Why the mind-body connection is necessary to actually enjoy exercise. - By Alyssa Rock
We tend to forget the degree to which our minds and bodies are intertwined, probably because the connection is as natural as breathing – it’s something we always do, but never think about.
It’s December in Wisconsin. That means the next time you go outside, you will be promptly greeted by a blast of icy north woods air. Governed by the mind, your senses read ‘COLD’ and your body will tense up.
When you inevitably have to drive in the next snow storm and need to watch for black ice, notice how you may grip the steering wheel just a little bit tighter and sit up straighter. Your mind reads the situation and thinks ‘POSSIBLE DANGER’ and your body becomes more alert.
If you have ever been in a car accident, your hands may have flown in front of your head or face. That’s your mind saying ‘OMG I NEED PROTECTION’ and your body trying to protect itself.
These are examples of what the Pilates industry refers to as the ‘mind-body connection’.
When it comes to practicing Pilates, a mind-body connection is different. It’s a conscious effort in which you are trying to control your body, and requires you to be absolutely in the present moment – something that can be very difficult in today’s world.
A few weeks ago, I shared a class with two lovely women who drove down from Tomahawk for their first-ever reformer session.
As Katie worked us through a sequence that would lead up to the Pilates 100 movement, one of the women asked “ How can I remember to keep my pelvis in the right position, breathe properly, sink my abdominals down, knit my ribs together, and keep my neck and shoulders relaxed? When I focus on doing one thing correctly, I forget to do the rest! How do I focus on doing all of it at the same time?”
She was right. It is a lot to think about. And that’s the beauty of Pilates.
Because when you’re busy concentrating on the movements, it’s impossible to think about anything else.
You don’t think about heaping loads of laundry, that person who cut you off on the freeway, the next deadline at work, your upcoming performance review, or the other 1000 to-dos you need to finish before the holidays.
We can all afford to spend at least one hour each day not thinking about the things that stress us out.
At the same time, I like to believe we are all wired a little bit differently. When it comes to pushing the stressful things out of the mind, some people need more help than others. I’m one of them.
In the past 5 years, I have discovered that a special talent that enables me to think about multiple life stressors while boxing, running, weight lifting, and CrossFit. Did I get results doing these types of exercises? Yes. But it was never enough to keep my coming back to them.
For whatever reason, I just didn’t get the same kind of mental disconnect and enjoyment that other people did that kept them coming back. So I would just move onto the next type of exercise.
People who need Pilates the most are those who want to disconnect from life’s stressors through exercise, but may not have had the best luck being able to do so through other fitness methods. So, they roam from one method do another.
These types of people typically have active minds that need more components to be integrated into their exercise routines to attain a level of mind-body connection that allows them to actually get a true disconnect.
After 5 years, Pilates has given me over 1000 different exercises (over half of which I have yet to try!) to use that have evolved from an exercise routine into a lifestyle. And isn’t that the goal? To look forward to exercise, not dread it?
Enjoyment and mental release are the key components that turn an exercise routine into a healthy, life-long habit. The path to enjoyment and mental release is achieving the mind-body connection.
You deserve to enjoy exercising. If you don’t enjoy it, you will never keep doing it. Many people say there are no excuses when it comes to working out. But if you truly enjoy what you do, you won’t try to make them.