Pilates and Mental Health plus, what's coming up at a glance!
Dear Pilates Friend,
''Pilates is a system of coordinated movement, concentration, and breathing that fully absorbs the actor in what he or she is doing, adds grace and efficiency to daily life, relieves stress, increases circulation, augments self-esteem, becomes a habit and most importantly is fun to do.''-John Howard Steel, author and a former full time student of Joe Pilates
It's no news to us how much exercise helps to boost our mood. If you look on Google these days you can find hundreds of articles with scientific evidence as to how much exercise plays a major part in making us feel good.
But what is it about Pilates that makes us feel so great?
Let's start by taking a look at the breathing. Conscious long inhalation followed by a conscious long exhalation. Think about the exercise, 'The 100' which is our first move in the 34 mat repertoire. This is a breathing exercise, not an abdominal teaser... Yes, we feel the work in the body (he was clever like that Mr Pilates) but it's purpose is to switch you into your body, getting you ready to move with a new focus rather than bringing your normal mind chatter with you into the rest of the workout.
Science has concluded that the mind can't regulate itself, we need the body in order to do that and the immediate way to regulate our mind is via a conscious focus on our breath. Our breathing regulates our nervous system from fight or flight to calm. It energises our body thus preparing it for movement. This is one of the reasons why our mat repertoire starts with the 100...
In Pilates we have exercises which are complex yet with somewhat simple instructions. To perform these exercises the mind needs to be engaged. With a fully engaged mind, Pilates generates an electrical impulse or a chemical in the nervous system which we register as enjoyment. These impulses and chemicals cause the brain to crave a repeat performance, and that is the stuff that creates 'addiction'. It is the same stuff that brings you into 'the zone',/ Flow .The meditative flow state that the participant enters is to do with the structure of these exercises and the requirements for performing them. Flow just doesn't happen. Certain conditions must be present.
Flow occurs, ''when all a person's relevant skills are needed to cope with the challenges of a situation, when the person's attention/concentration is completely absorbed by the activity. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your ego falls away and your whole being is involved, and you're using your skills to the utmost.'' --**
**from csikszentmihalyi's renowned book 'Flow, the psychology of Optimal Experience'
Our exercises are performed at a slow and steady pace which helps to slow our regular mind chatter down. Together with our focus on thorough instructions from the teacher you'll find yourself not having any space left over to focus on anything else apart from what you are doing from moment to moment. Putting this together with the breath, it'll bring you right into the present moment with new vigour, ready to take on the tasks for the day ahead with less stress.
It is the enjoyment that results from the concentration on the movements, the challenge of performing them, and the rewards from persistence, progress and achievement, all of which Joe built into his program. Enjoyment of a deep psychic kind distinguishes Pilates from so many other gym-oriented activities and it is that deep physic enjoyment that brings people back. Pilates is, as John Steel says, fun.
Endorphins and other hormones such as endocannabinoids, and dopamine are released when we exercise. These are not just released when you perform a high aerobic form of exercise such as running, rowing or a brisk walk.
In fact, any form of exercise can release these happy hormones. The most important thing is to find a way of moving that you like. But according to some, there are certain gym like activities which are too simple and monotonous to stimulate our brain enough to create positive results. They are not absorbing enough, you can practically plan a whole 3 course meal for your dinner guests while you perform them.
Personally, I think that if you like something and it keeps you moving, keep doing it. Enjoyment is key!
Looking at brain health, Pilates is currently being researched in relation to dementia conditions. Science is suggesting that it may help delay early onset of dementia. By challenging the brain, we improve cognitive function by creating new connections between nerve cells, which helps the brain store and remember information. This is what Pilates is about. But we need more research into this.
When asked about his method Joe often answered: Pilates is a movement system created to bring the mind, body and spirit together. These are the principles upon which his method was built: (some of which we have already discussed)
Breathing, Concentration, Control, Alignment, Coordination, Centering, Precision, Flow
In his books 'Your Health' and 'Return to Life', Joe also talks about the importance of living well to help us live our best life. To create optimal health and 'return us to life' he lists that we need things like, Exposure to cold, daily skin brushing, wholesome food (not too little nor too much) fresh air, and play.
Play is definitely my favourite! :)
Speaking of Play, The Easter Holidays are just around the corner. I hope you are looking forward to some more signs of spring during this time as much as me. We've had a long winter...
To keep you moving throughout the holidays I'm putting some recordings together which can be purchased either as a single class or both classes.
Here is the selection, all of which are 30/35 minutes long:
For the Mat Mixed Level & Intermediate/ Advanced Levels:
Band & Small Weights
For the Active Aging Group (formerly known as Gentle Pilates) :
A single class cost £7 or get both classes for £13
The recordings will be available to you for 4 weeks so you can repeat them as many times as you like.
There will be no in-house classes during the Easter hols however one to one sessions will be on as normal.
1:1 sessions can be done online as well as in person. For the in person sessions in my home we use the ever so popular Wunda Chair.
One to one sessions are an excellent way of deepening your work and to get you towards your goals quicker.
Prices for 1:1's
30 minutes Express, £25
1 hour, £55 (£50 if you book and pay for 5 sessions upfront)
Classes will resume after the Easter holidays but please note that all classes usually held on a Monday will be temporarily scheduled to a Tuesday for the first 3 weeks of the block. This is because school isn't back until 25th April and we have 2 bank holidays coming up..(1st May and 8th May)
There will be further information about these classes in a separate email to those currently doing these classes.
I hope you have a really lovely Easter break with plenty of rest, perhaps some chocolate.. and plenty of 'play'!