Activities that exercise your body and mind simultaneously have seen a rapid rise in popularity. The “no pain – no gain” philosophy is getting pushed aside by activities that deliver inner harmony, balance and functionality.
As people seek a gentler path towards health and wellness, mind-body exercises appeal to people of all ages, physical capabilities and body types. The slow and controlled movements are generally safe and low impact, yet can be vigorous enough to elicit a strength-improving response.
Activities such as Pilates, yoga and Tai chi work your spiritual and psychological self, in addition to improving your strength, flexibility, and body awareness. By engaging your mind, and getting you to focus on posture, form, breathing, and the body’s core, activities such as Pilates, yoga and Tai chi help you to unwind and relax. There is a focus on stress relief and total wellness, not just fitness.
Pilates has evolved from an alternative therapy into a popular fitness phenomenon. It was first developed by therapist Joseph Pilates in the 1920s to stretch, strengthen, and balance the body. By engaging the mind, and concentrating on your posture and breathing, Pilates helps to correct poor movement habits, and helps distribute gravity evenly through your body.
Some of the benefits you can obtain from Pilates includes:
* improved strength, flexibility and balance
* conditioned deep abdominal muscles (the core)
* reduced risk of back pain and injury
* reduced stress and tension
* improved posture and circulation
* improved bone density and joint health
* improved mobility and agility
* improved mental and physical wellbeing.
Pilates is ideal for women and men of all ages, fitness levels and abilities. Most movements can be modified and adapted to suit individual needs, ranging from athletes to the elderly.
Yoga is a collection of movements, postures and techniques aimed at bringing the body and mind together in one harmonious experience. It has been around for centuries, and there are several different approaches to yoga, but they are all structured around exercise, breathing, and meditation to varying degrees.
As you practice yoga, you will obtain a range of benefits, including:
* Physical strengthening, toning and stretching of muscles, improving your flexibility and range of movement
* Improved circulation to your muscles, glands, organs, joints and ligaments
* Awareness of your breath, and the body parts used during the movements
* As you improve, the meditative effects will change and intensify. Your thinking will become clearer, and you will experience a unique calmness, or “enlightenment”.
Yoga is suitable for most adults of any age or physical condition. To get started, find a qualified teacher and ask whether they concentrate on the meditative, physical or philosophical aspects of yoga. Alternatively, you could try a book, video or DVD.
Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese martial art that focuses on building strength and flexibility through slow, fluid movements combined with concentration and deep breathing. By performing the movements very slowly, Tai Chi also teaches balance through muscle control and coordination, and transports you into a deeply relaxed state.
While there are many different forms of Tai Chi, the founding principles of martial arts, exercise for health and breathing remain the same.
People who participate in Tai Chi can experience a wide range of benefits, including:
* improved flexibility and mobility
* improved mental focus and alertness
* improved sleep and immune function
* increased muscular strength
* reduced risk of falls
* lower blood pressure
* reduced pain from arthritis
* learning of self-defence skills.