We know Pilates can help with your core, your body shape, posture and flexibility, but what about the mind’s side of things?
Using Pilates exercises to help you bounce back from a mental rut or to get your body feeling balanced again is the secret ingredient for millions of people around the world, from celebrities to athletes to mums, dads and everyone in between!
So why all the fuss?
When you can learn to connect your mind into the moment and align your muscles to ‘iron out any kinks,’ you are by default bringing your wellbeing back into place, reducing stress. When the body is aligned and balanced, pain-free and strong, yet limber, you will be able to stay in a healthier state of mind.
Pilates exercises were created to unify body, mind and spirit. Joseph Pilates himself was an advocate for better health even back in the early 1900’s when people may have thought he was too ‘out there.’ Noticing that there was already a problem with physical and mental health for people even back then (without mobile phones, social media, etc) he urged people to fix their body, align their posture and as a result have a healthier, stress free mindset.
If we look at ‘stress’ it’s a state of mind, a disposition where you are experiencing mental or emotional strain from ‘too much pressure.’
Your body will hold onto stress. The common places for physical tension to be held as a result of stress are: neck, upper back, lower back and the stomach area.
When we continue on the same daily, weekly, monthly routines especially in our emotional patterns we tend to accumulate more stress in our mind and body, unless we are consciously working at reducing or releasing it.
To have a stress-free mind takes work and your ability to recognise what your body and mind need at different times. It’s about putting yourself first, about tuning into your own needs and saying ‘no’ to things when they do not suit you.
Along with this it’s about aligning your body and restoring it to great balance and health, the way you were meant to be all the time!
Here’s how Pilates – based exercises can help you reduce stress:
It teaches you mindfulness – while some may want to only go ‘fast’ when exercising, true mindfulness can be achieved when you slow down, breathe and really ‘feel’ your muscles working. Getting ‘present’ and fully focused on the movement itself is very powerful. Pilates-based exercises require you to focus on many things at once – breathing, certain muscle activation, and coordinating movements while keeping control. Sounds a lot? Remember that the benefit outweighs the work – you will be forced into the present moment which will help you reduce stress at that point in time as you are not ‘thinking’ about it.
It targets the tense body parts – bearing in kind you will get a variety of ‘styles’ if you do Pilates exercises depending on the instructor and their tale on it, but namely it should point to the same thing. You are stretching out the spine, lengthening and targeting the muscles to align nicely around it. It encourages you to drop your shoulders – releasing neck tension. It helps you work your deep abdominals – helping you ‘massage’ the organs. It strengthens your back and glutes – helping release lower back pain and tension. It teaches you how to hold your body correctly for great posture – therefore helping you release upper back tension by distributing ‘load’ of your body, so to speak.
It forces you to breathe deep – countless studies continue to show us that deep, mindful breathing reduces stress hormones (for example, cortisol) and promotes the release of endorphins and happy hormones. Breathing puts the body into a more relaxed state. By breathing deep along with your movements you are creating a deep sense of awareness, again helping to reduce stress.
It gives you a physical release – one of the best ways to combat stress is to get it out of your body with some intensity in your exercise. With some Pilates moves you are super challenged and able to engage all your body at once. This physical exertion helps increase your strength and get a bit of a sweat happening. In this case you are able to ‘sweat it out’ and feel great after working your muscles, helping to feel rejuventaed after, reducing stress again.
It strengthens and stretches the body at once – this a time-savvy way to really get into better shape with a more balanced body. Often exercise will focus on one thing – either strengthening or stretching. By doing both at once you are getting more benefit in the same time. It will also help you to become more present during the movements and help release tension and stress from one muscle group while strengthening another. By muscles being challenged yet released you are actually reducing stress and releasing the mind aswell as it’s all connected. Bonus!
Stay healthy and balanced and never let stress get the better of you. Know that you can work it out of your body by using this technique, empowering yourself body and mind.