Embracing the Power of Slow in Pilates

May 27, 2022

When we hear the word ‘slow’ we often associate it with being boring, lazy, or tiring. But when I hear the word ‘slow’ I think of focus, calm and challenging! In this blog we will discuss why moving slowly is actually more beneficial than moving quickly – especially in Pilates. We’ll cover how slower movements can improve the mind-body connection, help calm the body and create a challenging workout.

Improves mind-body connection

It’s common knowledge that yoga is fantastic for the mind. Specifically, the meditative effect it can have. We know one of the biggest contributing factors in this is that yoga is performed slowly. But does yoga need to be the only form of movement that is performed this way?

Absolutely not! Pilates is a cousin of yoga and shares many of the same benefits, but sadly, sometimes these get lost in translation. There is a positive reaction when we move slowly through movement. One of these is the ability to deeper the connection of the mind to the body.

Your brain sends information to all different parts of the body incredibly quickly. But this is only the case with familiar movements that we have practiced before as the connection has already been made. However, when we learn a new skill (or new movement) it takes the brain a little longer to figure out what signal to send and where to send it.

In Pilates there are a million and one things to think about, even during the simplest of movements. It can take the brain multiple attempts to successfully let the body know what to do and how to do it correctly. This is where moving slowly will be your best friend. Allowing the body to move slowly through these new/unfamiliar movements actually speeds up the formation of new brain connections and allows you to fully understand the movement with all the little things in mind. Essentially, you’ll perform the movement better and learn how to do it faster – all just by taking it slow!

Helps calm the body

With this being said, moving slowly also assists the body to breathe correctly. Taking full breaths in and out is optimal as it can help eliminate stale air (and other not so nice things) out of the lungs – yep, stale air is a thing!

Taking proper breaths also helps to calm the central nervous system, putting the body in the parasympathetic state. This state aids in mood regulation, digestion and activating the metabolism, among other great things.

As there is a breath pattern attached to the Pilates movements, you will always be guided when to inhale and when to exhale. Pilates was created to work with the body and help with not only ridding the lungs of stale air, but also activating the deep abdominals to aid in digestion and waking up the nervous system. If you’ve ever attended a good Pilates class, I’m sure you have felt more calm, relaxed and positive minded than when you walked in.

Moving slowly is more challenging

Last but not least, moving slowly is challenging! If you don’t believe me, try walking in super slow motion. You’ll be required to balance more, engage the deep stabilising muscles that surround the joints, and it definitely requires more focus! We move at such a fast pace during our everyday lives that we can find it difficult to move slowly.

In a Pilates class, you’ll often be working against resistance. The amount of resistance you feel can change by how fast you’re moving. Say you have one light spring set up on the reformer. If you pull against it using plenty of momentum and force, you will actually lose contact with the resistance and it will do absolutely nothing for you. However, if you pull very slowly, not only will you feel some resistance, but the resistance will actually feel stronger. This is because you are actually allowing the springs to remain on tension the whole time.

If you’re constantly using momentum or moving too fast, you’re not working with resistance at all and won’t receive any of the benefits! You can also run the risk of adding more spring tension to actually feel something, but in return, you’ll lose the core connection, the deep joint stabilisers will turn off and the bigger global muscles will be forced to take the load which can lead to injuries.

With all this being said, there are some Pilates exercises that are designed to be performed dynamically and with pace. The difference being that they are a select few and your instructor will inform you of this during the exercise. If they haven’t instructed you to move in a dynamic way, assume that you’re meant to be moving slowly.

Next time you find yourself at a Pilates class, take deep, slow breaths and if you start to feel like something is “too easy” or “the resistance feels too light”, try to slow the movement down and I guarantee you’ll change your mind.  

To find out more about the importance of breathing correctly in Pilates, click here.

Interested in learning about the importance of resistance in Pilates, find out more here.

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