‘Co-ordination of mind, body and spirit’, J Pilates

I’ve heard Pilates described as a ‘non-spiritual yoga’ which I believe does an injustice to Pilates (not just the exercise system but to the man and creator himself). It may not be spiritual in a mystical sense but it’s origins have a focus on one’s spirit or energy.

In 1945 Joseph Pilates published ‘Return to Life through Contrology’ – the original name for Pilates. At the start of the book he sets out his philosophy and it’s quite incredible how relevant the themes are to today’s society and how forward looking he was around the need for a holistic solution to address mental and physical well-being.

He talks passionately about the need to develop mind, body and spirit in order to thrive physically and mentally. He saw Pilates as a well-being approach to combat the mental pressures as well as the physical strain the increasingly fast paced living and desk based work were having on the population even back then.

His guidance to achieve ‘mens sana in corpore sano’ (a sane mind in a sound body) reads like a contemporary well-being article; quality sleep and diet, proper breathing, good posture, walks in nature, connecting with loved ones and daily Pilates exercise.

Rather than large muscles or weight loss, he promotes an exercise system that develops a body free from pain and flexible and strong enough to allow daily tasks and hobbies to be pursued with energy and zest. “Body, mind and spirit functioning perfectly as a co-ordinated whole..freed from nervous tension and over-fatigue is the ideal shelter for housing a well-balanced mind.‘

Before he introduces the exercises he ensures readers are clear that his exercises aren’t just about movement they are about a focus on breathing, blood flow, small as well as global muscles, mental concentration and control. Through this holistic approach the true benefits can be felt within the mind, body and spirit.

#josephpilates #pilatesprinciples #pilatesforwellbeing #zenergyactive #pilatesforlife #pilatesforenergy #holistic #wellbeing

What’s on your care label?

There are many great tips out there for helping you achieve happiness, the problem is not all of them work for everyone. You need a really thorough understanding of you to create a life and self-care rituals are meaningful.

The analogy we used in the Den this week was ‘What are your care instructions’? Just as clothing comes with a label explaining the fabric and how to take care of it – what would your care label say? What are the 5 instructions someone would need to know in order to take care of you to ensure you’re well taken care of inside and out? Then ask yourself, do you do them? What’s just a small action you could take towards taking better care of you? And on the flip side, what would be the instructions to prevent damage – and do you avoid those scenarios?

For most of us ‘exercise regularly’ will likely be on those care instructions, yet it’s often a neglected area. Experimenting with what that looks like for you and finding something you truly enjoy rather than ‘should do’ will make it stick. Finding Pilates was a revelation – a means to keep strong and supple without having to go to a gym for a hard core training session. But it’s different for everyone, the important part is knowing you and what you need to take care of you. #careinstructions #selfcare #selfunderstanding #wellbeing #pilates #zenergyactive

12 months, 12 reflections on one year in business

Image: card from http://www.kissmekwik.co.uk

This week I’ve been founder of ZenergyActive, my Pilates and wellbeing company, for one year.

This blows me away on two levels. Firstly my small business is slowly but steadily growing when most small businesses fail in the first year. Secondly, it’s taken me until now to own the words ‘founder of ZenergyActive, my Pilates and wellbeing company’. I finally updated my LinkedIn profile last week when friends gave me a push to get over my concern that it might all go to pot and I’d end up eating humble pie and begging for a Marketing job back.

They assured me that wouldn’t be the case as the business IS steadily growing and what forward looking employer wouldn’t admire someone taking the leap to follow their passion and get a small business off the ground. ‘Think of what you’ve learned……’ they said. So I took the plunge, changed my profile and then reflected on just that….what I’ve learned during my first year in business:


1️⃣ It’s possible. It’s not easy but it is actually possible to quit the day job, retrain in a totally new field, start a business and earn money doing it.


2️⃣ It’s a rollercoaster. Because it really matters every comment and interaction either makes my heart sing or break.


3️⃣ It’s utterly empowering. Whatever the obstacle, opportunity or skill gap you simply have to find a way to make it work and inevitably you do.


4️⃣ You attract likeminded people. I’ve found you become drawn to and connected with people working outside the traditional corporate path on their journey to fulfilment. Either physically or virtually you share, guide, encourage, console and celebrate with one another.


5️⃣ You discover your community. Teaching in the local community means I can connect to my neighbourhood but it goes beyond that. Being around to take in parcels, have a cuppa/G&T with a neighbour and use local businesses has given me a sense of belonging.


6️⃣.I’ve seen Facebook in a new light. Without Facebook my business wouldn’t have survived it’s first year. Being able to feature on community pages (run by local volunteers – thank you!) has been an integral source of customers along with a way to run affordable, targeted advertising.


7️⃣ You find your voice. Knowing how to represent yourself in words and pictures is daunting. I was initially in analysis paralysis second guessing what every word, picture, colour and post said about me. Slowly I’ve found my rhythm and my confidence has grown to just go for it.


8️⃣ You can give back. I make time to volunteer each month. With my Yellow lab Dave, we visit local residential homes as part of the Pets as Therapy organisation – a really special experience I might have missed out on previously.


9️⃣You’re so grateful to friends and family. Without a team they become your colleagues, life coaches, brand developers, product testers, flyer distributors, pop-up Pilates event crew, social media advocates….you’re rock.


🔟Self-care can go out the window. Work and non-work blur when you follow your passion. That can mean that it’s difficult to stop. You have to park the guilt, explain to your concerned partner that it’s not work to you but also set boundaries and nurture yourself


1️⃣ 1️⃣ Things that mattered before, don’t. Spending decisions come into sharp focus when you’ve given up the day job. It was surprisingly easy to stop spending on clothes, hair and beauty products and prioritise investing in the business and quality experiences with friends and family. You think twice about who you give your money to and appreciate it more.


1️⃣ 2️⃣ You make an impact and gain personal fulfilment. The feedback I’ve had from my clients has blown me away. I’m impacting not just how they move but how they feel; their stress levels, sleep quality and overall happiness – creating an overwhelming sense of fulfilment.

So on reflection, it was worth the gamble to switch lanes. Although this path requires just as much grit, hard work and determination as corporate life, even working 4 nights a week as well as in the day, I’ve achieved a greatly improved work life balance. I make people healthy and happy for a living and work doesn’t seem like work any more – I couldn’t have asked for more than that. #zenergyactive #oneyearin #changinglanes #takingaleap

Ps the image is of a ZenergyActive birthday card pushed through by a neighbour and loyal customer! Amazing

Panic attacks – what is it, what to do

Embracing negative emotions is a lot easier said than done but these emotions are there to protect us – most of the time. Feeling fearful stops us from stepping out in front of a car or touching a hot stove – a chemical response that’s triggered in the brain when we might put ourselves in danger. Or at times we need a dose of adrenalin to push ourselves out of our comfort zones.

Panic attacks are extreme levels of anxiety that occur when there’s no apparent danger. The physical and emotional symptoms can be extremely frightening – a sense of foreboding or dread, dizziness, tunnel vision, rapid heart beat, trembling, sweating etc. It’s extremely debilitating and just the thought of having another one can create panic in itself.

The first thing to know is that lots of people suffer with anxiety and panic attacks – even people who seem totally in control. They do pass (usually lasting between 5 to 20 minutes), they’re not life threatening and there’s lots you can do to try and avoid having one. So don’t be embarrassed about them – you’ll be surprised how many other people have experienced these or similar issues with anxiety once you open up about it.

To try and avoid a panic attack:

Look after yourself. Have a good self-care routine in place so that you have plenty of time in your life for relaxation and calm:

– Try to get enough sleep. Sleep can give you the energy to cope with difficult feelings and experiences. For 5 sleep tips see blog post here: We want better sleep but struggle to get it – 5 tips to help

– Have a good balanced diet. Eating regularly and keeping your blood sugar stable can make a difference to your mood and energy levels

– Try to do some physical activity each week. Exercise is really important for your mental wellbeing. Make sure you have time in your diary to do something you enjoy and if this can be outside even better. Pilates or Yoga that teach breathing and gentle movement can be particularly helpful to create calm if life can be overwhelming at times.

If you find yourself having a panic attack:

1. Breathe. By breathing deeply you send a signal to your brain that you’re calm and relaxed (even if you don’t feel it!). Breathing deeply triggers your parasympathetic nervous system, moving you out of ‘fight or flight mode’ and into the ‘rest and digest’ system. Breathing deeply slows your heart rate, lowers your blood pressure and calms the system. Try Box Breathing: picture a square in your mind and trace the sides of the square as you inhale for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4, exhale for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4. Practice this technique when you aren’t feeling panicky so that you have it in your back pocket for when you need it.

2. Ground yourself with ‘5‘: Occupy your mind and concentrate on your immediate surroundings – become really mindful rather than focussed on the panic you’re feeling. Concentrate on: 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can touch, 2 things you can smell, one deep breath.

3. Eat an extra strong mint: a bit like the above, focussing on doing something and over-riding your senses can help distract you for long enough to calm your system down. Chew gently and continue to breathe steadily

4. Know it’s ok and it will pass: the symptoms will pass, no one has ever died from a panic attack. Don’t try and fight it, just use these techniques and ride it out.

5. Talk to someone you trust. Don’t be embarrassed, don’t pretend it doesn’t happen. They happen to people of all ages and abilities. It’s not a weakness. There are lots of therapies out there that can help so talk to someone that can help you find the right therapy for you.

More information can be found here: NHS: Panic Disorder Article

Three science-backed ways to enjoy fitness and see results

The home workout trend is growing hugely for many reasons, ‘I’m too busy to hit the gym’ is an obvious one but I was interested to read this article about how it can also help ‘Beat comparison anxiety’. It reminded me how vulnerable we can feel when trying out a new class – moving in front of others and even in what we’re wearing.

I never take for granted how brave my students are to walk through the door for the first time into a new class. I pride myself on making those first few minutes welcoming and non-intimidating. Before they even arrive I make sure they know how to get to the hall, where to park and reassure them it doesn’t matter what they wear as long as they feel comfortable and can move easily. Then, on arrival, I’ll have a chat, introduce them to their mat buddy and explain that Pilates is not competitive and to pick a level that suits them best without worrying about what every one else is doing.

I use balance challenges at the beginning of class as it’s a real leveller and a great icebreaker. We all wobble and stumble with some of them – I explain that’s good as it makes your muscles work harder. Plus, it’s difficult not to laugh when you’re using cartoon style windmill arms to try and stay upright on one leg.

It’s easier said than done to not compare yourself to others but remember even teachers have moves they feel more comfortable in and I’m always really open about that. For example ‘Pigeon Pose’ or the glute stretch with a leg stretched out behind and the other leg bent in front of you is my nemesis. It feels awkward and uncomfortable so I rarely do it but I’m open with my students that it doesn’t suit my physiology but I can help them if they’d like to try it.

The article goes on to talk about taking a mindful approach – really paying attention to how your body feels and that research shows this helps you get more from the workout. That breathing, relaxing and moving smoothly rather than trying to be perfect and only moving with hesitation and fear is important. I use breathing techniques at the start of each class, some overt and some hidden with the stretches to calm my students’ nerves and help them shake off their day. I know my students will get more out of the exercises if they are relaxed and therefore their muscles are too.

Then finally, they recommend to not skip the cool-down. Stretches help you to improve flexibility and range of mobility. In Pilates stretches are an intrinsic part of the workout, I pepper them between the more dynamic moves to rest, reset the muscles and re-focus the mind before the next set of positions. That way it doesn’t feel like the ‘mandatory boring bit’ at the end. You’re actually really grateful for it during the session!

I’m all for home workouts if it suits you best or even between classes, but if what’s holding you back is feeling intimated or self-conscious in a class then find the right teacher and they’ll make you feel relaxed, confident and inevitably an expert in the room will fast-track results which will keep you motivated for the long-term.

Full article here: