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“Those who think they have no time for exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.” ~Edward Stanley

How To Get The Most Benefits From Your Pilates Class

mindful-pilatesThe Pilates system is a powerful exercise routine in and of itself but you can elevate the benefits even further by improving your focus on three important elements; breath, rhythm and form.

To explain what I mean by ‘focus’ I am going to refer to a term gaining popularity in the news and health circles called ‘mindfulness’. Have you heard of it? Of course you have.

Mindfulness - defined 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, used as a therapeutic technique.

Isn’t it interesting that the state of mindfulness is referred to as a ‘therapeutic technique’?

Pilates is a therapeutic exercise system and so combining the two can only mean better results and more benefits. However achieving this is maybe easier said than done. In all likelihood most of us have experienced those moments while exercising when our bodies are doing the physical work but our minds are back in the office or at home planning what to do the next day. For some of us this might be a very regular occurrence.

Not only does our risk of injury potentially increase in such scenarios because our attention is not where it should be but worse still we are literally wasting our time. For busy working people finding the time to maintain a regular exercise routine is hard enough so it makes sense to want to get the very best value and return from the effort we put in.

Pilates helps you to be more mindful

Some forms of exercise may make you more prone to losing focus than others. For example, running on a treadmill at a slow and steady pace or seated on a stationary exercise bicycle doesn’t really challenge your coordination - making it easier for your mind to wander off. The wandering mind may be a catalyst for creativity but is not useful while trying to condition your body.

Pilates on the other hand, even the beginner level routines, demand more of your attention to maintain balance throughout the varied body-weight movements and holding poses. The benefits of Pilates can include a lower chance of attention deficit and is likely to improve your ability to focus, to be more mindful. Let’s see why this is:

With so many distractions competing for our attention on a daily basis we may actually be learning through the false economy of multi-tasking how not to be mindful. But to regain this ability we need to change our practise - that is to regularly engage in activities that require us to give something 100% of our focus.

Pilates is such a practise requiring a focused coordination of breath, rhythmic timing of movement and good form. You will effectively condition your body while at the same time improve your focus. Bonus.

Breathing correctly

The use of our breath is an essential part of a Pilates routine (or any exercise)
Our muscles are responsible for giving us strength and flexibility in movement and they require oxygen to function. Holding your breath or breathing shallow or too fast is inefficient and will significantly decrease your performance. Instead, learning to breath steadily and in rhythm with your movement will improve your performance and energise your entire system at the same time. Breathing is a crucial element of many meditation practises due to its important role on body and mind regulation. During your Pilates class your instructor will continually remind you to focus on proper breathing.

Rhythm and timing

Rhythm plays its part in all movements - from the gentler beginner classes up to the advanced levels. A beginner learns the importance of timing for each movement to perform the entire routine in a fluid and effective manner.

Good form

Combining breath and rhythm is not complete without proper form. Each Pilates movement has a purpose of targeting specific muscles and without good form the risk of injury increases as do your chances of missing the benefit entirely.

Throughout your Pilates routine you are guided by your instructor who provides the timely cues to remind you where your focus should be. With practise your ability to maintain focus throughout your routine gets easier and so do you realise the greatest benefits on offer from the Pilates system.

Take care and until next time, Lorraine.

Image courtesy of 'samuiblue' / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

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105 Trees Rd, Mount Merrion, Co Dublin. Tel. 01 283 4303