It has been said that the practice of Pilates clears the mind and assists the mind and body to work together so that one can fully embrace life.

Pilates is an exercise program suitable for men and women irrespective of age or physical fitness.

It uses breath and movement to work on stabilising core areas of your body.

Benefits of Pilates include:

  • improved posture
  • enhanced body awareness and confidence
  • fitness and strength
  • greater flexibility and co-ordination
  • stronger pelvic floor muscles
  • enhanced muscle tone
  • relaxation

Pilates is an investment in long-term health, happiness and vitality.

Pilates for Stress Relief and Wellbeing

Pilates is not a religious practice, nor is it the same thing as meditation or Yoga. Joseph Pilates – the creator of the physical fitness system – was plagued with physical problems as a child and developed his own set of exercises and movements to promote his own physical wellbeing. He wanted to help others achieve a superior physical state as he had and shared and taught his exercises to others. He believed “the whole world” should benefit from his work.

Pilates is said to offer more than just physical strength, however. Indeed, stress relief is considered one of its most positive effects. Here are some possible reasons as to why and how Pilates offers stress relief and overall wellbeing.

Pain Relief

Being in pain is stressful all by iteself. Chronic pain can be stressful to the point of debilitation. Joseph Pilates made the bold claim that he never needed an aspirin, and suggested that others who practice his exercises wouldn’t need any either. While such a claim may not be for everyone, it does lend credence to the idea that the system relieves pain. So how could an exercise program relief pain and stress?

Pilates promotes body alignment and core muscle strength, as well as flexibility. It also works toward “spine lengthening” and encourages breath control.

Health and medical practitioners all over the world will tell you that a major issue for chronic pain is the body’s misalignment, often aggravated or caused by tense muscles. They say that muscle tension can pull bones and joints (especially the spine) out of their correct positions. The body then tries to compromise with more muscle tension to pull the bones back where they belong. With its emphasis on strengthening and relaxing the important core muscles you can see how Pilates could relieve pain.

Cardiovascular Health

Circulation is reputed to be enhanced by the practice of Pilates. Perhaps this benefit could lower blood pressure and other stress-induced cardiovascular problems that, when left unaddressed, can be deadly. Healthy circulation can go a long way toward an overall sense of wellbeing.

Muscle Relaxation

As noted above, muscle relaxation and stretching is a key component of this exercise regime. The exercises are said to elongate muscles and increase strength as well as flexibility. As the body takes on stress during the day, flexibility and relaxed muscles can help deal with those stresses in a healthy way, before they can take hold of the muscles and get the body out of whack.

A young woman in a gym, stretching. What it pilates?

Joseph Pilates believed that a strong-yet-flexible body leads to a strong and flexible mind. Combining these two leads to the ideal state of mind and body for a sense of wellbeing.

Pilates and Pregnancy

Pilates is gaining popularity as an exercise that is beneficial during pregnancy.

If you’d like some more detailed advice, see here.

Many advocates have stepped forward to tout it as a means for increasing muscle flexibility, strength, and balance. Even enthusiasts though agree that there are some precautions you should take in undertaking Pilates during pregnancy.

Here are some do’s and don’t’s to keep in mind.

Do:

  • Check with you healthcare provider. Whether you are seeing a midwife, OBGYN, or family doctor during your pregnancy, make sure he or she is aware that you want to do Pilates. Your healthcare provider should support your decision to do Pilates; if not, don’t go against his or her advice. There may be reasons why you shouldn’t pursue these exercises while pregnant, even if you know others who have done it.
  • Gently stretch your muscles. Your body naturally becomes more flexible during pregnancy anyway, and helping it along a little can be very helpful in facilitating labor. Gentle stretching is simply going with what your body is telling you to do – get limber!
  • Strengthen core muscles. Pelvic floor, lower back, and abdominal muscles are key players during labor. Pilates focuses on these muscle groups.
  • Look for specific pre-natal instruction if this is your first time doing this type of exercise. You might enrol in a pre-natal Pilates class, or use a DVD or Internet clip specially geared toward pregnant women.
  • Work on breathing. As anyone who has given birth can tell you, breathing deeply and calmly is essential to a more comfortable, effective labour. Pilates breathing exercises can help you with that.

Don’t:

  • Stretch too hard. Your body is loosening its joints, and stretching your muscles to the point of pain can be harmful.
  • Let yourself get winded. Experts suggest testing your limits this way: during your Pilates workout, you should be able to speak in a normal tone of voice without gasping and panting.
  • Do exercises that require precise balance unless you have someone with you. Your center of gravity shifts when you’re pregnant, and you have a different body posture when you stand upright. Exercises that seem easy or that you were able to do easily before can upset your balance when you’re pregnant.
  • Expect your moves to look or feel the same. Try not to get frustrated – embrace the difference in your body. It’s doing what it’s supposed to do, and it just is not the same as your non-pregnant body. Getting used to this idea beforehand can help ease the frustration or other negative feelings you might have as you find your body not cooperating like it used to.

You may also find that there is a place for Pilates in your post-pregnancy exercise regime. For more information on looking after yourself post-baby, see here.