The mind/body connection to exercise
How to use your mind effectively to make your workout worthwhile
Any exercise regime would benefit from your full mental attention, but when you find yourself drifting off and thinking about what you need from the supermarket, you are not giving your all to your training session. That’s okay for some people, but not for those that want results, progression, rehab or trophies.
Athletes will often fail before they start if their mind is not focussed on their goal and their ability to achieve it. Your class members are no different (well, maybe slightly different in athletic status, but that’s all!) If their mind is kept totally on task and they have their goals within sight, they are able to give a much better performance and increase their chances of progression and benefits. If they are able to drift off without you noticing and correcting them, then you have missed an opportunity to maximise their time spent exercising.
How does this affect Pilates?
The mind/body connection is crucial to Pilates and is needed to fulfil the principles behind gaining results. If your client is not concentrating, they will probably not have precision in their movements or spine position. This can take your exercise from ‘the most useful thing they will do all week’ to ‘potentially risky’. If your client is not focused on their stability, then they will struggle to improve it. A general goal for Pilates clients is ‘to improve their core stability’. If they cannot focus their mind on stabilising their pelvis, spine, shoulders and so on, then they are likely to be moving in these areas. If they are moving their pelvis, spine, shoulders and so, then their core is not stable. If their core isn’t stable, the muscles responsible for holding it stable (their core stability muscles) are not engaged or working or getting any stronger. So that ‘core stability’ they came for will not improve unless their mind is 100% focused on the aim.
How can I encourage my participants to really use their mind/body connection?
As an instructor, clients will often benefit from your personal experience. Whatever you found hard about Pilates when you first started is what they will be struggling with now. I am a competitive person and I was initially focused on the movement (wanting to get my leg the highest) because I didn’t realise the movement was only there essentially to give me something to stabilise with my core. The more movement I did, the less my core was likely to stabilise me and the lower the chances of getting results. I was that person! When I start to tell my class this, I can see them gradually thinking “Oh, that’s me…. is that not right? What shall I do instead?” as they gradually lower their leg and focus their mind on the stability, not the movement. I smile, knowing they are one step closer to getting the benefits they want.
What other benefits are there?
Pilates is a learning experience. The more your clients can learn and understand what, why and how to do all the moves within it, the more they are likely to change their posture, sitting habits and attitude to exercise in general. The more they can bring Pilates in to their lives, the greater the chance of achieving things like good posture, pain free movement, increased mobility and general well-being.
When they understand Pilates, clients welcome the opportunity to switch off from the world and focus just on their own body for an hour. Try it for yourself. Take part in someone else’s’ class and really focus on your mind/body connection.