One of the reasons I'm so passionate about Pilates is because there are so many different aspects to it. Relieving stress and anxiety is just one of the many amazing benefits Pilates provides. Pilates breathing techniques are powerful and I use these techniques myself to stay calm when I'm dealing with stress. I've lost count of the number of clients who have also successfully used their Pilates breathing to restore calm either for a one-off situation or to control ongoing anxiety. Deep breathing triggers a physiological response that helps to calm the nervous system and quieten the mind. It's not only the breathing techniques that help restore calm but the combination of breath and movement when we practice Pilates allows us to relax and go within and focus on staying in the present moment.
I wish I had known about Pilates during my teen years. The relaxation aspect would have been so helpful in dealing with all the challenges teenagers face. Whenever I happened to mention that I was feeling 'stressed" or under 'stress" my late great aunt delighted in telling me that "stress" didn't exist. She said it was a modern invention and there was too much publicity about it! Well, that didn't seem right to me, and it wasn't until years later when I was studying Anatomy & Physiology in preparation for my Pilates training that I was able to finally prove her wrong.
Stress Really Does Exist
Not surprisingly, when selecting a topic to research in depth, as part of my final assessment, I chose the stress response.
I was delighted to be able to share my newly acquired knowledge with my great aunt, but she still wasn't convinced! Our bodies are designed to produce a response to help us cope with what we perceive to be a challenging or stressful situation. On a basic level, hormones are released such as adrenaline and cortisol which increases the activity of the sympathetic nervous system. This prepares the body for the "fight or flight" response to cope with the impending threat. This stress response is designed to protect us from immediate danger in the short term and ensure our survival, but we are not designed to be living on high alert in a stressed state for extended periods of time.
What Are The Long Term Effects Of Stress?
When we allow stress to go unchecked in our lives it's like a car engine that is revving on high for far longer than it is designed to do, eventually, it will start to falter and break down. Common symptoms of prolonged stress are headaches, back pain, stomach and digestive issues and skin problems. It causes sleep disturbances, lowers immunity and can cause weight gain. It also causes mental health issues such as anxiety and depression and personality disorders. This is why it is so important to monitor your stress levels and actively find solutions to stay as calm and relaxed as possible and avoid the modern day trap of living in a permanently stressed state. We can't change many of the external events we have to face, but we can change how we perceive and react to these events. The more strategies you have in place to keep your stress levels under control the more balanced and healthy your life will be.
Pilates - Perfect For Restoring Calm
This low impact method of movement which incorporates breathing, not only assists in building a strong, flexible body but a calm, peaceful mind as well. Concentration is one of the original principles of Pilates and when we stay in the present moment keeping the focus on our bodies while practicing Pilates, it has a calming meditative effect on the mind. For those who require additional assistance in restoring calm, many members of JS Mind Body Pilates Online, my online Pilates studio find the "Guided Relaxation Sessions" highly beneficial. Either directly following their Pilates session or as a standalone practice, these 10 minute sessions assist to further encourage a feeling of calm and well being. If you would like access to these "Guided Relaxation Sessions" as well as my Pilates library of videos for all levels, you can take the free 10 day trial now.
My great aunt might not have believed in stress but she had the physical manifestations of several stress-related health issues during her lifetime. She didn't have the knowledge, tools or resources to cope with stress like we are so fortunate to have today. Don't make the mistake she made of closing her mind to possibilities that would have greatly improved her lifestyle. If you arent already a devotee, consider making Pilates part of your life. Among the many benefits, you may discover a new level of peace and calm that you didn't know existed!
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