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Benefits of Pilates

August 20th, 2018


Pilates: The Mind & Body’s Guide to Mental & Physical Wellness

“Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness.” - Joseph Pilates

Exercise vs. Mind-Body Exercise

Exercise these days has become a part of modern society’s definition of developing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, both physically and mentally. It is a key component in striving to keep up with our culture’s obsession with health and wellness. It is a good obsession to have. Some examples of types of exercise include:

  • Group exercise classes
  • Cardiovascular exercise (running, swimming, biking)
  • Recreational sports (basketball, baseball, volleyball)
  • Racing sports (marathons & triathlons)
  • Mind-body fitness

More Than Exercise

But exercise can be much more than just a physical workout, it can help to alleviate stress and anxiety while bringing about wellness to our mental health. Mind-body exercise is its own category of fitness that encompasses the idea of focusing on connecting our mental awareness with our physical bodies. According to a “group of researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign reported in the Journal of Physical Activity & Health that people have significantly superior brain function after a mindful movement practice like Pilates or Yoga compared to aerobic exercise” ( Some examples of mind-body exercise regimens include:

  • Yoga
  • Gyrotonic
  • Pilates

Pilates Defined

Pilates is a type of mind-body exercise regimen that was developed in Germany during the 1920’s by a man named Joseph Pilates. Pilates was originally called “Contrology”, which demonstrates how both the exercises and the meaning of the system were designed to invite control into one’s life. It was initially created to help aid injured soldiers after World War I to recover from their injuries while they were bed-bound. The system was eventually brought to New York where it was recognized by dancers, athletes, and every day people.

Classically, the Pilates system involves a series of exercises that were intended to be performed in a specific order and in a specific manner. Over time, the system has evolved to be accessible and adaptable to people of all ages with a variety of physical backgrounds and limitations. It’s main focus is based around strengthening the core and working on both stability and mobility of the body.

The 6 Basic Principles of Pilates & How They Can Help Improve Mental Health

There are 6 basic principles in the Pilates system. They each correspond directly to the exercises, but they also take on a deeper meaning into the mental aspect of mind-body health. Below is a list of the 6 basic principles, how they are defined in terms of the Pilates system, and also how their meanings are relatable to mental health.

  1. Centering
    1. In Pilates: The repetitive idea of “finding your center”, or your core in order to stabilize and find stillness
    2. In mental health: This idea corresponds to needing to “find your center” and your calmness when dealing with adversity or anxieties
  2. Concentration
    1. In Pilates: Developing a sense of focus to drive your intention with a movement or series of movements
    2. In mental health: When struggling in personal or professional situations, finding successful outcomes and solutions are only possible due to concentration and focus on the task at hand
  3. Control
    1. In Pilates: Executing an exercise with control will develop efficiency and effectiveness with its intended purpose
    2. In mental health: Having self control is key when working through interpersonal conversations in order to have a successful and productive outcome
  4. Precision
    1. In Pilates: Performing specific exercise in an exact and conscious manner helps to establish purpose with intention
    2. In mental health: Having an accurate and definitive intention or purpose when making interactions at home or in the workplace can only benefit how others react and respond
  5. Breath
    1. In Pilates: An awareness of breath, especially when the inhalation and exhalation are meant to be articulated during a movement series, is essential to practicing Pilates correctly
    2. In mental health: Making an effort to consciously breathe when times get tough is vital to one’s mental health and personal relationships
  6. Flow
    1. In Pilates: The exercises in a Pilates session are meant to be performed in a fluid and graceful manner, so that the connections are seamless and purposeful
    2. In mental health: When considering mental health, being able to make connections between daily activities and mindfulness can help to alleviate rough patches and low periods
benefits of pilates girls doing pilates

Physical Benefits of Pilates

When people think of Pilates, it is most likely because they have seen a poster at the gym, heard a friend complaining about their sore Pilates abs, or have read about celebrities incorporating it into their lives. The craze is true, there are many physical benefits to practicing Pilates. Some of these physical benefits include:

  • Strengthening your core
  • Improving flexibility
  • Improving balance
  • Alleviating aches and pains, particularly back pain
  • Weight loss
  • Building a longer and leaner muscles
  • Improving posture
  • Improved stabilization of the spine and pelvis
  • Rehabilitation of injuries
  • Prevention of future injuries
  • Increased lung capacity and circulation due to the practice of deep, mindful, lateral breathing techniques

Mental Benefits of Pilates

It is obvious that there are physical benefits to practicing Pilates, but there are also a number of benefits to the mind and one’s mental health. Due to the 6 principles (centering, concentration, control, precision, breath, and flow), as defined above, it is easy to understand how Pilates can benefit more than just the physical body. Some of the mental benefits of Pilates include:

  • Awareness of breath
  • Builds self-awareness
  • Increases self-control
  • Alleviates stress and anxiety
  • Provides tools for stress management
  • Increases focus and concentration outside of the practice
  • Promotes building healthy lifestyle habits while getting rid of poor and unhealthy lifestyle choices
  • Builds confidence
  • Improves energy
  • Decrease in fatigue
  • Builds community if attending group classes
benefits of pilates Fitness or yoga practice. Group of fit people working out in sports club, doing warming up exercises, stretching feet, copy space

How to Incorporate Pilates into Your Life

If you are new to Pilates, it might feel or sound intimidating to try a whole new regimen of exercise. It is common for people to enter a class or private session with these types of nerves. Remind yourself of all of the physical and mental health benefits that you can obtain through practicing Pilates. Try some of these ways to start incorporating Pilates into your life:

  1. Find a Pilates class at a local studio or your gym
  2. Consider private lessons with a professional and licensed instructor, especially if you are intimidated by group classes or need special attention for a physical limitation
  3. Look up some exercises online that you can do on your own at home
  4. Start as a beginner, even if you are an advanced mover or athlete; Pilates has its own language
  5. Start by committing 1-2 days a week to practicing some of the exercises
  6. Be patient with yourself
  7. Bring along a friend or family member for fun comradery and support


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