As beautiful as fresh snow and twinkling lights are, the holidays often deliver stress and anxiety in addition to presents. Between finding the perfect gifts, balancing social obligations, nailing your game, mailing cards on time, baking, cooking, and having “All I Want For Christmas is You” stuck in your head, this season brings a lot to juggle. This year, these may be appearing in conjunction with pandemic-related emotions, too. In the spirit of giving, we’re here to show you how Pilates can be the stress-busting solution to help you find peace throughout the 2020 holiday season.
When the central nervous system reacts to a stressor, your body releases a combination of cortisol and adrenaline. These can be helpful in situations where quick thinking would keep you safe, but prolonged stress leaves you in a persistent state of high alert and can lead to unhealthy coping behaviors including over or undereating, substance abuse, and social withdrawal. Excessive cortisol can also lead to physical changes including weight gain, digestive issues, increased blood pressure, headaches, body aches, and a weakened immune system.
The kicker: high-impact exercise keeps your body in a stressful condition. While we understand needing to punch out the rage in a kickboxing session or hit the road for a long run, low-impact activities such as Pilates decrease your body’s stress response plus incorporate mindfulness and breathing techniques for psychological benefits, as well.
Ready to relax?
Let’s start with breathing. Joseph Pilates believed, “Lazy breathing converts the lungs, literally and figuratively speaking, into a cemetery for the deposition of diseased, dying and dead germs.” Therefore, lateral breathing (also known as intercostal breathing) is a principle of Pilates and breath patterns often coincide with the exercises. To practice engaging the diaphragm, try slowly breathing in while in a comfortable seated position or laying down with knees bent. With one hand on your abdomen and one on your upper chest, you should feel the belly expand as air travels through your body. Slowly exhale while pursing your lips as your abdomen returns to its original position. Another way to strengthen your diaphragm is to make repeated, “Ha” sounds while exhaling (singers know this exercise well!).
Second, practice mindfulness during your Pilates sessions. Stress often appears when we feel overwhelmed, and by fully focusing on your movements and breathing you’ll temporarily escape and possibly reframe anxiety-inducing situations. Between mental clarity and endorphins, you’ll be ready to handle whatever’s next on your (or Santa’s) list.
We encourage you to take time for yourself and your Pilates practice this season. As always, we’re here to support you through virtual Pilates, yoga, barre, and more. Wishing you and your family health and happiness this holiday season and we’ll see you in class soon!