What is Pilates and why is it a great exercise for overall physical and mental health?
Pilates was originally developed in the 1920s in Germany by husband and wife, Joseph and Clara Pilates. Joseph Pilates believed that physical and mental health were closely connected and initially developed the exercise as a method of injury recovery. Pilates was practised by dancers and gymnasts to strengthen and condition their bodies, before filtering to mainstream users of the technique.
Pilates is an amazingly versatile exercise and is suitable for anyone, whatever their fitness level, although it’s wise to chat to your Dr prior to undertaking any new physical activity especially if you have any medical conditions. It’s also a purse-friendly option as all you need is a mat and a floor to exercise – and you can do it at home or as part of a class, with most health and sports centres offering classes, as well as many independent teachers. Wall-based Pilates is now becoming popular as is an easy version of the exercise to be able to do at home with no equipment.
Pilates is generally a low impact exercise but can be extremely effective at building strength and core stability. Exercises can be moderated to suit your ability and you can benefit from improved balance, core strength, reduced stress, improved well-being, better posture, and improved flexibility. A strong and healthy core is vital to overall health and well-being because of its connection to other parts of the body.
How can Essential Oils Boost your Workout?
Using oils in the studio where you practise is becoming more and more popular to create a calm or dynamic space depending on the class type.
Calm and Meditative Essential Oil examples:
Chamomile, Lavender, Bergamot, Ylang Ylang, Sandalwood
Dynamic, Awakening Essential Oils:
Peppermint, Eucalyptus, Lemon, Lime, Tea Tree. The use of citrus essential oils – like lemon, sweet orange, and tangerine can be a great way to energize both before and during a Pilates workout.
Oils can be used to scent your environment in a number of different ways. They can be distributed using a diffuser which uses vibrations to release particles of oils which disperse into the air, a nebuliser which transforms Essential Oils from liquid to an extremely fine mist or an oil burner which will evaporate oils in water into the air.
How to use Essential Oils Before or After your Workout
We love Essential Oils because of how easy they are to use; a few drops of peppermint inhaled on a hanky can provide a real boost before a workout – it can be awakening and refreshing to the senses! A couple of drops of eucalyptus oil diluted in a carrier oil such as sweet almond oil, then rubbed into your chest and neck prior to a Pilates class can support your airways by helping them feel clear and energised. Self-massage will also help boost your circulation prior to exercise and will warm up muscles making them more flexible and stretched.
Essential oils boast powerful antibacterial and muscle sooting properties, so they’re a great help when trying to avoid delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) after your Pilates session. You may want a bath or shower post-session, and a great oil to use either under warm running water or mixed in with a bit of body wash base would be Clary Sage which is great for mental fatigue, especially when you need to relax. Muscle rubs are also a great post workout treat and a simple recipe that you can make at home to rub into calves, thighs and your lower back is a mixture of the following ingredients:
Melt the following over a low heat and combine. Transfer into a pot to cool and set.
- 10g Shea butter
- 80g or ml of base oil such as Olive oil or Sweet Almond oil
- Essential oils of your choice up to 2.5ml
- Vitamin E, 5 drops to act as a skin nutrient and conditioner
We love ginger and lemon, peppermint and lime, or rosemary and chamomile as simple oil combinations to make a muscle-penetrating muscle saviour! We also love this fresh-scented blend; 1 drop of Wintergreen Essential Oil with 10ml of Sweet Almond oil for a warming and comforting muscle rub.
Pilates and your Mental Health
Breathing and breath awareness is a key part of practising Pilates successfully – our mind and our body should be in synergy when exercising; controlling our breathing and moving in time to it is key. As we increase our lung capacity during exercise, this stimulates feel-good hormones, oxygen flow, and blood circulation. Pilates and breathing exercises can therefore help to reduce anxiety and studies have shown that it can help improve cognitive function and reduce stress. Plus, due to its low impact nature, Pilates rarely leaves you feeling fatigued or depleted, but instead, it can give you a boost of energy. Pilates can also help with sleep patterns and including Pilates stretches in your bedtime routine could not only help you to achieve a better-quality night’s sleep, it can also help reset your core alignment to reduce pain and discomfort when you wake. While doing some pre-bed poses or stretches, it’s a lovely idea to match the environment to your goal of a good night’s sleep so candles or low lighting, and diffusing a lovely relaxing Essential Oil like Lavender can be the perfect rest-inducing routine.
However you incorporate Pilates into your life, research suggests that it will be nothing but a positive experience!