Pilates Is Another Key to Building Body Awareness
I wrote last week about how much horseback riding has helped me with body awareness. Another activity that has helped me significantly improve body awareness is Pilates. Pilates also has made me more conscientious while riding, which in turn has had a positive domino effect for me.
When I first started Pilates, I could barely do many of the exercises properly. It wasn’t due to lack of strength, but rather lack of form. My body was so used to compensating for all of my issues that my instructor quickly realized that some of my muscle groups didn’t even know how to fire anymore. The first time I was asked to do leg raises, rather than use my glutes to do so, my body incorporated almost all of the muscles in my back instead, while my glutes — which should have been the main muscles working — did next to nothing.
As a result, my muscles were both exhausted from working when they didn’t need to as well as sore from performing tasks they weren’t designed to do. My instructor began breaking down exercises into small components so I could focus on using the correct muscle groups. I had to concentrate on using the right muscles, which allowed me an even deeper awareness of my body’s motion and compensations.
I think this is one of the reasons I’ve found Pilates so beneficial — not only has it helped me relearn the proper way to use many of my muscles, but also it has helped solidify the habit of paying attention to my body as I exercise, whether I’m unloading grain bags or doing specific exercises.
The idea of body awareness is tied closely to the idea of mindfulness, which basically is a check-in with yourself physically and mentally. I stumbled on a great collection of guided mindfulness activities provided by UC San Diego, and while I haven’t tried them yet, I’m excited to check them out.
While many of the ways I’ve developed body awareness have been physical activities, that’s not always an option for some people with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. Many of the guided exercises on the UCSD site are done while simply sitting or standing, while a narrator guides listeners through different areas of mental focus.
I’ve found that mindfulness can be mentally relaxing and helps me pinpoint areas that may need extra physical support. Mindfulness isn’t for everyone, but if exploring it is of interest to you, check it out!
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