The Health Benefits of Pilates

Pilates is now known across the world, mostly for the extreme health benefits that it brings to the table. It doesn’t matter what age you are or your fitness level; anyone can benefit from Pilates. It is estimated that over 20 million people around the world take a Pilates class or do Pilates exercises in some form or another. This exercise regime is said to give people many physical and mental benefits.

Get Thrive Yoga Pants
Get Thrive Yoga Pants

Makes You More Flexible

Stretching overtime and using the “Reformer” on a regular basis not only extends your range of motion, but it makes you more flexible as well. This will eventually make your body feel looser and give it the ability to do exercises and activities that you never could before. Becoming more flexible will also help you achieve other physical improvements, such as reducing back pain.

Can Improve Your Breathing

When you are in a Pilates class, careful attention is paid to your breathing patterns. Proper breathing also helps with your blood circulation, which will make you feel fresh, energized, and happy even long after the Pilates class ends.

Deep breathing gives your body a better supply of oxygen, an elemental part of almost all chemical reactions that take place in your body. Oxygen gives you energy. Exhaling rids carbon dioxide, or waste, from your body. Therefore, deep breathing is a great way to cleanse!

Helps to Improve Posture

No matter what you are doing when going about your everyday life, taking Pilates reminds you that you need to pull your stomach in, pull your shoulders back and maintain the good posture that makes it possible to be fit and live healthily.

Not only does perfecting your posture make you look better, but it can also help alleviate shoulder tension and upper back pain. The focus on posture in your Pilates class will change the way you carry yourself outside of class as well.

Ergonomic High-Back Chair
Ergonomic High-Back

Helps to Build Better Balance and Core Strength

Using a Pilates ball or a Reformer utilizes physical coordination and also helps to build balance. Balance exercises also strengthen core muscles. This is where structuring good posture comes in.

“Active awareness” of your core muscles while performing Pilates balancing exercises helps you maintain your posture. And, because the core contains and controls your diaphragm, this can also improve the deep breathing we discussed earlier.

Overall: Makes Your Body More Efficient

Pilates is the type of exercise that tones your body, improves your breathing and posture, and makes you more flexible. In other words, Pilates allows your body to be more efficient every time you take a class.

Pilates is sweeping the nation and can help you become a better you. Try a class—you’ve got everything to gain!


Avoid Injury, Lose Weight: Mindful Exercise Practices

Do you feel as if every time you embark on a workout mission you wind up injured? Have you been trying to lose weight but no matter how much you exercise, you feel like you’re spinning your wheels? Perhaps it’s time to place some mindfulness into practice. A couple of minor adjustments and you could be on your way to meeting goals in a more productive and enjoyable way…

Meeting of the Mindful

Mindfulness has become a buzzword in our American culture as of late. The truth, however, is that being aware and focusing on the present is actually an ancient practice. Much of what comprises a worthy meditation practice is what’s involved in a mindful approach—to anything.

Author Jon Kabat Zinn in his book Mindfulness for Beginners, describes the state of being mindful as, “Paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”

A mindful technique is one that focuses on your feelings, sensations, and thoughts without you judging them. It’s about being conscious of sensations and all the stimuli around you. Being mindful means removing yourself from auto pilot and engaging in moment-to-moment awareness.

Exercise Minus the Pain

“No pain, no gain” is an outdated expression, not to mention unsafe. Yes, it’s good to push yourself now and then—by increments. It’s foolish to overwork your muscles or attempt a new workout without stretching, preparation, or having built up stamina and strength.

Yes, soreness may happen; but pain can be a sign of injury. Exercising with mindfulness can help prevent hurting your body. Injuries keep you from exercising regularly and can also cause long-term damage to muscles, bones, and joints.

Here are some mindful practice tips for a workout:

  • focus on your breathing
  • be aware of your heart rate
  • take deliberate physical actions, paying attention at all times
  • keep your mind from wandering
  • integrate your mind into what you are doing with your body

Perks of the Practice

When you start taking notice of how you are moving your body, lifting the weight, or throwing the ball, you are less apt to hurt yourself. You will feel the heaviness or the awkwardness. Don’t just go through the motions. Be the motions.

Have you ever taken an aerobic-type class and felt like a robot? Or does the teacher seem like a robot, playing the same music (not feeling it), and doing the same moves every time? It’s not fun. And, it’s not productive.

When you are present and move your body with deliberate motions, you can build strength, improve balance, and get quicker results from your efforts. In addition, you’ll find that you will have more fun. A workout can actually be enjoyable and feel rewarding.

Mental Methods for Exercise

Everyone’s mind wanders. But when it comes to exercise, especially if you have a goal in mind, it’s important to maintain focus. Mindful exercise coaches suggest redirecting your thoughts to the actual exercise task. Within time, you will build a habit of attending to your actions.

Elinor Fish is a former editor of Trail Runner Magazine. She now conducts mindful running retreats, helping women learn how to avoid injury and regain their love of running and exercise. Fish describes mindful running like: “Synching movement with breath, focusing your mind on a single point like the trail ahead… These are just some of the ways running creates the coherence in the body that supports present-moment awareness and flow,”

Getting it Done

If you want to exercise to be safe and second nature—and you want to lose weight—you must make a plan on what you want to accomplish each session. Whether you are running, lifting, swimming, biking, etc. decide in advance a reasonable amount of time and/or distance you’ll be participating.

If, for example, you chose a high-intensity compilation of movements for 20 minutes, stick to it. Don’t let your mind wander. Don’t answer calls, check texts, or stop to jot down something you just thought of to make for dinner. Act with intention and awareness, and try not to veer from that path.

Be prepared before you start. Have on the correct shoes, get your water, and have your timer nearby. Create the proper lighting and make sure you have air. Forget about everything else for these few minutes.

You owe it to yourself to keep your body safe and healthy. Aside from losing weight, improving balance, and gaining strength, mindful exercise can also help you reduce stress. That, in and of itself, is a gift to your mental and physical health.

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Kabat-Zinn, Jon. Mindfulness for Beginners. 2012.





Zika Virus Linked to Paralysis

A recent analysis of Zika cases worldwide has concluded that infections may lead to a syndrome that causes paralysis.

The Syndrome

As we’ve come to understand, only one-in-five infected people with the Zika virus show symptoms. Even then, they are not harsh—red eyes, fever, rash…

There has been, however, a monumental spike in the number of people diagnosed with. Most, if not all of them, were found to have previously (and in the recent past) contracted Zika.

Guillain-Barré (pronounced gwee-on’ – bah’-ray) is an autoimmune disorder. This syndrome attacks the nervous system, first causing weakness or tingling in the legs and arms. In many cases, the sensations intensify, so much so that certain muscles become completely dysfunctional. Breathing and blood pressure can be threatened by the attack as well. It’s in these cases where hospitalization and ventilators are needed.

Before Zika: The Guillain-Barré Details

Guillain-Barré syndrome, before the current, intense revival of Zika, afflicted about only one person in 100,000. It was rare (until recently). It’s a frightening syndrome because it attacks unexpectedly and suddenly. After the first symptoms of weakness, paralysis sets in within a few days or a couple of weeks. Sometimes this lasts days, weeks, or months. Recovery can occur within a few months, but sometimes not for many years. Residual muscle and nerve weakness—for about 30 percent of sufferers—can last for several years.

The Evidence Behind the News

The sensational accounts of, “Zika Causing Paralysis!” is not all that far-fetched. Zika doesn’t directly cause any type of paralysis. However, it may (and most likely), will bring on a host of autoimmune disorders, including Guillain-Barré —which can cause temporary paralysis.

There’s clearly a connection between getting bit by a Zika-infested mosquito and developing Guillain-Barré. For example, Venezuela expected fewer than 75 cases of GB in early 2015. However, as the Zika virus spread, the country reported almost 700 cases of Guillain-Barré. That’s no coincidence.

In the U.S., The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has stated that the Zika virus is “strongly associated” with Guillain-Barré, but hasn’t, yet, officially declared it a cause of the condition. The data, however, speaks the truth.

Of the seven countries hit hardest by Zika, they all displayed unusually radical increases in Guillain-Barré syndrome cases. Through Latin America and the Carribean, there have been roughly 1,500 cases of reported temporary paralysis.

The reliable figures point to over 500-million people in those areas at risk for Zika; That means the potential for a Guillain-Barré syndrome epidemic is exorbitant as well.

Dr. Espinal (and his co-authors) on their analysis published in the New England Journal of Medicine, point out that Latin American countries (and others) should expect up to 10 times more Guillain-Barré cases than expected. That’s a lot.

Without alarm, but arming with caution, avoid Zika mosquito-infested locations. Do not have sex without a condom if you or your lover have possibly been infected or have had sex with another who may be infected. (Remember, only one-in-five people show symptoms). Zika can be sexually transmitted. Hence, Guillain-Barré is right around the proverbial corner.

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