We look at some of the benefits of Pilates and wonder is it the key to whole body health
Pilates has been around for more 100 years. The man who invented it was a genius. His intuitive nature led him to create a system that could help the body heal from injury & illness.
His study of animals, evolution & movement led to him to understand that the body knows what it needs. The body can heal & repair itself if the right circumstances are present.
Give the correct environment, the body is self generating & self preserving.
However, given that the era of technology might appear to have enhanced & enriched our lives, there is evidence to suggest that we we seem to be standing in our own way when it comes to health, wellness and looking after ourselves.
So we look at some of the benefits of Pilates and wonder is it the key to whole body health.
It Improves Your Mood
For such a long time Pilates fans and advocates swore by the fact that doing Pilates put them into better mood – So much so, that clever marketeers came up with teeshirt slogans saying “Pilates Is My Therapy” or “Im sorry for what I said before Pilates”.
But with a lack of research in the field, most of the evidence supporting this was anecdotal. Until researchers began measuring levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter well-known for its mood-boosting effects in a group of women suffering with depression.
The women took 3 Pilates sessions per week for 12 weeks. They were measured before they began and once again after the 12 weeks were complete. In addition to serotonin, they measured depression levels by a 21 question survey called Beck Depression Inventory. This is a commonly used test in research and clinical settings.
After 12 weeks of regular Pilates classes, the women had a significant increase in serotonin and 34% drop in severity of depression.
It Reduces Stress
The trickiest part about understanding stress is that its really personal. What causes stress for one individual is not necessarily the thing that causes stress to another.
Stress and a measure of stress is the bodies ability to be able to cope with any given situation. The mind plays a huge part in this because most of us are not stressed because of the actual physical demand we place on our bodies.
We are stressed because our mind perceives a given situation as stressful and as a mechanism of protection, it releases hormones such as cortisol and adrenalin into the blood stream which are carried to the cells. It is these hormone that creates havoc in the health of the cells when they continue to flood the body.
As hunter gatherers, these hormones were designed to protect us when we had to run from a lion or a bear and we needed an instant boost to give us our fight or flight mechanic.
But we are no longer running from Lions and Bears even though sometimes we feel like we are constantly in a state of high alert. So when you bring yourself into the Pilates Studio you can be certain that there is no Lion or Bear lurking under your Reformer and you get to settle into a really quiet and calm place.
When your teacher brings you on a little inward focus, you are enabled the opportunity to calm the mind and settled your thoughts. For this short period of time as you focus on your breath you begin to allow the body to calm and quieten down. By increasing the depth of your in breath you are slowly but surely sending signals back to the brain to say – its ok, there is no threat, you can stop flooding my body with stress hormones.
It Helps You Sleep Better
Whether it’s a result of reducing your stress levels or that if physically fatigues you, there is no denying that taking regular Pilates classes helps you sleep better.
Joseph Pilates wrote extensively about the importance of sleep to your health and in his book Return To Life he gives advice on setting up the right environment in your bedroom.
Obviously when he wrote his book there were no smart phones, laptops or iPads. So no doubt one of the things that can help you sleep better is to remove electronic devices from your sleeping space up to an hour before you go to sleep.
But doing a few simple Pilates stretches before you jump into bed will ensure a great night sleep. Stretching the body can really help to settle your breathing & calm your mind giving you a great set up for a peaceful night of sleep.
It Boosts Your Immune System
Pilates emphasised that his system offered a way of clearing out the bodily house through improving circulation & breathing.
So much of our immune system relies on all the systems being in sync and balanced. This includes the neuromuscular systems, the respiratory systems the cardiovascular system & the skeletal system. If any one of these systems is out of whack it tips the balance and the body has to work harder to maintain homeostasis.
When you take part in a Pilates class you work each of these systems to just the right degree. Your teacher will take you through a series of movements that improve your neuromuscular system, will challenges your respiratory system and will move your skeletal system. The synchronisation of these systems will increase your bodies ability to find balance & health.
Remember – the body knows how to heal – its just needs the right environment.
It Makes You Strong
Pilates is a system of functional dynamic movements that your body was designed to do.
When you practice it regularly your whole body will change shape from the inside out.
You will feel both mentally & physically strong.
You will always feel like it never gets any easier – but the truth is you are just getting better and stronger and your teacher is taking you to new heights in your workout.
Pilates builds an amazing foundation – just like building a house – without a solid foundation your house will collapse, crack or crumble – when you use Pilates as your foundation, anything is possible.