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How Pilates Can Help Reduce Anxiety

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

In modern society, several factors can lead to stress and anxiety: pressures at work, juggling responsibilities, and the general feeling of becoming overwhelmed with everything that is happening in the world.


One of the best ways to give yourself a break and relieve this pressure is to focus on your breathing and being truly present; and what better way than to practice the mindful exercise of Pilates?


Practising Pilates just three times per week will allow you the opportunity to clear your thought process and release any built-up tension. Pilates is a mind-body discipline, where your attention needs to be in the present moment, focusing on the exercises and their instruction to ensure precision and quality of movement.

Take some time out of your day to learn our top 5 reasons Pilates can aid in stress relief and our recommended exercises to boost mobility, calm your breathing, and help you focus on allowing yourself to have a better level of mindfulness.


This blog will cover:

Pilates Instructor in downward dog pose

5 Reasons Pilates is so good for you and your mental health


We all know that exercise is good for you physically and that taking some time to work out can relieve built-up tensions as you focus on making your body and mind stronger. But did you know that studies performed by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have shown that mindful exercises improve brain function the best over aerobic exercise?

Some key reasons why Pilates is an excellent all-round body-mind conditioning tool are:

  1. Pilates trains your brainStress can limit our brain functioning processes, reducing our ability to make decisions and take on new information. Exercising a few times a week by learning a new Pilates move or modification counteracts this by helping your brain focus and challenge the body simultaneously.
  2. Pilates improves your nervous system– The deeper muscles activated in Pilates improve the function of the nervous system-increasing communication between your brain and body (enhancing stress-fighting and mood-boosting hormones)
  3. Pilates improves mindfulness and meditation– Pilates is a great way of relieving anxiety and uncovering creative thinking. Pilates is also useful to help fight addictions and instil positive habits.
  4. Pilates helps relieve tension in the body – Pilates promotes stretching and being aware of all the muscles in the body and how to best condition them.
  5. Pilates helps you breathe easy – Breathing is one of the central pillars in Pilates instruction. You can calm your brain by
    practicing deep breathing and being aware of your breathing patterns, reducing your heart rate and levels of panic


For the best results to aid in relaxation, perform exercises with slow, controlled movement synchronising the breath. Each repetition of the movement is performed with flow and precision, paying attention to the detail of your technique, fully submersing your thought process in practice. You can also use soothing background music to enhance the flow.


All the information presented can be further explored by following the links to the references at the end of the page

Now you know a little more about the overall benefits of Pilates reduces stress and promotes good mental and physical health; here are some of our top exercises picks you can practice at home:

The Shoulder Bridge – for spinal mobility


Start by lying supine, lengthening through the spine whilst relaxing the shoulders; your pelvis is neutral. Engage your centre.

  1. Inhale as you tilt your pelvis, and then exhale as you begin to peel the vertebrae, one by one, into a bridge position.
  2. Inhale and float your arms over your head
  3. Exhale and float the arms back again
  4. Inhale slowly articulate back down the spine, section by section

Perform 6-8 repetitions

Each part of the exercise flows into the other seamlessly with the breath. Imagine that the vertebrae are embedded into a memory foam mattress one at a time as you return to the start position. Take your time; concentration and precision are key.

shoulder bridge set up position

The One Hundred – for core strength and enhanced circulation


Resume the supine set-up position.

  1. Inhale to prepare; as you exhale, float one leg up to a tabletop position
  2. Inhale to prepare for the second leg, exhale as you connect rib to hip and raise the second leg to tabletop
  3. On the next exhale, raise your head and shoulders from the mat, arms hovered on either side of the body
  4. Using the breath, start to pump the arms moving from the shoulder joint. Five pumps of the arms will equate to one breath in, and five more pumps will equate to one breath out

Repeat for a maximum of 10 breaths (100 pumps, hence the name The One Hundred!)


Your focus will be on the breath, concentrating on a strong static position and managing repetitions.


pilates exhale hundred movement

The One Leg Circle – for hip mobility


Resume the supine set-up position.

  1. Inhale to prepare, exhale and raise one leg from the floor extending at the knee towards the ceiling
  2. Start to draw medium-sized circles onto the ceiling with the toes, flowing with the breath.
  3. Keep the hips stable and the opposite leg steady.

Perform five circles in one direction and then five in the other before changing legs. If control is compromised, reduce the range of movement of the circle. Lengthen through the working leg, imagining a beam of light glowing out of the toes.


One Leg Circle

The chest opener – for spinal rotation and a lovely chest stretch


Transition into a side-lying position with your head resting on a block or towel, your arms stretched out in front of you, and your knees bent.

  1. Inhale to prepare, exhale and sweep the top arm forward and over as if drawing a rainbow over your body
  2. Your eye line will follow the fingertip.
  3. Inhale and then exhale to bring the arm back to the starting position

Repeat 5 on each side. Only rotate as far as mobility will allow; keep the movement continues with the breath.

Static Side Kick

The Swan Dive – for thoracic mobility

Lie in a prone position with the arms bent at 90-degree angles on either side of the head. Engage your core and lengthen through the neck. You can rest your forehead on a block or towel if required.

  1. Inhale to prepare, exhale, lengthen forwards through the upper body and lift from the floor
  2. Inhale and float back to the starting position
  3. Elongate the neck and slide the shoulder blades down
  4. Keeping the lower body relaxed

Repeat 6-8 repetitions

Concentrate on length rather than height. You can hover the arms from the floor if you want to move into a strength exercise for further variety. Try turning the toes in slightly to switch off the muscles in the lower body. Now transition to perform chest opener on the other side.


Swan Dive

Allow yourself the time to focus on yourself and your well-being and see the benefits that reduced stress levels can bring. As Joseph Pilates himself says:

“Pilates is the complete coordination of body, mind and spirit”



Christian Nordqvist (2013) ‘Yoga Improves Brain Function More Than Aerobic Exercises’ Medical News Today [online] available at:

Marcus Herbert (2014) ‘Resilience | How stress affects your body and brain’ Nuffield Health available at:…

Pilates Bridge ’12 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Pilates for Your Peace of Mind’ Available at:…

Serenity Addiction Centres (2020)’Pilates For Recovery From Drug & Alcohol Addictions’

Healthwise Staff (2015)’Stress Management: Breathing Exercises for Relaxation’ University of Michigan Medicine Available at:,to%20calm%20down%20and%20relax.

Club Pilates,Joseph Pilates Quotes