The Pilates method goes beyond the development of a strong body. It’s a fitness system for the mind as well. While the brain is not composed of muscle tissue, it acts a lot like a muscle in that it requires exercise-without activity and consistent challenges, the mind can fall out of shape. A flabby mind can’t focus, flounders in everyday problem solving and is more susceptible to the negative effects of stress.
It’s interesting to note that Joseph Pilates’ earliest writings on his fitness system at first focused only on physical control, but as his system (which he called “contrology”) took shape, the mind came to have a key role in Joe’s vision of complete health. He ultimately invented a method that works to unite the body, mind and spirit in a coordinated whole, strengthening all three aspects of the self. The mind in particular is exercised as one applies intense concentration to the precision and flow of energy through every movement of a workout, while deep, controlled breathing pumps oxygen-rich blood to the muscles and the brain. Each principle of Pilates reinforces connections between the workings of the brain and the workings of the body, generating an overall increase in mind-body awareness.
Many people appreciate Pilates for the muscle tone, mobility and weight loss it offers, but increased mind-body awareness is another highly desirable effect. A study in the 2012 Journal of Dance Education interviewed a group of 63 Pilates students, and their responses indicate the value of mind-body awareness in everyday life. Students reported that enhanced proprioception gave them a boost in confidence, improved their ability to manage stress, and enabled them to identify and enact positive change in their lives.
Many people practice tai chi and yoga for similar mental benefits, and more serious or traditionalist practitioners incorporate the religious foundation of these disciplines into their fitness regimen. Pilates, though a distinctly Western system, may also deepen your sense of self and spirituality.
Pilates can be uniquely tailored to you and your individual life path; and in deepening your mindfulness, Pilates makes that journey more healthy, happy and whole. Ruth St. Denis, a pioneer of modern dance who worked with Joseph Pilates during her career, had this to say about the method: “Not only is the body rejuvenated, but the mental and spiritual refreshment is beyond calculation.”