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The Pilates, Yoga, and Tai Chi Energy-Boosting Workout

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Yoga, Pilates, and Tai Chi Elements

Sometimes the quietest exercises can be the most invigorating. That's the case with this energy-boosting routine, which brings together elements of yoga, Pilates, and tai chi.

"Yoga is about stability, Pilates focuses on mobility and stability, and tai chi is all about mobility," says Lawrence Biscontini, group fitness manager for the Golden Door Spa at Wyndham El Conquistador in Puerto Rico, who designed our program. "Moving from one discipline to the next circulates the energy throughout your body, so you're refreshed by the end." You'll also feel pretty darn strong — these moves are a killer way to sculpt your arms, abs, legs, and butt, using just your body weight for resistance.

Do each circuit three times through, breathing deeply and evenly throughout the workout.

Circuit 1

1. Camel

Strengthens: Shoulders; Stretches Front of Body

  • Kneel on floor with feet behind you, legs slightly apart.
  • Stretch your hips and thighs forward while reaching back, placing your hands on your lower back (easier) or heels (more challenging).
  • Gaze up toward ceiling while pushing your hips forward and arching spine; hold for 7 to 10 breaths.

2. Thigh Stretch

Strengthens: Glutes, Core; Stretches Quads

  • Release from Camel and return to start.
  • Inhale, then exhale while leaning back from hips, this time without bending spine, so your body forms a straight line from ears to knees.
  • Place hands on hips (easier) or extend arms in front at shoulder height (more challenging).
  • Come back to start, then repeat. Do 7 to 10 reps.

3. Rising Lunge

Strengthens: Legs, Glutes, Hips; Stretches Back

  • From thigh stretch, bring left foot in front of you, left knee bent 90 degrees.
  • Lift right knee off the floor, straightening leg behind you.
  • Sweep arms out as you rise; then lower arms as you sink back down.
  • Do 4 reps; switch sides and repeat.

Circuit 2

1. Tree Pose

Strengthens: Quads, Glutes, Hamstrings; Improves Balance

  • Stand with feet together, palms together in front of chest.
  • Place sole of right foot on left inner thigh, as high as you are able; turn right knee out to side.
  • Keep hands in front (easier) or extend arms overhead, keeping palms together (more challenging).
  • Bend left knee slightly to work quads.
  • Hold for 7 to 10 breaths.
  • Go directly to Single Leg Circle.

2. Single Leg Circle

Strengthens: Glutes, Hamstrings, Inner Thighs; Improves Balance

  • Remaining on left leg from tree pose, straighten right leg and bring it out in front of you, toes pointed toward floor.
  • Drawing abs in, make 1 large circle clockwise with your right foot, keeping hips still; exhale 1 full breath to draw the circle.
  • Keep hands on hips (easier) or arms extended overhead (more challenging).
  • Reverse direction, drawing a counterclockwise circle.
  • Do 7 to 10 reps per direction.
  • Go directly to Rooster Stands on One Leg.

3. Rooster Stands on One Leg

Strengthens: Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings, Shoulders; Stretches Back

  • Remaining on left leg, bring right leg in front of body, knee bent 90 degrees and thigh parallel to floor.
  • Slowly bend left knee in a half squat, keeping weight over heel.
  • As you squat down, bring arms down in front, then out to sides and back above head as you straighten leg.
  • To make it easier, don't squat down as deeply and keep your right foot closer to floor.
  • Do 7 to 10 reps.
  • Repeat the entire series, starting from Tree Pose, on opposite leg.

Circuit 3

1. Warrior 1

Strengthens: Legs, Glutes, Core; Stretches Back

  • Stand with feet 3 to 4 feet apart.
  • Turn left foot out 90 degrees, pointing to left side, and pivot right foot toward left.
  • Bend left knee 90 degrees, knee aligned with ankle; turn hips to face over left thigh.
  • Place hands on hips (easier) or raise both arms overhead, palms facing each other (more challenging).
  • Hold for 7 to 10 breaths. Go directly to Tuck and Extend.

2. Tuck and Extend

Strengthens: Arms, Chest, Glutes; Stretches Hips

  • From Warrior 1, sweep arms down to touch floor on either side of left foot.
  • Step both feet back behind you.
  • Inhale, then exhale as you lift right foot off the floor and sweep knee under body (not shown).
  • Straighten right leg behind you, lifting it as high as you can, then bring knee back toward nose.
  • To make it easier, bring right knee to floor before straightening leg.
  • Do 7 to 10 reps; go directly to Slow Kick.

3. Slow Kick

Strengthens: Glutes, Chest, Shoulders; Stretches Hamstrings

  • Lower right foot and walk hands back, rolling up to standing position.
  • Lift right leg, knee bent 90 degrees; bend elbows 45 degrees, palms down (not shown).
  • Slowly kick forward with right foot, leading with the heel; at the same time, slowly push palms forward.
  • Lower and repeat.
  • Do 7 to 10 reps.
  • To make it easier, keep standing leg slightly bent and hands on hips.
  • Repeat entire series on opposite leg.

Get More Early Morning Energy

Question: "What can I do to get more energy for a morning workout?"

Answer: Try these tips from Lawrence Biscontini, coauthor of Morning Cardio Workouts (Human Kinetics, 2006).

  • Think caffeine. Set your automatic coffee maker (or even better, make some green tea) so it's ready when you get up.
  • Then eat a small snack that's high in carbs and protein, such as peanut butter on a slice of apple.
  • Finally, choose some new music for your routine. "Just hearing something different can get you moving," says Biscontini. And of course, make sure you're going to bed early enough at night.

Try Our Favorite Mind/Body DVDs

Level: Beginner/Intermediate

Soul Stretches (36 minutes; $16.95)
Instructor Ulrick Bien-Aime leads you through 30 different stretches, including two 15-minute workouts designed to bust stress and improve flexibility. Pick the variation that suits your level.

Level: Intermediate

Crunch: Super SlimDown Pilates Yoga Blend (40 minutes; $14.95)
More of a soothing mind/body routine than a heavy calorie burner. Instructor Ellen Barrett starts with a flowing yoga workout, then shifts into a mat-based Pilates segment with challenging variations that will leave you feeling strong, sculpted, and reenergized.

Level: Intermediate/Advanced

Tai Chi for Health Yang Long Form (2 hours; $19.95)
This is billed as the most comprehensive tai chi DVD. Master instructor Terry Dunn carefully details 108 tai chi positions for more than an hour, then puts them all together in a fluid 17-minute series.

All videos are available at collagevideo.com.

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