Pilates and Mindfulness: The Connection

When many think of Pilates, they may not make the direct connection with mindfulness the way they do with yoga. Joseph Pilates intended for Pilates to be a very mindful practice, with specific exercises and breath connection, working into consistent movement from position to position. We thought we’d take a deeper dive into the idea of mindfulness and its connection to Pilates, showing the benefits that Joseph Pilates envisioned.

Mindfulness and Pilates

The Oxford English Dictionary defines mindfulness as “…a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations….” Anyone who has ever practiced Pilates knows that the proper breathing required to accentuate the flow of movement forces a kind of calm throughout the body, and the focus needed to achieve each position enables the practitioner to really stay mindful throughout their session. 

Those in Pilates often talk about the “6 Principles”, and while these principles were actually created by Joseph Pilates’ students, they still clearly reflect the tone of mindfulness within Pilates: 

  • Breath
  • Concentration
  • Control
  • Precision
  • Center
  • Flow

All of these principles require discipline, forcing the mind to concentrate and be present – in other words, mindful.

Connecting Mindfulness into the Everyday

Some may find it difficult to incorporate mindfulness into their everyday life for many reasons: busy work schedules, domestic responsibilities, family activities, even national news events. All of these are competing for your attention. It’s important to find time in your day to reset and clear your mind, if even just to reduce anxiety. By incorporating Pilates into your exercise regime, you will inevitably find that you have found ways to seamlessly integrate mindful moments into your day. Yoga is another option that is very complimentary to Pilates, too!

If you still find it difficult to find time, even after practicing Pilates, there are many other ways to carve out some moments of mindfulness for yourself. Just 10 minutes of breathing meditation each morning can help set you on the right path. There are even smartphone apps to help you with this. Find your favorite one in your phone’s store and set a reminder each day. 

Gardening is another popular option. If you have a green thumb, grow a small indoor garden with herbs and flowers and spend a few minutes each day tending to them. This will at least allow you to focus on something outside of the noise. 

Benefits of Mindfulness

We’ve often talked about the benefits of Pilates, but what about the benefits of mindfulness? There are so many, but here are just a few we thought important to mention:

  • lowers blood pressure and improves cardiovascular health
  • reduces chronic pain and improves sleep
  • relieves stress, anxiety and depression
  • sharpens the mind and reduces negative emotions

Even without the physical benefits of Pilates, mindfulness in addition to your daily exercise can only help your overall well-being! 

If you are interested in adding mindfulness to your day, and if you’d like to continue your Pilates journey, contact us today and let us help you get started!

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    Pilates for Busy People (All of Us?) It's a given in our world: We are busy people. With 40-hour-a-week jobs, presentations to give, children's carpool lines and after-school activities, meals to prepare, bills to pay, cars to get fixed, houses to clean, laundry to fold -- you get the picture -- there's little time left to think about ourselves, our bodies, the way we move through the world. What if there were an activity you could fit into your busy schedule that would not only help you to stay in shape, but carry its benefits into your daily life, boosting your energy, confidence, and stamina so that you don't collapse in a heap on the bed after a full day?Well, there is! Even one Pilates studio session per week will leave you feeling invigorated, stronger, and more sane so that you can be your best self all week long.  Because the Pilates method requires focused attention, deep breathing, and whole-body engagement, busy people (let's face it, we're all busy) will reap its benefits. The mind-body connectionWhen Joseph Pilates said, "A body free from nervous tension and fatigue is the ideal shelter provided by nature for housing a well balanced mind, fully capable of successfully meeting all the complex problems of modern living," he was explaining how the Pilates method affects daily life. With regular Pilates practice, students become more aware of posture, breath, and core strength. Whether you're writing a memo at a desk or cooking dinner, you will begin to feel the proper way for your body to move throughout the day, a knowledge that retrains the mind to expect alignment and health. Frequency of workoutsExperts say that no matter what exercise you try, it's optimal to engage in it two to three times a week. The same is true for Pilates. Joseph Pilates said, "In 10 sessions you will feel the difference, in 20 you will see the difference and in 30 you will have a whole new body." Consistency of practice is important: Once a month at the Pilates studio will not only be less beneficial, but you'll get frustrated that you can't remember what you learned in your previous sessions. Workouts are designed as building blocks from beginner to advanced fitness levels. As they engage different levels of concentration -- from proper breathing, to specific muscle groups, to the flow from one exercise to another -- it's important to find a regular routine. Once a week will give you a boost. Two or three times a week will garner greater, and faster, change. What else can I do?When you can't get to the studio, what else might you do? Many Pilates instructors actually give their clients homework, often consisting simply of conscious practice in proper posture and breathing. Ask your instructor what you can do throughout the day to maintain your workout's benefits. You'll be surprised: You may not even have to leave your desk!Adding aerobic exercise is also beneficial -- even taking a brisk walk around the neighborhood after dinner can get your blood pumping, as will a jog. Adding stretches to your morning or before-bed routine can keep you aware and limber. Remember, physical exercise isn't just for people who don't have kids, careers, or lives outside the gym or studio. It's important for all of us to stay in physical, mental, and emotional shape so that our busy lives can feel enriching versus constantly exhausting. Pilates is an excellent way to bring your workout home with you, and to train your body to expect its benefits throughout the day.