Pilates for Mental Health: Why Pilates can help Anxiety and Mental Wellbeing
Mental Health Awareness Week is an opportunity to raise awareness and reduce the stigma associated with mental health issues.This year’s campaign is focussed around anxiety. Anxiety is one of the most common mental health issues that we face and the hope is that the campaign can show how we can help to stop anxiety being a problem to our lives. It's also an excellent time to explore various strategies for improving mental well-being. One such strategy that has gained popularity in recent years is Pilates, a form of exercise that focuses on core strength, flexibility, and mindful movement.
In this blog post, we will delve into the benefits of Pilates for mental health and provide guidance on incorporating Pilates into your self-care routine.
Reducing Stress and Anxiety
Pilates encourages mindfulness and deep, controlled breathing, which can help alleviate stress. The emphasis on conscious movement and breath control promotes a sense of calm and relaxation, allowing the mind to refocus
and find balance.
Personally, I know that when I am having a stressful or anxious time, if I can get myself onto the mat to practice some Pilates, it is never something I regret. In fact, for that time I am there, I am seriously THERE. I am not in my head. I am not concerned about what I have to do next. It is just what I am asking my body to do. This control promotes a sense of calm and relaxation, allowing the mind to refocus and find balance.
Boosting Mood and Promoting Relaxation
Because Pilates incorporates stretching and flexibility exercises that can help release muscle tension, contributing to a more relaxed and comfortable state of mind. Again, the focus on breathing and controlled movement means that our body AND mind are engaged in the activity giving the anxious thoughts some time to desist.
And of course, engaging in regular physical activity, such as Pilates, has been shown to release endorphins, the body's natural "feel-good" chemicals. These endorphins can elevate mood and create a sense of well-being.
Enhancing Self-Awareness and Mindfulness
It's a big one! Mindfulness is talked about as a huge help for so many mental health conditions, in addition to living a less chaotic life. I am not going to lie. I was most certainly, one of those people who would say that they couldn't possibly contemplate mindfulness as I could never slow my thoughts down!
However, it was only after taking a course, and regular practice that I found that mindfulness is not about shutting the thoughts out. Rather it is about allowing the thoughts in, and then letting them go. Completely different.
But the other thing that has become more talked about is how activity can be mindful. So a walk, eating a meal, standing outside, these can all be practiced mindfully. And Pilates is an easy one to add to this. Quite often, there is not much thought available as you work through a set of teaser preps! It's only about how you are breathing, how you need to use your centre and move the body that is possible in that moment!
And that is being mindful. Not allowing other thoughts to take priority. To remain focussed and in the moment.
Improving Sleep Quality
Poor sleep quality is a common issue that can negatively impact mental health. I know that when I have poor sleep, it is so much more of a challenge to regulate my anxiety and separating thoughts from reality becomes so much harder.
Regular physical activity, such as Pilates, has been shown to help improve sleep quality by regulating sleep patterns and promoting deeper, more restful sleep. This can result in us experiencing a reduction in symptoms associated with sleep deprivation, such as irritability, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating. I have written about sleep and Pilates in a previous post if you would like to learn more.
Building Self-Confidence and Body Image
Blanket statement "build confidence" but it's not as easy as that is it?
But exercise, such as Pilates, can help.
Pilates can help improve posture, muscle tone, and overall body strength, which may lead to increased self-confidence and a more positive body image. As you become more connected and aware of your body and witness the progress, you may develop a greater sense of pride and accomplishment, leading to enhanced mental well-being.
I find when I take the time to practice 3 times a week, progress is noticeable in a short space of time which just gives me a boost. And it's not about how I look. It's the easier transition to a Teaser, or actually flowing through a Roll Up (my nemesis!).
Incorporating Pilates into Your Mental Health Self-Care Routine
If you're interested in exploring the benefits of Pilates for your mental health, there are some steps to consider:
Consult a Healthcare Professional
Before beginning any new exercise program, it's essential to consult with a healthcare professional, particularly if you have pre-existing mental health or physical conditions. They can help determine if Pilates is a suitable option for you and provide guidance on how to proceed.
Find a Qualified Teacher
Working with a qualified Pilates teacher can help ensure that you're practicing safely and effectively. Look for one with appropriate certification and experience, and don't be afraid to ask about their approach to teaching and any experience they have in working with clients who have mental health concerns. For more tips about choosing the right class for you, take a look at this post.
Start Slowly and Set Realistic Goals
As with any new exercise program, it's essential to start slowly and set realistic goals for your Pilates practice. Begin with shorter sessions and gradually increase the intensity and duration as you become more comfortable with the exercises. Remember that progress may be slow, but consistency and patience are key to reaping the benefits of Pilates for mental health.
Incorporate Mindfulness Techniques
To enhance the mental health benefits of your Pilates practice, consider incorporating mindfulness techniques, such as meditation or deep breathing exercises. This can help you develop a stronger
Connection between body and mind, further promoting relaxation, stress reduction and overall well being. Perhaps set aside a few minutes before or after your Pilates session to practicing mindfulness, focusing on your breath and allowing your thoughts to flow without judgment.
Create a Consistent Practice Schedule
Establishing a consistent Pilates practice schedule can help you develop a sense of routine and commitment to your mental health self-care. Try to designate specific days and times for your Pilates sessions, aiming for two to three sessions per week. Consistency is crucial for experiencing the full range of mental health benefits that Pilates has to offer.
Foster a Supportive Community
Engaging with a supportive community of like-minded individuals can significantly enhance the mental health benefits of your Pilates practice. Participating in group classes or connecting with fellow Pilates enthusiasts, either in person or online, can provide encouragement, motivation, and camaraderie as you journey towards improved mental well-being.
Track Your Progress and Celebrate Successes
Keeping a journal or log of your Pilates practice can help you monitor your progress and recognise the positive impact it has on your mental health. Take note of any improvements in your mood, stress levels, sleep quality, and overall well-being. Remember to celebrate your achievements, no matter how small they may seem, as this can contribute to a greater sense of accomplishment and motivation to continue your Pilates practice.
Embracing Pilates as a part of your mental health self-care routine can provide numerous benefits, including stress reduction, improved mood, and enhanced mindfulness. By incorporating mindfulness techniques, maintaining a consistent practice schedule, and fostering a supportive community, you can harness the transformative power of Pilates to uplift your mental well-being and cultivate a healthier, happier life.