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Principles of Pilates and How Intention Matters in Exercise

Intention in Movement Pilates

The Pilates method was originally named ‘Contrology’ or the Art of Control, and it was designed for rehabilitation. The method focuses on coordination of body, mind and spirit. It specifically states that participants should “concentrate on the correct movements each time you exercise, lest you do them improperly and thus lose all the vital benefits of their value”. 

The concept of remaining intentional and creating a ‘mind-body awareness’ has been studied in regards to muscle activity and instruction when it comes to exercise. Finding that with ‘internal’ or intrinsic thinking of the muscles and the action they are conducting creates a better result.A better result can be; achieving more muscle mass, more muscle strength, feeling more satisfied or having a more positive mindset. In summary, creating a better awareness of what the mind and body are doing allows an individual to concentrate on more optimal movements. 

More recently, the concept of mindfulness or being ‘present in the moment’ has been reviewed for mental health. Pilates has been shown to be a valuable tool for both mind and body with a significant reduction in depressive symptoms, anxiety symptoms, feelings of fatigue and improved feelings of energy following regular attendance. Using mindfulness and concentrating on being present throughout your sessions allows you to bring your mental attention to the current moment and assist in creating a connection between body and mind. Many of us are busy and stressed with high-paced lifestyles. The benefits of using the breath and the mental concentration that Pilates requires is vital to assist in clearing mental fog and centering the mind. 

Physiologically, Pilates and this concept of intentional movement influences our nervous system. The health of our nervous system influences our thoughts, the way we connect with others and how we experience the world (nervous system dysregulation can look like: emotional reactivity, moodiness, intrusive thoughts or chronic depression/anxiety symptoms). Teaching our nervous system to be more flexible or resilient (meaning it is able to recover from stress and return to homeostasis*) allows this system to learn how to rebound from and tolerate stress. The practice or concept of this type of nervous system regulation is to feel uncomfortable without actually experiencing danger (not physically being pushed into a ‘fight or flight’ response). You may have experienced it in your Pilates or Yoga classes, if you’ve meditated, learnt a new skill or with cold exposure (cold showers or getting into the cold ocean). 

Want to know more? Let us know! We can write more on the nervous system, ‘fight or flight’ and how Pilates can help us in all aspects of our lives. 

*homeostasis: the tendency towards a relatively stable equilibrium between interdependent elements, especially as maintained by physiological processes. Oxford Dictionary. Which is a complicated way to say: processes in our body which we use to maintain stable conditions for our survival (for example: maintaining our heart rate, blood pressure or temperature)

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