While some classify Pilates as a “workout” and yoga as a “practice,” many agree there is more to both disciplines than meets the eye.
However, since the two have always been connected and even sometimes used interchangeably, many would not be able to provide a distinct difference between yoga and Pilates. That being said, it’s not surprising if misconceptions abound.
For instance, many assume yoga is the consummate choice when it comes to promoting mindfulness. What many do not realize is that Pilates can be just as effective as far as enhancing mindfulness is concerned.
The Essence of Mindfulness
Are you having a conversation with a friend only to realize halfway through that you have not been paying attention or hearing anything they are saying to begin with?
While going about your daily routine, do you catch yourself distracted by thoughts about your problems, relationships, and just life in general? Do you just go through the motions and do things on autopilot?
The scenarios above are classic examples of being “mindless.” When we are mindless, our mind wanders. We are not focusing on the task at hand.
So what is mindfulness exactly?
In essence, mindfulness is about expanding your awareness and turning off the autopilot. It’s being present or being in the moment. It is about focusing the mind on the here and now and not thinking about the deadlines that need to be met, or the bills you need to pay, or the chores you need to finish.
Mindfulness does not entail changing your feelings or emptying your mind of all thoughts. It’s all about being in tune with what you are doing. It is about experiencing every moment using all your senses—hearing, tasting, smelling, seeing, and feeling.
Mindfulness and Pilates
Pilates is comprised of a series of slow and defined exercises that are carried out on a resistance equipment or mat. The exercises need to be executed properly, ensuring the correct techniques are established as opposed to rushing through them.
Practitioners of Pilates know there are a lot of things to take into account during a session—proper alignment and breathing, utilizing the right muscles and relaxing the others, listening and following the instructor’s directions, etc. Taking everything in will entail you to be in the moment. More often than not, you won’t have time to think of anything else.
Sure, it might seem a little overwhelming but once the body learns to adapt, it gets easier. It’s no surprise you will leave each session feeling calm, refreshed, and relaxed as you were able to empty your mind—even just for an hour—of all the stress and worries that are bothering you.
Also, the Pilates breathing method has been known to boost relaxation, decrease anxiety, and improve one’s mood. Proper breathing will also help energize and activate the muscles and being in the moment will help the practitioner execute the movements with more control and precision.
The Importance of Mindfulness
Why is there a need to be mindful when the body can perform the exercises even if the mind wanders? The answer is simple. You will be depriving yourself of the full benefits Pilates offers if you forgo the mental component of the mind-body connection.
While Pilates and yoga have contrasts and similarities, it’s reassuring to know that when it comes to promoting mindfulness, there is not much difference between yoga and Pilates.