An important part of my yes plans this year is to address a little balance in my own personal wellbeing. I do try to think about what I put into my body, but I am also a massive foodie and I can usually be found troughing endless amounts of chocolate, or epic eight course taster menus.
Whilst that’s not something that is likely to change anytime soon, I do want to try and fuel my body with healthy food on a day-to-day basis, so that I can make more room for the treats. The thing is though, I am skirting around a bigger issue here, because it is something that is generally quite alien to me. And that is looking after my body physically too – with the aid of some exercise. Shocker…
Although I have taken on physical challenges in the past, in the name of Year of the Yes, I am more of a couch potato than an athlete. But I truly believe there is something out there for everyone, and very recently I think I found mine in the form of Pilates.
Together with our men and a few friends, the Year of the Yes team have embarked on a regular Pilates mat session every fortnight. The best bit? The class is delivered by our fabulous friend Nes Headland, who runs Live Love Pilates in the Milton Keynes area (with a few cheeky classes in London too).
This lady is seriously talented at what she does; patient, helpful, and what’s more – I couldn’t admire her approach to life more. She radiates calm, happiness and sunshine, so when we started our classes I was looking for a piece of that serenity, as well as a workout for the body. And it has certainly helped on every front.
The lovely lady herself is here to tell us more about why there should be a place for Pilates in your life… over to Nes:
Pilates is a positive and gentle way of exercising with rewarding long-term benefits for both the mind and body. It is a whole body workout; training and conditioning muscles evenly. It uncovers possible areas of compensation and in its place promotes muscle balance, stability and strength. As well as this, Pilates boosts core stability, strengthens posture, develops tone, increases flexibility, relieves tension and crucially, reduces stress.
By emphasising deep breathing during the Pilates movement, it encourages clarity, mindful calmness and concentration.
It is a powerful and well-rounded method that can benefit those of any age, level or experience. Joseph Pilates once famously declared that; “in ten sessions you will feel the difference, in twenty you will see the difference, and in thirty you will have a whole new body.”
There are two types of Pilates; mat work and equipment. Broadly speaking, the method can then be differentiated by classical vs. contemporary and from there, many different styles and schools have evolved.
I started my Pilates journey whilst studying to become a Royal Academy of Dance ballet teacher. Like many dancers, my body took the toll of my chosen career path and suffered countless injuries, especially in the lower back region in the form of a bulging disc. l realised l was in need of some form of body conditioning to further strengthen and support me both physically and mentally hence, l did my first Pilates class at the beginning of 2008.
I then qualified as a BASI Pilates mat work instructor in 2012. I have experienced first-hand its amazing benefits in both rehabilitation and injury prevention, and love teaching clients how to live a pain-free life feeling toned, strong and confident in their bodies.
My favourite thing about Pilates is that it allows you to fully switch off. Life is busy enough but as soon as l lay down on the mat, my mind can’t wander or panic about my never-ending to do list. I’m fully immersed in the movement and breath work, concentrating on my body and what it needs so once l finish the class, I really do feel refreshed and fully worked.
A little something to try at home…
One easy and beneficial thing to work on and think about daily is your posture. For example; think about your resting standing position. Are you weighing the shoulders down with heavy handbags or rucksacks or are you possibly favouring standing on one leg more than the other? Equalising the weight evenly over both feet, lifting through the core and gently opening the fronts shoulders and lifting the head (mobile phone posture fatigue!) will really help in moving more efficiently and more freely.
We can certainly attest to the wonders of Pilates so far – we only started after Christmas, but I already feel like my posture has improved and really relish the chance to switch off fully every couple of weeks.
Although every two weeks may not seem enough, we found this was the perfect frequency for us to fit around our existing commitments when we started out. But we’ve actually enjoyed it so much that we are switching to weekly soon! Having the classes in our own home (or should we say, in Year of the Yes co-founder Christina’s perfectly sized lounge) is certainly a benefit because it feels really relaxed and comfortable.
However, we all fit Pilates around varying other forms of exercise too. I have just started swimming again, and think it the two work well together.
Our Mr Year of the Yeses use Pilates to complement varying types of exertion including rock climbing and marathon training. It’s working really well for the guys and the girls in the group alike.
Here’s a little word from our very own Christina, so that you don’t just have to take my word for it on how awesome bringing Pilates into our world has been: “The nature of my job means that I work lots of evenings and weekends. Add an hour and a half commute each way on to this and it’s difficult to find the time, let alone the motivation to exercise as much as I should do! Whilst I do quite like getting out in the fresh air and running, I have to admit I am a fair weather runner and so on cold dark evenings I’m not tempted to get my trainers on. So our new Pilates classes fit in perfectly with my exercise expectations and my work/life balance.”
“It’s so lovely having the luxury of someone coming to your house and knowing that you are exercising with friends. You definitely feel like you’ve had a work out and but it’s exercise that I actually look forward to!”
If you are thinking of taking up Pilates, we really can’t recommend Live Love Pilates enough, she will bring a ray of sunshine into your life along with her Pilates expertise. If you are in Milton Keynes and the surrounding area, make sure you get in touch with Nes. She offers a free 1-hour trial mat work class, which is how we got started, so you get a no-obligation chance to give it a go for yourself. If you are interested, drop Nes a line on firstname.lastname@example.org
Here’s to saying yes to looking after our bodies, you lovely lot!