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Pilates for Mental Health: Ten Mindfulness and Stress-Reducing Benefits of Practicing Pilates

Pilates for Mental Health: Ten Mindfulness and Stress-Reducing Benefits of Practicing Pilates

Pilates is much more than just a form of exercise.  It is a holistic practice that promotes physical and mental well-being, helping people improve their overall quality of life.  By strengthening the core, increasing flexibility, and practicing mindfulness through controlled movements and breathing techniques Pilates workouts can support well-being in more ways than just a healthier body.  While Pilates is not a “magic pill” that will solve all your life’s problems, it can help bridge the gap, and help connect mind and body for better physical and mental health.

Whether you are struggling with anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, or just need a way to manage stress, Pilates is a form of exercise that can support self-care and improve both physical and mental well-being.  Pilates can be a valuable tool to help you prioritize your physical and mental wellness.  It can help promote a sense of balance and inner peace, which can lead to greater overall health and happiness.

As a Pilates Teacher for almost thirty years, and someone who has spent my entire life challenged with depression, anxiety, insomnia, and panic attacks, I can personally vouch for the health benefits of practicing Pilates.  When I started learning Pilates, I was only looking for a career change…  I had no idea how much my mind and body really needed to practice Pilates!  Or that aside from a new career I was going to reap the benefits of developing new and better strategies to keep my own mental health on a more even keel.

It can be difficult to really explain how much better you can feel after a Pilates workout…  It’s best to experience it.  Pilates training can be both empowering and relaxing. It develops both strength and flexibility, and by focusing on core support, breathing, and body control Pilates does an excellent job of shifting your mental state while improving your physical health, and uplifting your spirit.

Wellness goals don’t all have to be about getting 6-pack abs or toning your hips and arms.  There are many layers to our well-being that can be boosted by practicing Pilates.

Here are 10 Ways that Pilates Can Help Support Better Mental Health:

  1. Increase Self-Awareness. With an emphasis on proper posture, alignment, and controlled movements, Pilates exercises can help increase body awareness and mindfulness.  The repetition of doing the same exercises repeatedly, with the support of the springs on the Pilates equipment can help you can become more aware of finding and using the right muscles to move, and this self-awareness allows you to fine-tune your body alignment and improve whole-body health.
  1. Enhance Relaxation. The controlled movements and deep breathing techniques used in Pilates can help reduce stress and promote relaxation. It’s almost impossible to think about other things happening in your life during a Pilates workout, because all your energy is focused on your body, and what it’s doing right now.  By focusing on “riding the breath” with your movement, and contracting and releasing muscles to move, and focusing on what your body is doing right now – stress melts away, and there is a very calming effect on both mind and body.
  1. Improve Concentration. Pilates requires a lot of focus and concentration, which can help improve mental clarity and reduce distractions.  You really cannot do Pilates and think about anything else!  Pilates workouts are a great way to clear your head and feel more grounded.
  1. Increase Self-Esteem. Pilates helps to improve posture and body awareness, and it can also boost self-confidence, and self-esteem.  There is a lot of power in being able to stand tall with good posture, and have the strength, flexibility, and fitness to move well.  The empowerment that you get from your body “feeling good” from doing Pilates can also help your self-esteem.

  2. Reduce Anxiety. The controlled Pilates posterior-lateral breathing techniques, and the way this facilitates better body support and relaxation can help to promote a sense of calm.  Moving your muscles with strength and control also helps diminish that feeling of “fight or flight” to eliminate anxious thoughts, feelings, and emotions. 
  1. Promote a Sense of Accomplishment. Pilates is a program that involves progress and continuous improvement.  And because of this, it can help increase personal feelings of success and enhance self-worth.  As exercises that were once a challenge become easier to execute you can see and feel the progress that you’re making to support good health.  There is always something new to learn in your body, and with your Pilates workouts.
  1. Increase Energy and Vitality. A regular Pilates practice can help improve whole-body health, strength, and flexibility, which leads increased energy levels and a greater sense of vitality.  If you’re feeling a bit “sluggish” at the beginning of a Pilates workout, it’s easy to notice the shift in energy that Pilates providesOne of the goals of Pilates is to sync mind and body so that you have the energy to complete your daily tasks, and still have energy left to enjoy life!
  1. Improve Sleep. Pilates can help improve sleep quality and reduce insomnia.  Joseph Pilates in Return to Life, suggests that if you can’t sleep, you need to get out of bed and do his “exercises.”  By moving the body through a Pilates workout, riding the breath, and connecting both mind and body, you get the benefits of being more energized AND more relaxed.  By finding the balance between “work” and “rest,” and it becomes easier to flip the switch to relax the mind and body for more restful sleep.
  1. Reduce Depression. Being a holistic practice Pilates promotes physical and mental wellbeing. In addition, the endorphin release associated with exercise makes Pilates a great way to improve overall quality of life.  It becomes difficult to have a depressed outlook, when your body feels better from doing Pilates!  By strengthening your core, increasing flexibility, and practicing mindfulness through controlled movements and breathing can have a profound impact on mental health.
  1. Increase Overall Well-Being. The Pilates Method is designed to improve whole-body health. As a technique that is rooted in physical health, the mental and spiritual aspects of Pilates give it a trifecta of winning benefits.  Since whole-body health and overall well-being go hand in hand, Pilates is a great choice to support significant benefits for both physical and mental well-being.

Mental health challenges and moments of increased stress are a part of everyone’s life, but sometimes the struggle to live on the “happy-side” of life and deal with the feelings of depression, anxiety, and other mental or emotional health issues can be overwhelming.  If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, please seek professional help immediately.  If you are searching for strategies to improve your mental and physical well-being, regular weekly Pilates workouts can be a valuable tool in your toolbox to help balance the mind and body for better health.


988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: In the US call or text 988 to be connected with a trained counselor to provide free and confidential emotional support and crisis counseling.  You can also call 1-800-273-8255.  These services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week across the United States. 

Looking for a Certified Pilates Teacher: To find a Nationally Certified Pilates Teacher (NCPT) in your local area to take Private sessions, or participate in group classes, check out the NCPT Certified Pilates Teacher directory here.


Aliesa George: Over the past three decades, Aliesa George has helped assist people with their personal health journeys by sharing, teaching, and developing Pilates, Foot Fitness, and other Mind-Body programs.


Posted by: Aliesa George


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