My Mindfulness and Pilates journey started from a personal perspective. I was introduced to the benefits of Pilates early in my Physiotherapy career, when I suffered a back injury. As for Mindfulness, my friends would tell you I am a born worrier so Mindfulness was something that was of great interest to me.
The benefits of Pilates on our muscle strength, flexibility and control are only the start of the effects it can have on the body. Introducing “Mindful Movements” allows us to ground ourselves in the present moment, leaving our worries and concerns at the door.
So, I think Pilates and Mindfulness are a match made in heaven!!
What is Mindfulness?
I am sure you have heard the term Mindfulness, it seems to be everywhere at the moment, but what is it all about? In a nutshell, Mindfulness is all about being in the present moment and not letting our thoughts, worries and anxieties hijack our attention. Whilst the concept sounds simple, it can take time to learn. Once the skill is mastered through continual practise, the benefits can be huge.
So where does Pilates fit in? Pilates has a reputation to be “all about the core” but it has much more to offer.
Pilates is a mind and body exercise which means that your mind and body have to work together performing a series of exercises. These exercises work on breathing, flexibility and strength while bringing your attention to how you are moving. How we move is really important for pain free, efficient movement and being aware of our movements is the first stage.
Breathing also plays an important role in Pilates and has a strong links to mindfulness. Breathing is something we don’t really think about, however it can play an important role in how we feel. It can be affected by stress and anxiety, becoming faster and shallower as part of the fight or flight response. Over time changes in our breathing can become automatic as we deal with the constant stresses of daily life.
Pilates can help us to focus on our breathing and encourages us to breath into our rib cage and use our diaphragm. Gentle, slow breathing using the diaphragm has been shown to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This part of our nervous system is responsible for calming everything down. It acts to lower the blood pressure, dilate blood vessels and relax the muscles. The opposite to the sympathetic nervous system involved in the fight or flight response.
I have recorded a shorted Breathing Meditation to get you started. Find somewhere comfortable, where you won’t be interrupted and give it a go!