How does Pilates help your mental health?
Great question – I would love to tell you.
I’m so glad you asked.
Exercise of any kind is as beneficial for our mental health as it is for our physical health. In fact, you can get more out of exercise if you approach it from the perspective of mental wellbeing rather than something like weight loss. Why do so many people fail at diets and gain back weight they’ve lost? Because they approached these plans from angles of restriction, punishment, negativity, and conditional acceptance. They believe that, once the weight is gone, they’ll be happier, more successful, more worthy. It doesn’t work like that, and those kinds of intentions aren’t sustainable long-term. Long term success with exercise routines comes from a place of respect for your body and from prioritizing your mental health.
If you come into Pilates with aesthetic goals, like a flatter stomach, a more toned bum, or slimmer arms, I will stop you mid-sentence and say, ‘You’re beautiful. Let’s just establish that now.’ I will encourage you to work out because it makes you feel good, not because you want to look different. Things like weight loss and changes in your body are more likely to happen when the first thing you do exercise for is your wellness, not your size.
I’ve been able to stick with Pilates longer than I have any other form of exercise because it makes me feel good. I can come into Pilates feeling sore and grumpy and tired, and I always leave feeling calmer and more relaxed. I struggled through years and years of failing at gym sessions and personal training because my primary goal was to change the way that I looked. Once I focused on exercising for the way it made me feel, especially when it helped me to manage pain, that’s when I was able to be consistent.
It helps you stay centered and calm
The most basic principle of Pilates is breathing. The breath that we teach you to use when exercising helps you to relax and forget about everything else going on in your life. It grounds you in the present moment, and gets you out of your head and into your body. One of the most common things people say to me is, ‘You’re very calm and patient.’ I want you to feel as relaxed as possible, and to work with your body rather than fighting against it. It always comes back to the breath.
It relieves stress and pain
Pilates teacher training helped me heal ten years of chronic back pain. Lots of people, myself included, start Pilates when they’re at the end of their wits, when other things haven’t helped chronic conditions, soreness and fatigue. Pilates is one of the best modalities for pain management and, once you’ve healed an injury, consistent Pilates can help you prevent other injuries from happening
It doesn’t wipe you out
Many of my clients, especially those who have fibromyalgia or who are pregnant, often assume that Pilates will tire them out. I understand this because fibromyalgia and pregnancy can often mean you can be tired after doing the laundry. These clients are always surprised that Pilates boosts their energy, and that they finish class feeling brighter rather than depleted. I understand that some people prefer tougher workouts that tire them out – I used to swim in order to exhaust myself so I could sleep – but Pilates doesn’t contribute to fatigue or exhaustion.
It’s fun and social
A huge part of the appeal of Pilates is the relationships you build – the closeness you can have with your instructor and with other clients in the studio. Several clients who come to class on the same day at the same time become good friends, and there’s a really fun aspect to catching up with the people you see regularly. Several of my clients come to group classes because they get to socialize with friends, and I love making everyone laugh as we work out together. You can take Pilates seriously without taking yourself too seriously.
Something that’s relaxing, relieves pain, and connects you with others will hugely benefit your mental health. Exercise out of love and respect for your body and mind. That’s the only way that you’ll ever see real results that you can sustain.