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.
“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.
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.