Pilates: A Healthy Habit For Body And Mind
A guest post by Anastasiya Goers
What is the one obstacle that keeps you from having the healthiest lifestyle possible?
I ran a survey on my blog recently asking the same question. Most people answered that the single thing keeping them from staying healthy was a lack of time.
Today most of us have very busy schedules but even if we don’t we find plenty of distractions to keep ourselves occupied 100% of the time.
If you feel that a lack of time is your reason for not living healthy then I would like to challenge you to think differently.
A lack of time is an excuse. And it’s the excuse that I used myself for many years.
Growing up I was never an athletic person. Books were my friends while any form of exercise was torture. My sedentary lifestyle of course made me gain weight, so my answer was trying every crash diet available to lose weight fast. You can imagine that all of my efforts completely failed, and I did more harm to my body than I would like to admit.
Looking back, I know I had time to change my lifestyle, but I chose the lack of it to be my excuse for poor habits and lifestyle choices.
Let’s fast forward about 10 years. After years of searching and trying different things, I finally found a habit that helped me stay healthy, balanced and calm.
If somebody told me 10 years ago I would be a mother of four kids and be in better shape than I was in my teenage years, I would have laughed in their face. How can you work and take care of a big family while still having time for a healthy lifestyle?
I found what worked for me. I found something that I enjoyed doing and that made sense to me.
Think for a second of something you absolutely love doing. Maybe it’s shopping. Maybe it’s fishing or watching a football game. Maybe it’s writing or scrap-booking. Or maybe it’s old-fashioned reading.
How difficult is it for you to find time to do what you love? Of course, you have other responsibilities, and maybe you don’t get to enjoy this activity every day, but it is constantly present in your mind. You will take advantage of every spare minute to enjoy your favorite activity.
If you want to adopt healthy habits you must be passionate about them. You must find a way to love your healthy lifestyle, otherwise all your efforts will fail.
My breakthrough moment was discovering Pilates. Many people think Pilates is something similar to Yoga, while others haven’t even heard about it. And then there are those (like me) who’ve tried it once and realized just how perfect it is for their lifestyle and health.
I’ve never been a fan of going to the gym (too repetitive and boring.) I was (and still am) horrible at playing sports. Yoga had too much of a spiritual load for me. Running didn’t entice me either for a long time. But Pilates changed the way I treated exercise. It turned out to be the intelligent way to exercise that my body and mind were craving.
Pilates is now my number one healthy habit that exercises my body while calming my mind.
The exercise aspect of Pilates helped me connect with my body in a smart way, get through two twin-pregnancies and learn to appreciate my body.
The mindfulness/mindfulness-practice”>mindfulness aspect of Pilates helped me learn to listen to my body, find a way to quiet my mind and discover the quiet retreat from my busy lifestyle.
I hope at this point you are more curious about Pilates than you were before you started reading this article. Let me give you several reasons why Pilates can be your #1 health habit.
1. A universal workout
The genius of Pilates lies in its versatility. It is used by many athletes (from ice-skaters to NFL football players) to improve their performance, but at the same time it is the most recommended post physical therapy exercise modality for people with back or joint problems.
Joseph Pilates created his method first to rehabilitate injured soldiers during World War I (which explains why today it’s a popular post-rehab exercise regimen). He continued developing his method by working with dancers in New York and creating an advanced repertoire for high-performance athletes.
Chances are, no matter what your health and fitness goals are, Pilates will help you reach them in a balanced and enjoyable way.
2. Train your mindfulness muscle
There are many ways to practice mindfulness meditation, and mindful movement is one of them. Pilates as a mind/body practice makes you quiet your mind by concentrating on the movement and your breath. If you want to experience all the health benefits of mindfulness but simply can’t make yourself chant or meditate in solitude, then Pilates can be your ticket to tranquility.
3. Become smarter
Exercise improves neurogenesis, the creation of new brain cells, as well as protects the existing cells. That’s good news if you are trying to improve your memory or become better at solving everyday problems. A study at the University of Illinois also showed that people had significantly superior brain function after a session of mind/body fitness as compared to regular aerobic workout.
To top that, learning a new activity or working mindfully through a familiar one also increases the density of white matter in your brain (the substance that lets neurons in our brain communicate).
4. Reduce chronic stress
Whether we like it or not, our life is full of stressful situations. While we recognize some of them (an argument with a family member for example) and can choose to work through them, we still have plenty of less obvious stresses like negative self-talk, chronic multitasking or a “cluttered” daily schedule. Stress literally hides in our bodies and manifests itself in chronic back pain, tension headaches, and general tightness.
In order to successfully tame your stress, you need to approach it from two directions.
First you need to change your attitude by overcoming limiting beliefs and learning to respond to the stresses in a balanced and composed way.
Secondly, you need to drive that stress out of your body. If you teach yourself to relax the muscles that hold your tension (mostly your shoulders and your hips), then you will also gain greater mental and emotional freedom from stress.
With its focus on mindfulness, gradual progression, and gentle release within your comfort levels, Pilates will help you train your body to withstand any stress attack.
5. Be yourself
There's a lot of pressure from our peers and our culture in general to live a certain lifestyle and to fulfill societal expectations. In my opinion, this is chasing a rabbit. If we don’t take time to figure out the purpose of our lives and what's truly important to us, then we’ll end up wasting our time and energy on things that don’t bring us any lasting happiness or fulfillment.
Pilates is not a miracle workout, but it will help you accept your body the way it is. Every session is focused on you and your goals. Through the acceptance of your body you will be able to transform other areas of your life.
There are no two bodies on this planet made exactly the same. As a mother of two sets of identical twins, I know that! When you stop comparing yourself to others and conforming to standards that are not meaningful to you, you learn to respect your body. And when you respect your body, you want only the best for it — in the form of the healthiest lifestyle possible.
Learning to listen to your body and working with it (not against it!) is the greatest skill that will let you enjoy a healthy lifestyle without any excuses. Pilates has opened the door to health for me and for many of my clients.
I invite you to discover what Pilates can do in your life by simply feeling it in your body. Find a studio near you, take a virtual Pilates class, visit PilatesBridge.com — a community-based Pilates website, or simply ask me any questions right now in the comments below.
I hope that Pilates practice will become your number one healthy habit for body and mind too.
Anastasiya Goers is following her passion for Pilates and balanced living by teaching in-person and virtual Pilates classes and running the community-based Pilates website PilatesBridge.com. Her goal is to help as many people as possible discover the mind and body benefits of Pilates and find their way to health.
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