My Pilates Journey - Week 6: Pilates in Mind and Body
Last week’s blog post revisiting my goals got me in a reflective mood, so I was thinking back on the other ways that Pilates has impacted my life. One of those ways is quite different to it's impact on my goals for my time here: just having the opportunity to do exercise every day has had a real effect on my mood.
There’s definitely enough people on the internet talking about how exercise can work wonders for your mental state, but there’s been a few days here where I have definitely felt that difference. Pilates in particular is helpful for this, because of the intense amount of mental focus that it requires, thus ensuring that I stop thinking about whatever was concerning me before I went into class. I’m also loving passing on the decision-making responsibility to someone else and just letting the teacher tell me what to do. As opposed to going to the gym or other forms of exercise, where there seems to just be too many options (as well as feeling like a bit of a bumbling mess in comparison to all the people who actually know what they’re doing in the gym).
The effect of Pilates on my mood is most obvious when I get to do it in the morning and for this, I love our 9.30 and 10.45 classes. Usually, my morning routine isn’t so much a routine as an age spent convincing myself to get out of bed, followed by a sprint through the list of things that I need to get done in some semblance on an order. Neither of these things is particularly conducive to a good start to my day and often provide ample room for self-flagellation. Often the best cure for all of my overthinking and generalised terror at the state of the world is to be thoroughly distracted by my army of amazing friends at University (or at least existing in generalised terror at the state of the world together). However, this is a bit harder to achieve in summer when we’re spread across the UK and throughout the rest of the world. Despite the wonders of technology, it can never quite have the same effect as sitting down to dinner with my flatmates (the amazing gals in the picture).
On a particularly low-mood day last week I was finding it difficult to kick off this slump, but the prospect of getting to do an hour of Pilates when I arrived kept me going. When I came out of class I had entirely forgotten that I had had a bad morning and it was only when I sat down to eat lunch that I realised how much help exercise had been in propping up my mood.
I’ve written for my university’s newspaper before about how climbing encourages me to challenge my fears and trust myself and other people. Pilates has a much less stark set of skills involved, but I think I’m getting a lot out of the surprisingly communicative nature of classes. Especially at Bälans, I feel like the teachers really care that you’re getting the most out of the movements that you can. Part of this though is letting the teachers know when something isn’t right for you, so that they are able to help you. I’m finding this a truly transferrable skill and so far, I’ve got some great solutions to life’s little problems (like my new desk set up).
This is alongside the other mindset changes that I’ve noticed the Pilates teachers here encourage. For example, thinking about my posture quirks as things that are a part of my body right now, rather than things that need to be fixed. So, even if Joseph Pilates’ prediction that by this point in my Pilates journey (30 sessions!) I would have a “whole new body” might not have completely come to fruition, at least I have some new ways to think.
That’s not to say that the physical side of Pilates has had no effect. In particular, some of my favourite movements that I’ve learned in Pilates have been the simplest: pulling my shoulders away from my ears, stretching my traps from the relaxation position and just breathing deeply (I’ve also been very over-enthusiastically getting my friends and family to do these).
I read somewhere that the transition to adulthood is moving from relying on your parents to relying on your friends. As fantastic as my friends are, my parents will be glad to hear that I very much need them around too. So I suppose that I’m a fair way from adulthood on this metric, but I also think that it misses the importance of learning to rely on yourself. Relying on myself is one of the many skills I’m working on during my time as an intern here. A huge part of this is listening to myself and understanding when to push harder, when to change how I’m going about something and when to just take a rest. Sound like Pilates to anyone else?