Our lives both demand and tempt us to be sedentary. We work, play, and socialize sitting down in front of electronic devices. Even when we are out with others, at a restaurant for example, many of us are hunched over—our head is down, our spine slouches, and our shoulders round forward. Our focus bounces between two worlds, as our gaze shifts from looking down at our phones to looking up at the people sitting with us. For a moment we are present in the here and now, only to fall, a few seconds later, back into the time warp of our digital worlds.
Perhaps you’ve seen this picture before. At first glance, it might appear comical, but upon deeper reflection, we see a gloomy and disturbing reality. Our bodies are degrading due to the way we live.
To see proof of this statement, simply look around you. Study people’s bodies. Notice their spine, shoulders, and head. It is not uncommon to see even young people, who have spent the last fifteen or so years mostly sitting down—at school, in front of the TV, and on computers—with posture that resembles a hunchback.
Over time, excessive sitting leads to a weak, inflexible body. This results in a whole host of potential physical problems, which can be experienced in many areas of the body, from head to toe. When one part of the body is out of alignment, it has a cascade effect, sending the entire body out of alignment.
Not giving your body what it loves and needs—movement—is unquestionably detrimental. But this, of course, is no surprise. Remember our origins. We are animals, and our bodies are designed to move.
Unfortunately, the majority of people’s work is now in front of computers, and thus fighting against all this proves difficult. Still, we must try. Take every chance to move. Walk up stairs instead of using the elevator. Take breaks from your desk to move around, even if it’s only for a few minutes (and don’t just walk—jump! It improves your bone density). Spend your weekends doing as little sitting as possible. Find a physical hobby—dance, Pilates, cycling, etc.
You only have one body. Listen to it. Learn it. Love it.
I have practiced both Pilates and yoga for some time now. In the first couple years of my practice, these two disciplines were separate worlds that didn’t much overlap. I saw Pilates as a brilliant system of movements that built a strong, balanced, and flexible body, and physically worked me in a different way than yoga.
Yoga, on the other hand, was “special,” so much so that I didn’t want to try to verbalize why it felt so profound. Yoga was a gateway to the inner world, the meditative mind, and thereby an entrance into spirituality. Ultimately, I loved both Pilates and yoga, but in different ways. I loved Pilates intellectually and physically, and I loved yoga with my heart.
Then, somewhere along the way, something shifted in my Pilates practice. I began to enter that same meditative state as in yoga. I swam further into its depths, and discovered that I could make this practice just as soulful. My two, once separate worlds began to come together.
With this, came another realization. I saw outside the Pilates and yoga box, and understood that this meditative state—a place of fluidity, peace and bliss—can be achieved through many types of movement practices that incorporate a few key elements—a deep sense of body and mind awareness, mental focus, and full, strong breath.
Mindful movement, in whatever form you choose, has the potential to be special, exquisite, and divine.
The creator of Pilates, Joseph Pilates, believed in the absolute unification of mind, body, and spirit. Joseph studied many different movement forms, including those from the East, and then created his own method. He meant for Pilates to be holistic, meaning that the mind, body, and spirit are all part of and benefit from the practice. This is evidenced in his words:
“Through (Pilates), this unique trinity of a balanced body, mind and spirit can ever be attained. Self confidence follows.”
"The mind, when housed within a healthful body, possesses a glorious sense of power."
“(Pilates) invigorates the mind and elevates the spirit.”
Pilates has the power to be mentally profound, deeply personal, and even a spiritual practice. Of course, you don’t have to make it this. Pilates is, in its most simple and exterior form, an outstanding physical conditioning system. But if you do want to enter into its greatest possibilities, then:
*bring awareness to your every movement
*focus on each moment
*breathe to your fullest potential.
There, you are able to discover the transformative power and beauty of mindful movement.