When most of us think of Pilates, we think of how the practice benefits the body, specifically our core muscles. After all, it is an exercise system designed to build strength, create stability and increase flexibility. However, Pilates is not just beneficial for our bodies but it also is a great practice for our mental health.
Reconnect with Self
Pilates is a mind-body practice that incorporates breathing, concentration, flow, and precision. If you’ve ever taken a private Pilates session, you may have noticed that the teacher does not play music during the session. Yes, music is helpful for some workouts but Pilates is about body awareness. You need to focus on what you are feeling in your body and to the cueing provided by the teacher. This focused concentration is key to reconnecting with those deeper muscles. It also allows for self reflection. Why am I tensing my shoulders to lift my arms? What is causing my movements to be rigid? How can I allow my breathing to help me with the exercises? Pilates encourages us to be present and to focus on the here and now.
Don’t Worry, Be Happy
Exercising, in general, is a mood enhancer due to the release of endorphins, our feel good hormone. Pilates takes this further due to its emphasis on the mind-body connection. There are so many things to be aware of in the body as you're executing each exercise that you have to get out of your head and into your body. Or as my mom likes to say, “Leave your troubles at the door”. Release those worries and appreciate the time you devoted to self-care.
Slow down, focus and breathe. The breath is one of the most powerful tools in calming the mind. In Pilates, every exercise involves a particular breathing pattern which improves the effectiveness of the exercise, helps to supply oxygen to the muscles, removes waste products and prevents you from holding your breath because you should be continuously breathing. The inhale flows directly into the exhale and vice versa. This focused breathing invites calmness to the body and mind.
Practicing Pilates at least 3 times per week will benefit both the mind and the body. As Joseph Pilates stated:
"The acquirement and enjoyment of physical well-being, mental calm and spiritual peace are priceless to their possessors..."