The holiday season is wonderful. We look forward to it all year. Unfortunately, we don’t necessarily prepare for it all year, often leaving decorating, gift shopping and wrapping, greeting cards, and all the other holiday-related chores till the last minute. Then there are parties and get-togethers with friends and family, possibly even out-of-town trips. On top of all this, we have to maintain our normal lives: bill paying, cooking, cleaning, errands, and of course, our jobs. So by the time the new year rolls around, we’re stressed to the max and ready to collapse.
What to do? Escape into Pilates. More specifically, escape into the serene retreat of a Pilates In the Grove studio, where the craziness stays outside and you can refresh and renew yourself.
Pilates not only exercises the body, it focuses the mind and helps you leave all your worries at the door. Indeed, the very principles and core practices of Pilates are tailor-made to relieve stress. Recall that Joseph Pilates first conceived his method when he was under the extreme stress of being a prisoner of war, believing that mental and physical health were interrelated.
“Self confidence, poise, consciousness of possessing the power to accomplish our desires, with renewed lively interest in life, are the natural results of the practice of Contrology [Pilates],” he wrote.
Here are just a few of the ways Pilates can help you refresh and renew yourself.
When you’re concentrating on performing each exercise properly, all your focus is on what you’re doing, not on where you have to be next, what you still have left to do, or what gift you can find for Aunt Sally. It’s all about the muscle control, or “contrology,” as Joseph Pilates termed it. The intentional movements coupled with full attention on your instructor are the very definition of mindfulness: being fully aware and involved in the “present moment.”
“This is the equivalent of an ‘internal shower’,” he wrote. “As the spring freshness born of the heavy rains and vast masses of melting snows on mountains in the hinterlands cause rivers to swell and rush turbulently onward to the sea, so too will your blood flow with renewed vigor as the direct result of your faithfully performing the Contrology exercises.”
Joseph Pilates regarded breathing as important to correctly performing the exercises. Breath is central to his method.
“Above all, learn to breath correctly,” he wrote. “Breathing is the first act of life, and the last. Our very life depends on it. Since we cannot live without breathing, it is is tragically deplorable to contemplate the millions and millions who have never mastered the art of correct breathing.”
When you’re breathing properly—deep abdominal breaths versus the rapid, shallow chest breathing we do when we’re stressed—the autonomic nerve system automatically slows, breaking the stress cycle. The benefits of deliberate abdominal breathing are: slower heart rate, calming of adrenaline output, lowered blood pressure, relaxing of all muscles in the body, and an overall feeling of calm.
Relaxation is key to the correct muscle firing patterns, as well as improved mental concentration. Effort and straining defeats the purpose of Pilates. Joseph Pilates said, “one must move without tenseness.”
By training your body to remain relaxed even as you perform the exercises, this training carries over into your daily life.
“Such a body freed from nervous tension and over-fatigue is the ideal shelter provided by nature for housing a well-balanced mind that is always fully capable of successfully meeting all of the complex problems of modern living,” he wrote.
And, he might have added, a renewed, refreshed spirit, ready to go out and tackle everything you have left to do, and enjoy yourself at the same time.
So take a break from the holiday hassles and book a pilates class with us today. You’ll enjoy the season more and your mind as well as your body will thank you for it!