Pilates and Modern Mindfulness
“Modern mindfulness” is a booming industry: in this hyper-connected, 24-7, fast-paced world, there is an understanding that to live mindfully is to live with greater focus, relaxation and balance. We all want it!
Unlike the practice of meditation, mindfulness is less about spirituality and more about concentration. In a nutshell, it’s about the ability to quiet your mind, direct your focus on the present, and dismiss any distractions.
Mindfulness is in our schools and board rooms; it’s mobile (hello, apps!), in video and streaming live. It’s also being built-in to modern fitness formats and packaged up as ‘mindful exercise’. But let’s cut through the marketing noise for a moment to explore what exactly constitutes a ‘mindful’ activity?
According to Ralph La Forge of Duke University, such an activity should include:
- A self-reflective, present moment and non-judgmental sensory awareness.
- A perception of movement and spatial orientation.
- Focus on breathing.
- Attention to anatomical alignment.
- Awareness of intrinsic energy.
Turns out, Joseph Pilates was well ahead of the curve with: “The Pilates Method of Body Conditioning is complete co-ordination of body, mind and spirit.”
At the heart of the Pilates method is this idea of harmony between body and mind that is achieved only by combining mindful thought and breath awareness, with the physicality of athletic movement.
This mind-body connection and the use of breath features heavily across the six core principles of Pilates:
- Centring: the mind creates focus and initiation of energy to the centre of the body.
- Concentration: the mind must be present.
- Control: the mind connects with the body to create control in movement.
- Precision: the mind signals to the body to create precision in movement.
- Breath: the body and mind connect through the breath to create rhythm and intention.
- Flow: the mind and body must work together in coordination, to enhance the flow of movement.
There is growing recognition of the value of Pilates as a mindfulness exercise, with health benefits spanning both clinical and every day contexts and helping people to:
- Improve memory.
- Train your brain: challenge body and mind at the same time.
- Improve nervous system health by firing up deep muscles and movement chains.
- Calm mind, body and spirit:
- Relieve anxiety and depression.
- Treat insomnia.
- Improve focus.
- Unlock creative thinking.
- Relieve stress.
- Assist in chronic pain management.
- Reduce negative emotions/boost mood.
- Lower blood pressure and improve cardiovascular health.
- Emotional regulation.
- Self-awareness and love!
There is something deliciously cleansing and empowering about mindfulness; and the beauty of Pilates is that these skills seamlessly translate into other areas of life.
Joseph Pilates said it best: “A body free from nervous tension and fatigue is the ideal shelter provided by nature for housing a well-balanced mind, fully capable of successfully meeting all the complex problems of modern living.”
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