The wonderful and well-known benefits of Pilates are well-documented – improved flexibility, enhanced co-ordination, a stronger core, a flatter belly and better alignment and posture. But here are 8 brilliant bonus benefits you may not have thought of as you become more aware of your body, inside and out as your practice deepens. Once you become hooked on Joseph Pilates’ Method, you’ll not want to miss your daily sessions.
1. IT BUILDS SELF-ESTEEM
Finding a teacher you like in a safe and non-competitive environment will help build confidence. A teacher who is welcoming, warm and encouraging (even if quite strict!) helps you accomplish things you’d never have thought you could achieve, from a simple beginner’s move to the more challenging jacknife or open leg rocker for example.
By attending Pilates classes regularly you will see and feel positive changes in your body – not just on the outside as you become more toned and defined, but on the inside as you build not only inner strength but mental strength and clarity. As the love for your classes grow, so will the love for yourself and even if the exercises aren’t perfectly executed yet it doesn’t matter. You’re moving in the right direction!
2. IT’S EMPOWERING
Becoming more confident and feeling good about yourself empowers you to encompass the world with a whole lot more loving. Having passion and enthusiasm about your class and turning up to face and embrace the challenges on the mat or on the apparatus. You are in charge of you – listen to your body and recognise when it’s a ‘good’ discomfort and eliminate words like ‘can’t’ and ‘should’ from your vocabulary. Stepping outside your comfort zone to attend a workshop often means you’ll work in pairs or in small groups – talking to new people may lead you to new places in your life and make new friends.
3. IT’S SPIRITUAL
More often associated with yoga, but as you become more experienced and more in tune with your body and mind, you may want to explore and discover different paths. You may start to practise yoga or take various self-development seminars and read more life-enhancing books. Applying the principles of Pilates to other workouts like running, swimming or cycling can help you run, swim or cycle more safely and in a more meditative state. You’ll become mindful as you co-ordinate breath with the movement, learning to stay focused and present and gaining the real benefits of the Method.
4. IT PROMOTES TRUST AND VULNERABILITY
Finding a teacher you trust and respect promotes vulnerability and connection. You may be a successful business person by day and then once you’re on the mat or on the apparatus, it’s you in the raw.
Learn to listen and do in order to understand and if there is terminology you just don’t get, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. If there is something that doesn’t feel right, ask for help or a modification. There is nothing more important than looking after your body, so learn from your teacher – they are the expert – and learn from your mistakes.
Some exercises on the Cadillac or the Chair for example can be daunting and by having faith in your teacher and in yourself, it doesn’t matter if you get it wrong, simply ‘face the fear and do it anyway’.
5. IT ENHANCES PATIENCE
You won’t understand everything at once. Take your time. Picking up one new ‘understanding’ each session is fabulous and if you feel there’s nothing new this week and it appears to be the ‘same old repertoire’, just enjoy the movement and the deepening of the practice. Be patient when recovering from illness or injury. Look at it as an opportunity to either slow down, even stop for a few weeks so you can recover and discover new things.
You will learn more about yourself by your reactions. Do you become frustrated or short-tempered because you can’t work out this week? Be gentle with yourself (and others around you). Be patient – even if you feel it’s two steps back and one step forward at times.
6. IT IMPROVES SLEEP
In Joseph Pilates’ book Return to Life Through Contrology, he suggests sleeping in a well-ventilated, dark room which is nothing new from what we know now, but he adds that mental calmness if the foundation to a good night’s slumber. Spinal rolling exercises like Shoulder Bridge, Roll Back and Wall Roll Down help massage the spine, sending fresh blood to the spinal nerves. This improves flexibility, creating length and space in the body so there is space in the mind for peace and quiet as our emotions become balanced encouraging deep relaxation.
7. IT TEACHES YOU TO BECOME PRESENT
Focusing inward on your breathing helps you be in to the present moment so that as you flow, your moves will be more precise and purposeful with strength, depth and softness.
Starting each class by taking a moment or two to become aware of your body on the mat, within its four corners, or on the apparatus, noticing your spinal alignment, the heaviness and spread of the pelvis, the soles of your feet and even the touch of your clothes on your skin, all go towards helping you stay in the present so you can truly experience the amazing things your body can do.
8. INCREASED SEXUAL PLEASURE
As awareness of the body, the breath and the mind develops as we continue our practice, by focusing on strengthening the pelvic floor with deep abdominal contractions there is increased blood flow to the pelvic area so that during sex, orgasms will last longer and feel more intense.
For women, being able to squeeze and release the pelvic floor on demand will enhance pleasure for your partner and for men strengthening the pelvic floor muscles will improve erection time, orgasms and ejaculations!