Combating Stress With Pilates
All of us will experience periods of stress in our lifetimes, and one way to ease the symptoms is through exercise. Physical activity releases endorphins which have positive effects on the mind and body.
One form of exercise that has been lauded for its ability to relieve stress is pilates. It was created in the early 1900s by German Joseph Pilates.
This hybrid exercise system combines elements of yoga, martial arts, and more Western forms of exercise. By focusing on stretching and strengthening the body, it has been proven to improve balance, muscle-strength, flexibility and posture.
Like yoga, pilates also focuses on breathing and being mindful as this is believed to help people experience a calmer state of being. While this is happening, pilates also addresses the physical symptoms of stress, such as muscle tension, thanks to the stretching techniques employed.
Correct breathing techniques are important for good health, and especially when exercising. It is important to breathe from the diaphragm when practicing pilates and yoga.
According to the Health and Fitness Association you should begin by inhaling deeply whilst expanding the rib cage, and pull in the tummy muscles slightly whilst exhaling. This engages the transversus abdominis, which helps with exhalation.
The Health and Fitness Association also explaines that some pilates instructors incorporate Fletcher breathing, which requires participants to exhale through the teeth. However, it’s important to remember that each pilates exercise will require a specific type of breathing to be effective.
To reduce stress, some instructors will also introduce guided imagery to encourage people to imagine themselves in a calm and peaceful place while going through the pilates positions. Another way to enhance the pilates experience and reduce stress is to introduce aromatherapy into the session.
A great way to do this is to add a few drops of relaxing essential oils, such as lavender or roman chamomile to a diffuser or burner. This will fill the room with its wonderful aroma, allowing you to absorb and appreciate it as you exercise. While you are breathing, the aromatic molecules of the essential oils enter your bloodstream via your lungs, and this helps to calm and relax you whilst exercising.
It’s also good practice to incorporate elements of mindfulness throughout practicing pilates. While many of the above principles encourage this, it helps to make a conscious effort to be ‘present’ as your mind may wander during exercise. If you feel yourself starting to ruminate, be sure to refocus on an external sound, a sensation or your breathing. This will help to keep you focused and in the moment.
Copyright © Quinessence Aromatherapy Ltd 2014. Written by Sue Charles