Pilates is just a bunch of stretches and poses isn’t it? I can see why it would help my back and joints, but how can it possibly affect my mind?
I have been a psychotherapist for 12 years and a Pilates teacher for 9. Having spent so many years poring over books and academic papers, analysing data, reading reports and writing long, considered essays, I really needed to get up out of my chair and move. I had put on weight, lost confidence in my body and had bad backache. So I decided to take up Pilates for an hour a week as it seemed to be fairly easy and accessible.
I didn’t realize what a strong impact Pilates would have, not just on my body but on my mind too. After a one hour session (with a very good teacher) I felt I had stretched out every part of my body and finally been able to relax. But I also felt lighter, it had cleared my mind because I had to concentrate so intensely on making the correct movements. It was a physical effort, but it all felt good – it didn’t feel exhausting and it didn’t hurt. The teacher made it clear that this form of exercise was not about pushing yourself beyond your limits or competing for the best result. It was much more about focusing on what you are experiencing in the present time, noticing how it made you feel and challenging yourself only as far as you wanted to go.
After a few weeks and months of regular Pilates classes I noticed that my back was not aching any more, that I felt physically stronger and that I was able to switch off and relax much more. My anxiety level had decreased and I felt happier in myself generally.
When the opportunity to train as a Pilates teacher came along, I grabbed it. This involved many months of spending my entire weekend at training, doing lots of class planning and homework in between about how the body functions and reading everything I could about Pilates. It was scary having to teach my fellow trainees in front of witnesses. In fact the whole experience was much more frightening than studying to be a psychotherapist! I was very comfortable sitting for hours with things to read and absorb on my own. It was really hard being on show in front of big groups of people who were judging my teaching. It was a gradual process, learning to take feedback and build my confidence slowly. But I finally managed, qualified with my Level 4 Pilates matwork Diploma and I haven’t stopped teaching since.
Over the years my style of teaching has developed to reflect my interest in mindfulness and relaxation. I want other people to understand that Pilates can affect your mental health as well as your physical well-being. I won’t ever stop doing Pilates. In fact I soon notice it if I do take a pause. Parts of my body I didn’t know existed start hurting.
Have a go. You’ve got nothing to lose…except that tum!