Pilates and Meditation

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If you have been hearing about the benefits of meditation, you are not alone. It’s a popular New Year’s resolution as well as a habit of highly successful individuals, from competitive athletes to Silicon Valley CEOs.

This blog piece looks at whether meditation is a good complement to a Pilates practice. Based on the experience of Pilates Anytime instructors, it seems the answer is yes. “Meditation as a practice is thousands of years old, but over the last 50 years, research has proven its benefits,” says Tom McCook, a Pilates instructor based in Mountain View, California, who has shared his meditation practice on Pilates Anytime.

McCook cites meditation’s myriad benefits including lowering blood pressure, helping to regulate our emotions, developing self-awareness, reducing stress and, importantly as we continue to navigate a global pandemic, improving our mood.

“Not only is it something that is really good for us, it’s also something that you can integrate into your life. And I have found for myself it's been super valuable in combination with mindful movement,” he adds.

Mindful movement is a type of meditation. The term can refer to a movement practice that is contemplative rather than competitive. Swimming laps or walking a labyrinth are often likened to meditation because they invite us to focus inward, often on our breath. People describe various activities from golf to knitting to baking bread as “meditative.” What they have in common is that the movement or activity is a structure onto which you can hang the practice of self-awareness.

Says Kristi Cooper, a Pilates instructor and a co-founder of Pilates Anytime, “Pilates facilitates introspection. Through the movements, I investigate and appreciate all that my body teaches me. Many years ago, I wanted to see if I could feel present, embodied and alive without seeking a particular physical challenge.”

Cooper sought out a meditation class taught by Bobbee Kellner, a former Pilates client of Cooper’s who is also a psychotherapist. “Could I actually just sit for 20 minutes and feel like I was living?” she asks. “It turns out I could.”

Though she admits that the experience of beginning meditation was “a little awkward for me at first,” Cooper quickly understood the ways in which meditation and Pilates aligned. Both modalities require concentration, focus, and attention to breath, and both facilitated ease in the body.

How to Get Started

“In a busy world, cultivating the ability to collect ourselves and be present is an amazing tool,” says McCook. “Meditation isn't about trying to control your mind or stop it from thinking. That's actually not possible. Your goal is just to bring your attention repeatedly back to the present moment, by focusing on your breath.”

Ready to try it? Take a look at these simple steps, based on McCook’s meditation classes for Pilates Anytime. Aim to sit for five, ten, or twenty minutes. Hint: it’s harder than it sounds.

  • To begin, sit on a cushion or in a chair.
  • Close your eyes. Bring your attention to your breath. Take a few deeper than normal breaths. Don’t worry about how it looks. Let the belly move. Allow the muscles that run along your spine to soften.
  • Ask yourself, why am I sitting? It could be to cultivate presence, to be kinder to yourself, to be more effective in your relationships, to get to know yourself better, or to enjoy life more. Choose an answer that resonates with you.
  • Start to draw your attention to the breath as it enters the nostrils. If that's a hard area for you to focus on, you can focus on the rise and fall of your chest or your belly and follow that with calm, collected attention. Bring your attention to that flow of respiration.
  • Each time you notice that the mind has wandered, gently steer your attention back to the flow of respiration, without judgment.
  • Tip: If you find yourself getting sleepy at all during the sip, increase your rate of respiration for a minute or so just to wake yourself up a little more and then let it return to natural breath.

Sharing the Practice

About a decade ago, having incorporated meditation into her health and wellness routine, Cooper was inspired to add meditation classes to Pilates Anytime. Since then, Kellner and McCook’s early classes have been joined by other forms of mindful movement classes designed to cultivate a greater ease of movement and awareness to the specific needs of your body on any given day.

“Pilates can in fact be a moving meditation,” says Cooper, “and meditation may surprise you by showing you just how much is going on inside even as you sit quietly.”

Have you found that your Pilates practice is enhanced by meditation, or vice versa? Let us know how in the comments below.

About the Author

Alison Manheim

Alison is a writer and Pilates instructor based in Santa Monica, California. Her Pilates practice has been a springboard to a brand new career as a fitness model and commercial actor at age 50+.


Comments

Wonderful article Kristi. I too started a meditation practice the beginning of this year and decided that no matter what I encountered, I would commit for the entire year and evaluate the experience and the value this practice brought to my life at the end of 2011. Now we are at the end of the year and I can say that the benefits are quietly present in my life on a daily level. My meditation practitioners taught me that it is in the fabric of one's daily round that the benefits are truly felt; not in the "sit" itself. This has been true for me. Any exploration deepening our awareness of our body and it's immense capabilities eventually extends and touches those that we touch through our work.
Thank you, this has been an approval of my present exploration that meditation enhances the quality of life, including the practice of pilates... synchronized with my questioning period again:) thank you, you are mentoring from miles away without even being asked... this is just too good...I agree with everything that is said on meditation and pilates, and I can't wait to watch the interview
Nooooooooooo please bring this video back. I just started 4 days ago and it's gone today. I am so bummed as the site didn't give me the option to save it as a favorite :(
Angela I'm not sure which video of Bobbee's you are speaking of, but here are both of her meditations that are on the site so far...

Gratitude Meditation
Meditation
1 person likes this.
You can now save the meditations classes to your favorites.

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