We all have so much choice now when it comes to deciding what activities or sports to take up. I’d like to share 5 reasons why I think Pilates is an excellent choice.
1: Pilates is a wonderful compliment to every other activity and is performance-enhancing.
Whether it’s walking, running, swimming, gardening, rowing, playing golf or football, or playing musical instruments, bringing your mind into every part of your body gives you awareness and control over how you move, which rapidly enhances your performance in anything you do. Many hobbies and sports favour one side of the body, or particular muscle groups, more than others. Bodies are clever and make compensations so that we don’t notice the unevenness, often for years, before issues start to arise. Pilates immediately brings these imbalances to our attention and addresses them effectively.
2: Pilates counteracts the constant pulling down of our everyday lives by lifting and lengthening the spine.
Our lifestyles and culture often involve sitting for long periods of time, carrying heavy bags around, driving or sitting in cramped spaces on public transport, and using our eyes in short-range for prolonged periods when reading or staring at screens.
Pilates does the opposite. You learn to lift your whole body and lengthen your spine, giving you a stronger back and abdominals. Your waist becomes leaner and longer, your chest more open, and your mobility improves so that everything becomes easier to do.
3: Pilates gives the body what it needs by breaking the habitual patterns that we develop from our early years, and everything starts to feel easier.
Romana summarised Pilates as “Stretch and strength with control” and it’s exactly that! Whatever body type you have, and whatever issues you have, Pilates aligns and balances the body. If you are tight, it gives you stretch and strength in the right places to improve flexibility and mobility. If you’re hyper-mobile or over-flexible, Pilates ‘reigns you in’ and strengthens you so that you feel more centred and put together. Much like Alexander Technique, Pilates addresses the habits we’ve developed over a lifetime and trains us to become aware enough that we can change these patterns of movement from the inside out. It takes vigilance and commitment, but these changes often bring with them a more positive outlook and much more efficient over-all body function.
4: Pilates can be treated as a meditation.
Anything can be a meditation when done in the right way. Rather than sitting in a chair without moving, the meditative element of Pilates is the deep concentration needed when doing the exercises to work precisely and consciously, and with flow, just as Joseph Pilates insisted on. When Pilates is practised in this way, there isn’t room for minds to wonder or be distracted, and automatic pilot never happens. Romana’s Pilates is practised without background music in order to keep our attention on our own body. A session can feel as refreshing as having rested for an hour, but instead the body has moved, the mind-body connection strengthened, and blood has circulated around the body.
5: Pilates strengthens the connection of the mind to the body which, as a result, strengthens our connection to the world around us.
Joseph Pilates created a method that demands full integration of the mind and body. It’s far too easy to live in our heads, to the point where we don’t notice our bodies change, or habits develop that can cause issues later in life. Pilates addresses this by demanding that every movement is made consciously and with complete awareness. This takes time to develop, but the result is an awakening of muscles and joints that haven’t been thought about or used properly in a long time. Proprioception improves and this awareness extends to beyond ourselves and to how we interact with others. In a world where technology does a lot to remove our need to interact with each other, we need all the help we can get to re-establish these important connections.
There are many more reasons why Pilates is a fantastic form of exercise but, most importantly, enjoying it is what makes it a life-long pleasure. Doing something we love that takes us outside of our everyday activities is important for our wellbeing, but doing something we love that also makes our body stronger, more flexible, more aligned and lifted, really does do us the world of good.