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Pilates For Mental Health

 

When you hear the words exercise, do you automatically think body and muscle size?
We all know that exercise improves your physical health, can add years to your life, take off those unwanted inches here and there and it’s even been known to help improve your sex life. How great is that? But it’s not what motivates most people to stay active.

When most of us exercise, we do it because we want to feel good and have a positive sense of wellbeing about our lives. We tend to feel more relaxed, sleep better and are more energetic throughout the day.
Exercises such as Pilates, are not only designed to help strengthen muscles and improve body balance, it also helps to sharpen our mental faculties for us to perform better in our daily life.

Let’s face it, we have stress in our everyday life from sitting stuck in traffic on the way to work, family conflict, financial and work deadlines. Some people seem to be able to handle stress easier than others and to accomplish those daily goals smoothly, while others go into the ‘flight or fight’ mode and this plays havoc on the nervous system.
Pilates, with its mind and body connection, has the elements of breathing, exercise and movement to get the feel good endorphins released through the body and helps to calm the nervous system.
Pilates has been used around the world for many years to increase muscle strength and tone, improve flexibility and posture, and lose weight. But, more research is suggesting that Pilates also has a wide range of mental health benefits.

 

 

Below are some reasons why pilates has the potential to help improve mental health.

 

Using The Breath

Breath is one of the most powerful tools in calming the mind and is utilised in a wide range of mental health practices such as yoga, meditation and the Wim-Hof method. Breath is extremely important in Pilates and is an essential component (the creator of Pilates, Joseph Pilates, says it's one of the 8 Principles of Pilates), where you need to empty your lungs and allow relaxation to your rib cage on each exhale. Specific breathing techniques are designed to help aid movement and muscle activation specific to each exercise and allows you to strengthen the connection between mind and body.

Stress Management

Pilates is used as a way to reduce and cope with stress.
Exercise has been shown to decrease stress hormones such as cortisol while increasing the body’s ‘feel good’ chemicals.
Coming back to the breathing component in pilates - when we focus on our breath in pilates, the brain is not able to focus on the ’to do’ list such as a work office deadline, picking up the kids, or what to have for dinner. Instead pilates will direct your focus inward and allow you to focus on the present, reconnecting with your body, and managing the bodies stress response.


Brain Training & Improving Memory

Learning new things is healthy for the brain. When we learn a new exercise or modification, it keeps the mind engaged as it challenges the brain to learn a completely new skill. Learning new things also increases the white matter in the brain which allows neurons to communicate.
When we perform automated or repetitive forms of exercises such as running on a treadmill, the body may be working and moving but the mind is not actively engaged.
However, with Pilates, it is requires you to use both your mind and body simultaneously.
According to Heathdirect, “exercise pumps blood to the brain, which should make you think more clearly. It increases the size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory. It also increases the connections between the nerve cells in the brain. This improves your memory and helps protect your brain against injury and disease.”

With countless exercise variations and modifications, Reformer Pilates is the perfect brain-building activity. It will enable you to learn new things and can be a great way to exercise both the mind and body at the same time.

 

Happy Hormone Release

Exercise and working out increases the body’s serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain. Practicing exercises such as pilates generates and releases a high level of endorphins and hormones known as ‘happy hormones’ which is said to improve mood and energy increasing the boy’s serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain.
These ‘happy hormones’ are also released when we do other joyful and pleasurable activities, such as laughter, or stimulation of the senses (sight, smell, hearing, taste or touch), but has also been discovered that can occur when we are in a state of concentration, focus and attention. This is the state we are in when we are performing pilates exercises.


Releases Emotional Tension

The body stores emotions which can manifest into tension, tightness, body aches and pains.
How are you holding your jaw at the moment as your read this? Are you clenching your jaw from feelings of stress, anxiety and emotional tension, or is it naturally relaxed?

Pilates allows the tension to be released in the muscles and body. By releasing the tension in the muscles, this also allows for a release in emotional tension and in helping to let go of ‘emotional baggage’ that they have been carrying around. 

 

Click here to read our other blog post on The Benefits of Using a Pilates Reformer.

Love Your Health now have our own Kiva Wellness Studio Pilates Reformers. The reformer is perfect for both the studio and your own home.

Shop our Kiva Wellness Studio Pilates Reformer online today.

Have you ever tried reformer pilates? How has it benefited you and your mental health? We’d love to know!
Feel free to leave a comment below.
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