We don’t need to look much further than the basic principles of Pilates to start realising the benefits that these and the exercises can bring to your daily habits and movements. Breathing, a basic element of life, is used to bring oxygen into the body for its normal function. In Pilates we use the breath to connect the core muscles to help support and protect the body during exercise. Many of the exercises are tough and require total concentration and focus to execute them properly, providing a two-fold benefit: clearing the mind of all worry as well as bringing mind and body together. In my experience during daily life, marking off the to do list in the same way helps to stay calm and collected while focussing on just one thing at a time.
Another key principle that we use on the mat is control. This element really appeals to the controlling part of my character but is a powerful tool to get more out of less. Fewer repetitions of an exercise done precisely, with control are worth far more than hundreds of poorly performed movements. The bonus is that you can get a strong workout in a shorter amount of time but still reap the benefits of added strength and flexibility. Is it rocket science to transfer this into daily tasks? Apply an element of calmness and control to what you are doing and it gets done quickly and efficiently. More time, then, for the things that truly make your heart sing!
No matter what you do for a living, whether you love it or not, stress from the fast pace of our modern lives is inevitable. The final principle in Pilates is centring. Perhaps a more difficult thing to incorporate into a mad schedule but finding your inner self, or centring, really isn’t just a cliché, it’s a secret weapon in combatting stress. Pilates is all about the core, the centre, the powerhouse from your middle. The muscles are situated deep in the body so you need to feel them rather than see them in action. It takes some practice but when mastered, there is a quiet sense of strength and, indeed, power that you experience from inside your body. I can only say from my personal experience that using this physical power from the body and transferring it into your mind when faced with a stressful or difficult situation is incredible. The body truly is a miracle creation!
There are plenty of scientific findings out there that prove exercise is good for your health. Keeping the body moving, the blood circulating and the heart pumping properly is vital. Practicing Pilates trains the body into good patterns of movement, using the core for support and allowing the limbs to function properly. Supporting the body from the powerhouse means tight muscles in legs and arms can be lengthened, increasing flexibility. Using the correct muscles for keeping the body upright means you feel stronger from the centre too. Many of us sit for hours at a time so heading to a Pilates class at lunchtime or straight from work will go a long way to help reduce the tightness in leg and back muscles.
So don’t spend any longer wondering what Pilates could do for you or whether you should try it out, find a class near you and get onto your mat.