No Longer The Underdog: Pilates home workouts help to provide a sanctuary for mental health support amid the Coronavirus pandemic.
“PILATES is complete coordination of mind, body and spirit,” claimed Joseph Pilates, in a 1950s musing, which stuck mental health right up there with the physical.
Initially, his exercise method was dubbed Contrology, pinpointing the mental focus needed for correct physical alignment and mobility, yet the rather sexier-sounding surname of Pilates stuck.
Back in the Fifties era, when the physical exercise method was drummed up, I’ll bet Joe never envisioned it being taught on screen, living room trinkets on full view, while talking clients through an online session done in the comfort of their own pad.
Beans and water bottles for weights are now pretty much mandatory, unless you’re of the daring sort and fancy a slightly heavier resistance with a bottle of wine in each hand.
The risk? A rather expensive spill during a Side Reach.
Yet with coronavirus sweeping the world, and an unknown time period for social distancing and limited outdoor ventures, that’s the direction Pilates class businesses like mine, PilatesbyBeth, are taking.
I believe coronavirus and its impact has signalled a huge health shift – a change in the primarily-led physical fitness narrative – which is now seeing mental health not only as a additional extra but the main dish, the focal reason for a session.
Social isolation – the Government’s preferred way to stop the spread of coronavirus – inherently means plentiful time spent away from friends and in the company of me myself and I, or close family.
It has the huge potential to negatively affect mental health, with the lack of social contact leaving a gaping hole in an everyday routine.
And while fitness has always been beneficial for mental health (think endorphins and feel good vibes post sweat) the added desire for connection has pushed the benefits for the mind in line with the physical; I feel it is no longer the underdog lagging behind.
It means video workouts, particularly on the platform I use ZOOM, are proving far more beneficial than just getting a workout minus gym access.
It’s the mental health and wellbeing benefits of a natter face to face, a giggle with fellow clients before class or simply spotting familiarity in a sea of postcard-sized faces on screen which is proving equal, if not more, of worth.
Add to the mix the mind-health notion on which Pilates (yoga and mindfulness to) centres on, and you’ve pretty much got the complete package.
A 40-minute stint of serenity which will provide both visible, and invisible, benefits.
Indeed Joseph Pilates recognised this 70 years ago, when he said: “A body free from nervous tension and fatigue is the ideal shelter provided by nature for housing a well-balanced mind, fully capable of successfully meeting all the complex problems of modern living.”
Top experts from charities concur, with Richard Colwill, spokesperson for mental health charity SANE telling me amid the coronavirus pandemic, people should: “pay extra attention” to their fitness.
He added: “There is plenty of evidence linking moderate, regular exercise, such as going for a brisk half-hour walk, with improved mental health.
“Research has shown that it can be as effective for depression as antidepressants or psychological therapies such as CBT.
“The reason for this is that it appears that exercise affects certain chemicals in your brain that help regulate mood and thinking, and can also help you to cope with stress.
“It is likely that our bodies have evolved for physical activity, and a lack of exercise can lead to less robust mental and physical health.”
Pretty impressive stuff, hey.
And if one shining light of the coronavirus pandemic means we push mental health even more to the fore in the fitness game, it’s a pretty big boon.
Yet for us Pilates trainers, the reason we do what we do is for our clients.
One of my Thursday morning ladies emailed me straight after their first PilatesbyBeth ZOOM in a touching message, to gush: “It’s great to just get up and do something.
“Thank you for giving me motivation and lifting my moral.”
Bring on those Pilates mats and mental health wins, despite these difficult times.
FIVE ESSENTIALS FOR A HOME PILATES WORKOUT
MAT: I used a Physical Company fold out mat, which stashes neatly in the lounge, yet a bath towel folded up will do if not.
HEAD CUSHION: Spinal alignment is a key pilates principle, and this includes the position of the head on neck. A square head cushion is best, or a folded up hand towel just as good for the support.
COMFY CLOTHES – a sweater is my go-to with leggings as I am always cold – but you’ll get warm after The Hundreds!
CANS OF BEANS – These are proving essential (and pretty tasty post class) substitutes for weights, and add extra resistance to shoulder exercises for those who want more of a challenge.
PILATESBYBETH online workout (www.pilatesbybeth.co.uk) – There’s plenty to choose from, from the A/B/C of Pilates for complete beginners to 40-min Mixed Ability session.
Credit: Beth runs PilatesbyBeth group classes, studio sessions and 1:1 and 2:1 tailored classes.