)

Keep your back as straight as possible and place your hands in the prayer position touching the sternum. Imagine you are on hill and want to observe a beautiful sunset, exhale and rotate your spine to the side, then slowly inhale returning back to the centre. Avoid lifting your shoulders when you breathe in; Giovanni says “the shoulders are enemies of the ears”, so make sure to keep your posture tall and your shoulders down to avoid tensing the muscles around your neck.

Repetitions: 10

Pilates move Spine Twist

Warrior Pose

The Warrior Pose is a popular yoga pose that we have adopted for this routine as it is an excellent way to release tension over the hips. From a standing position take a big lunge backwards with one leg, align your front heel in line with the arch of the back foot and angle the back foot at a 90 degree angle. With your head, shoulders and hips central, shoulders down and thighs firm and parallel to the floor, stretch your arms out in front and behind, palms facing the floor and sit into your lunge, looking forward and lifting your chest. Remember to focus on your breathing.

Then, bring your palms together and transfer your weight to the other side facing the opposite way. Following all previous steps, repeat the Warrior Pose. To finish, shuffle heels and toes together until you return to your standing position.

Repetitions: 8 each side

Pilates Warrior Pose

Cool down

Finally, cool down and close the routine with nice big breaths and smile!

We really hope you enjoy practising this Pilates programme put together by our very own Pilates Coach, Giovanni Di Stefano. A simple but effective routine with positive effects on the mind and body; releasing tension in the body and releasing endorphins as you engage your body in light exercise, in turn managing any heightened stress you may be feeling during this time.

 

Supporting St John’s Hospice – First ever virtual events as we continue to raise funds for the Hospice

Another way to stay active during this period of isolation is to keep an eye out for our virtual challenge events and help raise money for our on-site hospice, St John’s Hospice. We recently held our first ever virtual event to replace our postponed annual Memory Walk, ‘5K in a Day’, where we encouraged you to dance, skip, walk, jump, run 5km or 5,000 steps from the comfort of your own home, all in one day. You can keep an eye out for future challenges on St John’s Hospice events page.

As a charitable hospital, all our profits fund St John’s Hospice, but now, more than ever, we need your support as we still rely on £2.5 million of additional charitable donations to help fund our essential palliative care services.

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