When I was first learning Pilates, one of the first things I noticed was how I became aware of my body during the rest of my day and not just when I was in the studio working out for an hour. I noticed that I sat hunched forward with my neck sticking out when I typed at the computer. While driving I sat crooked with my left leg cocked to the side.
This was a revelation. Up until then I went about my day without ever giving a second thought to how I moved my body. It was as if my body and mind were separate. My body was left on autopilot while my mind occupied itself with the important distractions of "modern life."
I started to make little changes throughout the day, putting my head and legs back where they belonged in proper alignment. I began taking deeper breaths and found myself pulling my stomach in when vacuuming or carrying the groceries. And that was the whole point of Joe's method of Contrology (now known as Pilates). He didn't want you to spend hours and hours in the studio exercising. He wanted you to learn and translate his method of movement into your normal everyday life so that your body and mind worked together to become the best, most balanced, happy and healthy version of itself.
With the current state of our largely sedentary lifestyles, there have been a few recent articles stating the importance of moving, and moving often, rather than focusing on being at the gym a few hours a week. From Outside Magazine:
Paying attention to how we walk, sit, stand, pick up the groceries and all the other tasks that make up our day is valuable.
This was all in Joe's manifesto as well, written 70 years ago...
With this attentiveness and control comes balance to the mind and body and allows you to move efficiently and effectively all throughout your day.
Even if you've never practiced Pilates there are a few easy things you can incorporate into your daily life to improve your quality of movement.
Breathing. Most of us breathe very shallow, especially true when under stress or anxiety. Pay attention to your breath throughout the day and remind yourself to fully exhale, squeezing all the air out of your lungs.
Fight gravity. Whether you are sitting or standing, strive to be ever taller. Try to keep your head on top of your spine reaching the crown of your head to the ceiling. Visualize making your spine as long and straight as you can from head to tail and pull your stomach in and up to support the length.
Walking. Keep your eyes forward rather than the ground. So many of us, particularly women, walk with our eyes cast down. The eyes direct the body where to go so if you spend a lot of time looking down, the head shoulders and upper back will follow suit. Keep your eyes looking straight in front of you as you walk, and practice fighting gravity.
There is natural grace and strength in all of us. We just have to start paying attention to ourselves and see the potential. Move well and enjoy life.