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Movement - for Calming Your Mind, Body & Soul

Updated: Jul 11, 2023

We all know that movement is good for the body but did you know that different types of movement elicit a different response from the mind-body connection too?

Pilates is a holistic approach to the mind-body connection
Stretch, relax and rewind

Pilates works on the principle of the mind-body connection. Spending time focusing on your body and your breathing can detract the mind from anything else going on that may be causing stress or anxiety.

Your autonomic nervous system has two parts: the sympathetic nervous system (the so called fight or flight response) and the parasympathetic nervous system (your rest and digest response).

The sympathetic nervous system kicks in involuntarily if we need a heightened response to a dangerous or stressful situation such as avoiding a fast approaching car (or a wooly mammoth). It is activated by the amygdala (the most primitive part of the brain) sending signals to the hypothalamus which is the command centre of the brain. This then transmits a signal through the autonomic nerves to the adrenal glands which pump out the hormone epinephrine (also know as adrenaline) into the bloodstream.

Once in the bloodstream, adrenaline:

  • binds to receptors on liver cells to break down larger sugar molecules, called glycogen, into a smaller, more readily usable sugar called glucose; this gives your muscles a boost of energy

  • binds to receptors on muscle cells in the lungs, causing you to breath faster

  • stimulates cells of the heart to beat faster

  • triggers the blood vessels to contract and direct blood toward major muscle groups

  • contracts muscle cells below the surface of the skin to stimulate perspiration

  • binds to receptors on the pancreas to inhibit the production of insulin

An adrenaline rush is sometimes described as a boost of energy. Other symptoms include:

  • rapid heart rate

  • sweating

  • heightened senses

  • rapid breathing

  • decreased ability to feel pain

  • increased strength and performance

  • dilated pupils

  • feeling jittery or nervous

After the stress or danger is gone, the effect of adrenaline can last up to an hour. However, modern lifestyles mean that many of us live in a constant state of mid to high stress which provides the body with a constant overload of adrenaline. This means the body stays in constant ‘fight or flight’ mode rather than allowing the parasympathetic system to be activated. The result can manifest in anxiety, depression, tight neck and shoulders, poor sleep, high blood pressure and digestive upsets.

So what can we do about it? How do we activate our parasympathetic nervous system?

Because of the combination of building deep core strength, improving flexibility and mobility and improving posture, Pilates is one of the most holistic forma of exercise that you can do. Done regularly (at least 2 or 3 times week) studies show that Pilates also helps to regulate the nervous system, reducing stress and anxiety.

I have recorded a Wind Down Pilates Flow session for you which may help to ease any frazzled nerves, release stiff shoulders and lower backache and generally help put you in a relaxed frame of mind. This might be helpful if you're going through a particularly challenging period!

Pilates for the mind, body and soul
Stretch, release, relax

Other things you might like to try are:

  • Meditation and deep breathing exercises.

  • Having a hobby (research shows it is better to do things alone for best results),

  • Journalling

  • Limiting caffeine and alcohol consumption

  • Exercising regularly and including Pilates, yoga or Tai Chi

  • Getting into nature in daylight every day

  • Avoiding mobile phones, TV, computers, loud music and bright lights before bedtime.

I hope you find the time to switch off for a few minutes, lay on your mat and enjoy this Wind Down Pilates Flow session - especially at the end of a busy day.

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