1: Slow Life Down to Stress Less
The experts at The Pilates Klinik in London note that Pilates can serve as an anxiety calming tool by providing an almost exact opposite experience to participants’ everyday lives. Relaxed and steady, work on a Pilates reformer is neither fast-paced nor frenetic – even if the rest of the exerciser’s day most certainly was. Technology, The Pilates Klinik notes, now makes it possible for employers to expect that staff members will be on call at all hours – and on every day of the year, which has a sizeable impact on stress. A Pilates class is not only even-keeled and deliberate, but it also requires a disconnection from technology for the duration of the class, allowing deeper focus on the self, and the moment, that is likely possible at any other time during participants’ day.
2: Learn to Breathe to Learn to Relax
Practices such as Reformer Pilates help to foster relaxation and relieve anxiety in part because of the mindfulness aspect.
A researcher named Pierre Phillipot, in fact, found a connection between certain respiration patterns and specific emotional states. Phillipot conducted a study within which he asked participants to attempt to generate emotions that they were not organically feeling at the time. They were asked to try to feel fear, anger, anxiety, and happiness as best they could. As they created each emotion, Phillipot also asked them to record their breathing patterns.
What emerged was the fact that, across participants, certain emotions had specific breathing patterns attached to them. Quick and shallow breathing went with anxiety, for example, and full slow breaths went with happiness. In a follow-up study, Phillipot reversed the procedure. He and his staff asked participants to mimic a breathing pattern that had been matched with an emotion in the first study. They found that the breathing patterns brought on the emotions with which they had been matched.
All of this is to say that science tells us breathing can change how we feel. Learning to control breathing and create intentional breath patterns can be helped to substitute emotions like happiness for undesirable feelings such as fear and anxiety.
3: Get in Touch with your Brain to Control Panic Attacks
Johanna Francis is the former head of Dynamic Reformer Pilates; she has spent years dealing with powerful anxiety, including panic attacks so severe that one sent her to the hospital. Francis has found that the more she can be rational during an attack the better able she is to sense that a panic attack is approaching, work through it as it builds, and potentially stop it from gaining complete control.
Exercise was part of her doctor’s prescription for learning to do that. As Francis began using Pilates to do that, she found that her mind wandered easily. Each time it did, Francis started over, not to punish herself but to train her mind to focus only on exactly what her body was experiencing at the moment. The technique of reformer Pilates helped Francis to refine this, she says, because it calls for practitioners to do so many things at once. “You literally don’t have any headspace left to worry about anything else!” Francis quotes a colleague as saying. That helped Francis to build the mindfulness and control she needed to combat panic attacks that much faster.
4: Spend Six Weeks on the Reformer to Lower Anxiety & Fatigue
The Malaysian Journal of Movement last summer published a study that examines the effect of a six-week Pilates exercise protocol on mental health. The research, undertaken at Turkey’s Bulent Ecevit University, looked at the physical health of participants as well as tracking emotional state, fatigue, and quality of life. Fifty-one previously sedentary women between 18 and 25 years of age were selected to participate in the research. Each participant was randomly assigned to either undertake a new Pilates exercise practice during the six weeks or be part of the control group, which would not add any exercise practice.
The incredible results showed that all of these factors decreased in the group that had undertaken a Pilates practice during those six weeks:
- severity of anxiety,
- depression, and
This group also saw a decrease during the six-week study in weight, body mass index and the circumference of their waist, hips, and thighs.
The Pilates-practicing crew saw increases in:
- vitality, and
- mental health.
And how about those brave souls who were randomly selected to take part in the study by not performing Pilates during those six weeks? There were no significant changes in that control group where the quality-of-life and mental-health measures were concerned. Their numbers were about the same at the close of the study as they had been at its start.
Don’t cry for those control-group participants, however. They now have the very same information that you have, and knowledge is power. Like you, that control group now knows that a reformer Pilates practice can be beneficial on many fronts in helping to ease anxiety. Pilates may also offer improvement in other parts of the participants’ overall mental health.
So, what are you waiting for? Hit the reformer for great (mental) health!