Reduce stress with Pilates

Pilates can help with reducing stress levels

Can life get anymore stressful? The society we live in and the lives we lead suggest that stress, if anything, is going to get worse – unless that is, we do something about it. Stress is not going to just go away. We’ll always be under some sort of stress. Some stress is good for us, however, when stress levels become constant we dip into the type of stress that will, over time, do us harm – negative stress. As we experience negative stress, so we lose our ability to cope and this influences a number of physical and psychological problems. Negative stress has been attributed to muscle and joint pain, poor immunity, diabetes and heart disease. Stress will always be there so how we cope with it will determine our health and wellbeing. Pilates, at its very core, has principles that are known to help with stress management. Pilates is a proven technique to help you manage your stress levels.

Reduce your stress with Pilates and become more relaxed

Joseph Pilates developed his methods during the early 20th century and defined them using the principles of breathing, relaxation, concentration, imagery, body awareness and mindfulness. Breathing exercises focus the mind and increase concentration while fitness exercises improve body function by concentrating on stretching and strengthening muscles. Combining all of Joseph Pilates’ techniques and principles, stress reduction, fitness and balance can be restored throughout the body and mind.

Relax with exercise
A strange thing to say, but the Pilates methods of exercise are based on moving without tension. Only the muscles that are required for a particular activity should be employed while the rest should stay as relaxed as possible. In this way, relaxation of the body becomes selective as we only engage the muscles that are needed. This technique can be employed in everyday activity to alleviate unnecessary stresses and strains on the body.

Breathe deeply
And relax….it’s true, a deep breath that begins down in the diaphragm impacts significantly on stress and should therefore be utilised in any stress management program. Taking the time to stop and inhale/exhale deeply gives the body and mind a brief moment of self-awareness. Too often, we are so caught up in a task that we forget to experience time in the present moment. Recognising how busy we are, and correcting it with a prolonged breath, is a positive response that will balance stress levels. Pilates can teach you how to breathe correctly and is known as ‘diaphragmatic breathing’.

Muscle concentration
Pilates teaches students to be relaxed by becoming aware of their body through contraction and relaxation of muscle groups in a specific pattern. In stress management, this would be referred to as progressive relaxation technique. With each exercise, there should be complete concentration on making sure the muscles are moving correctly. Once mastered, the technique becomes second nature and can be carried out at home or work without thought.

This is not daydreaming, but guided imagery from the Pilates instructor that teaches relaxation by placing you in peaceful state. If you go to a fitness class and are shown how to do something, your mind is shut off as you simply follow visible instructors. Pilates guides you through the exercise with verbal descriptions that relate to the activity being performed.

Body precision
Being aware of your body will make you more precise with your movements and this is core to Pilates. Exercises should begin from the right position and remain controlled throughout the movement. Becoming body aware can significantly reduce physical stress and is achieved through breath control and centred positioning of the torso.

Pilates techniques will help you toward an overall mindfulness and attention to the here and now. Being in complete control of your movement will mean that you’ll enhance your quality of life and ultimately reduce stress. Instead of performing exercises in autopilot, you’ll be mindful of every action that is being carried out within your body and a state of complete awareness can be achieved. Once your Pilates class is over, you’ll be left with a sensation of calm and feel completely energised.

Stress management through Pilates

Pilates will seem to be a completely foreign fitness regime when you begin. The exercises, movements, methods and even the strange looking equipment may feel odd at first. A trained Pilates instructor is on hand to guide you through this new world as you begin your first steps toward a mindful, healthy and stress-free life.

Article submitted by
Daniel Alexander, GoToSee Journalist

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