Pilates: Mind Over Matter (5 minutes read)
What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear this word? Do you think it’s a form of exercise that tones your abs and the rest of your body? Do you relate it to rehabilitation exercise? Or do you think Pilates is your back-pain cure? In a broader sense, some might relate it to the word “core” and define Pilates as a series of core strengthening exercise.
There is an endless list of functions and benefits of Pilates. Meanwhile, not many people know about the fundamentals of Pilates and its history. Karen Mirlenbrink sums it up pretty well in just one paragraph through her blog entry, she wrote:
“In brief, Joseph Pilates created his method of exercise in the early 20th century. Originally called Contrology, it was designed to help people connect the body to the mind. He believed that with practice, a person could control exactly how they are moving by becoming aware of their movement patterns. His method of exercise brought mindfulness into the realm of fitness, and with that mindfulness, he brought his clients into the “now.” The Pilates system not only accomplishes physical benefits like improved posture, increased core strength, and improved stamina, but also helps improve attentiveness, coordination, and centeredness. Unlike Yoga, Pilates-style workouts do not involve conscious meditation, however, the work does connect the mind and the body by bringing you into the present moment through the mindfulness of controlled movement.”
It’s pure joy reading a blog post written by someone who has the same mind-set on the Pilates method. Throughout the past 10 years of my Pilates practice, the method has brought me many physical benefits and a healthy mind. Just like Karen Mirlenbrick, I have been applying the Pilates method to other aspects of my life.
To me, the physical benefits from practicing Pilates are just by-products. The much deeper and more important element I seek for is the moment when I am practicing, the “now”, the moment when the mind and body are fully connected. Further beyond my Pilates practice on the mat or reformer, I practice expanding that same focus, that same attention and awareness to everything in life. The integration of the Pilates principles (i.e. concentration, breath, control, centering, precision, and flow) requires consistent and regular practice. It can be practiced at anytime. In fact, all my Pilates students would have been told by me at some point in their practice, “Starting from now, be aware of how you are breathing and how you are holding up your body. Once you have started becoming more aware, you are already practicing mindfulness. Then, you are ready to further your mindful practice through movement, and mindful movement is what Pilates is about.
Practice makes perfect.
Reposting below are some examples on how to apply the Pilates principles in life. It was originally shared by Karen Mirlenbrink in her blog post. For her full article, please go to http://www.athleta.net/2013/12/10/pilates-for-life/
A mindful Pilates practice will help connect the mind to the body. When we practice Pilates, we are thinking about our breath, our movement, what muscles are moving, how the equipment is working, all the way down to every last detail. We can apply mindfulness to our lives by focusing on the small details of life around us. For example, the next time you walk outside, become mindful of how your feet feel on the sidewalk. Breathe deeply, and feel the air enter and exit your lungs. Feel the warmth of the sun on your face, and listen to the sounds of the birds singing in the trees. This kind of mindfulness will bring you into the now, allowing you to focus, alleviate stress, and bring positivity into your life.
Balance is the key to everything, and we practice balance in Pilates. Not only do we practice our exercises in near-perfect posture where our core is engaged, but also strive for muscular balance. We ensure that our bodies are strengthened evenly, from font to back, side to side, and all around. Our goal is to create a well-rounded, strong and flexible body. However, balance is also applied to life in a wellness perspective too. In order to live a healthy, happy life, we have to balance the health of the mind and the body. Balance, in a wellness frame, is quite challenging because, as people, we tend to become enthralled with responsibility, causing us to prioritize things over others, throwing our mental and physical balance off. A really good example of balance is the concept of work–life balance. Does your work–life balance seem a little off? Are you working more than you are living? It’s important to work, but it is also important to allow your mind to rest, otherwise you will burn out. An easy way to establish balance is disconnecting. Give yourself a time in the day where your phone turns off and your computer powers down. This will allow you to get away from the screens of responsibility, and spend more time with the people, things, and activities that you love.
The Pilates method works from the inside out. Before any exercise, we find breath and we engage our core muscles to find strength and stability before we move. It’s from our core that all energy of movement is found. Centering is an applicable practice in daily life, as well. Joseph Pilates believed that centering would bring calm to your mind and spirit. For example, when you come across a challenge, be it physical or mental, use breathing to bring you back into your mind, into your body. Inhale and become mindful of your breath, and of the challenge you face. Use the breath and your core to breathe out confidence and strength, and to prepare you for what you must face next.
In Pilates, our workouts are designed to flow from one to the other. This causes our breath to align with the movements, the workout to become a fluid, non-stop challenge, and our workout to be seamless from start to finish. By flowing through our movements, we build strength and stamina. We can apply this principle to our lives by flowing through life. Of course, not aimlessly flowing, but taking each day and its challenges as they come. Tackle each obstacle head on, successful or not, then roll on, ready to face the next challenge behind it. Regretting the past or worrying about the future will only slow your flow, and, eventually, stop the flow.
These are just four examples of several principles found in the Pilates method. How you decide to apply them to your life is up to you, but they can make a big difference when you practice applying them. With practice, you will find yourself living mindfully in flowing balance.
Thanks for reading till here. You may find more of her posts here http://www.athleta.net/author/karen-mirlenbrink/
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It really is “Mind over matter.” Pilates is not just for your body, it’s for your mind too.
- Karen Leung, Head of Pilates at Mindful Pilates, Hong Kong