Anxiety getting you down? Is your breath high in your ribs because you can’t really drop your breath down into your belly? You may feel extremely tight in your shoulders and neck or you may feel weak in your body and stuck in your thoughts. Have you had a panic attack where you suffer shortness of breath and foreboding thoughts? Experiencing anxiety regularly can be debilitating and have a negative impact on your life. A gentle Pilates practice can help with anxiety management. Here are 4 ways it can be deeply beneficial if you suffer regular anxiety.
The power of breath for anxiety
Pilates is a movement system that is based on your breath. During a Move to Nurture Pilates class your breath will deepen and slow down. As a result this will stimulate the Vagus nerve to switch our bodies to ‘rest and digest’ mode.
The focus on the breath involves deep diaphragmatic breathing. Sometimes people have a very tight diaphragm (muscle under the ribs responsible for breath) which leads to a shallow breathing pattern. Specific Pilates exercise can help release your diaphragm to help your breath get deeper into your lungs. This in turn helps to slow the breath and the heart rate down, supporting your body to access its parasympathetic nervous system (resting state).
The act of doing Pilates develops mind-body connection. Using the breath and coordinated movement of the limbs Pilates requires concentration. This engagement of the mind ensures you are using the right muscles but also brings you into the present moment with your body and your breath.
Brain chemistry to reduce anxiety
By slowing down the breath (1) and developing your mind body connection and presence (3) Pilates helps to shift your brain chemistry. The result of this is reducing cortisol levels and boosting dopamine levels. This chemical shift is important for allowing the body and the brain to relax.
Linking you to a wellness community. It doesn’t matter if you go to a group mat class or a private equipment session, or even an online mat class. Doing Pilates will link you to others who are taking steps to live well, manage their stress and connect with their own bodies. Connecting with others who are engaged in a self-care practice creates a community for you. Your community can then support you to turn up and do the work so your anxiety will reduce and become more manageable.
If you suffer from anxiety make sure you seek support. Beyond Blue has a great self assessment tool here and lots of other resources too. Headspace is a great meditation website and app to check out and there are many others. Incorporating movement into your meditation with a practice like Pilates will give you all the benefits of exercise as well.
I am Brigid Pearse a certified Pilates instructor and ex-dancer and a mum. I run a fully equipped Pilates studio from my home in Lennox Head and I run community Pilates mat classes in Byron Bay, Ballina and online. To receive regular body wisdom sign up below.