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Balance On & Off the Mat


Ahh, the ever-elusive principle of balance. Between work deadlines, personal goals, family, friends, and home duties, balance can easily slip from our grasp. Yet life is truly at its best when we experience balance: a state where our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual needs are fulfilled. What a beautiful concept! The Pilates method teaches us how to develop complete control of our minds and bodies to live a better life. Life will always have its ups and downs, but the beauty of cultivating balance from within allows for a greater sense of ease and joy to flow through us, even during life’s storms. The mat is my safe space to slow down and cultivate the awareness of being present with myself and feeling connected to my body, strengthening my drive and commitment with intention while on the mat translates to how I move beyond the mat. Balance is not just about standing on one leg. It’s about flowing through life amidst the hustle of everyday living. Whatever may knock you off balance, I encourage you to open your mind and heart to new ways of thinking, feeling, and being. Using the six principles of Pilates, we can begin to apply the work on and off the mat. Breathe It’s the first and last thing we do as humans, so we must learn how to breathe correctly. Most of us breathe using only 1/3 of our lung capacity, which can trigger stress. During exercise, we put focus on our breath to strengthen and increase lung capacity. Joseph Pilates designed his method to cleanse the bloodstream through oxygenation. By learning to take full inhalations and complete exhalations, we can rid the body of toxins and replenish it with fresh air to revitalize our systems. Stress reduction, improved sleep, emotion control, and mental clarity are just a few ways proper breathing techniques can make life better. So next time your teacher tells you to take a full deep cleansing breath into the belly, just do it! Feel the freedom of your stomach expanding against your waistband, and know you are doing something good for your mind, body, and spirit! Control Pilates built his method around the concept of muscular control. By concentrating on each movement, the body can perform at its best. He says the mind is the most important muscle of all. Each move should be completed with a clear purpose and intention. As in life, don’t be attached to the outcome; enjoy the process, and through practice comes progress. Oh, the life lessons we can learn from a well-executed roll up! Concentrate Concentration is a crucial element in connecting the mind and body. You must be present in your mind to perform at your best; it is your mind that wills your body to act. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Concentration is the secret of strength.” Whether you are working towards the perfect teaser or writing your first novel, concentration is the secret to success. Say goodbye to multitasking, close all 20 of your computer tabs, turn off your phone and get the satisfaction of giving your undivided attention to the task of your choosing. Zone in, tap in, and turn ON. Center All energy initiates from our center, or as Pilates refers to it, the powerhouse. Connecting to our powerhouse grounds us and establishes a powerful foundation. It allows us to move through life with more grace and ease and connects us to our bodies. When we let our center guide us, we move with more confidence and poise. Flow Pilates was keen on creating a system that allowed the body to work as efficiently as possible, with little to no discomfort. Finding your flow, whether on the mat or in life, is challenging, but you feel unstoppable when you do. Athletes, dancers, and writers talk about finding their flow, a natural state of ease where things just seem to click. Life throws us enough curveballs; working out shouldn’t be one of them. By learning to adapt and flow through exercises, we can open our minds to creating that same ease beyond the mat: less effort, more energy. You know- work smarter, not harder. Precision Precision is a combination of concentration and control. It’s what creates the overall effectiveness of each exercise, and without it, results can suffer. Think quality over quantity. Time and energy are precious commodities today, so whether it’s flowing through your Pilates workout or cleaning the kitchen, do it to the best of your abilities. Eventually, your best will become second nature. I’d love to hear from you. Do you have a daily practice that helps you achieve balance in your life? What other rituals do you practice that help you cultivate balance?

Vanessa Dunn


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