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What happens when you’re suddenly told one day that you will never be able to walk again? In some cases, it can completely crush one’s self esteem and motivation to live, but not in my case. Having an illness such as ADEM (Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis) can be life-changing for anyone, as it was for me in many ways. But Pilates also turned my life around.
To be able to rebuild my body back from the basics, to walking with a stick at the age of 35, to constantly be told that I should feel happy with my condition, just because I was better off than many, was a constant struggle for me which was not only physical but mental as well. But I learnt quickly that it is my mind that controls my body. I have always felt that no matter how we feel on the inside, it is very important to get dressed and show up for recovery. Pilates has played a very important role in my recovery, which is why I would recommend it to anyone who is struggling with rehabilitation of any kind.
Pilates is a systemized form of exercise, which focuses on core strengthening, which includes our abdominal and our back muscles. Pilates can seem very intimidating for someone who hasn’t done it before, but it is really a sequential safe way in which one focuses their concentration on each movement and patterns that are precise. It also includes a steady and controlled form of breathing. So, Pilates can be done on an apparatus which works with spring, tension and resistance, called a reformer, or it can be done on a mat with the help of your own body weight.
Pilates is great not only for losing weight but for also chronic fatigue, muscle imbalances and for rehabilitation purposes as well.
As it is a low impact exercise designed to strengthen key muscle groups without causing full-body fatigue, I could do Pilates because my trainers could customise my exercise routine to a level that my body could tolerate, without too much of exertion. For me, Pilates was a great way to ease into fitness and build strength. Since I’m someone who has always tried to be active, given my physical limitations, it wasn’t very hard to start Pilates.
Pilates helped me become attuned to my body and taught me how to really control my movement through proper breathing, correct pelvic and spinal alignment. This is how it automatically helped in reduction of my pain because while performing these exercises breathing played a very important role. Proper breathing not only allows you to execute each and every movement efficiently, it also helps in the reduction and management of stress at the same time. When my oxygen levels are good, I feel better and breathing also simultaneously helped in recovery of my muscles.
Many injuries are caused by muscular imbalances within our bodies. Most of us move incorrectly in some way or the other, which puts too much pressure on some muscles and weakens the others, causing an imbalance. Pilates taught me to co-ordinate the muscles of my arms and legs with my core, which helped me improve my body balance. If one starts building their core muscles through tailored and customised program, like I did, it can do wonders for one’s body. Doctors had told me I wouldn’t be able to walk, but slowly and gradually when I started strengthening my core muscles, it not only improved my posture but I could walk again.
This makes one feel more energised. Endorphins are a “feel-good” compound that triggers the mind into a positive place. For me, Pilates is a form of exercise that reduced the feeling of depression and helped with my overall fatigue as well.
It can be done anywhere, right from the comfort of your home to doing it in an aerobic zone (as long as we have the right trainer guiding us throughout ), which is very effective in increasing the levels of oxygen in our blood stream and as a result it helps us feel more energised.
Pilates is used by physiotherapists all over the world, to increase postural awareness and to alter faulty patterns of movement by addressing muscle imbalances. Through Pilates, I have noticed greater control in my spinal stability, pelvic stability and mobility, enabling me to improve my posture, inner strength and balance leading to an overall healthy movement, minimising stress to my joints during everyday activities.