How Pilates Can Help With Depression

One of the most beneficial forms of exercise to stave off depression and anxiety is Pilates. Here are some key points from an interesting article on the subject, which explains how…

‘While other forms of exercise can help clear the mind, Pilates helps to ease the mind. Moira Merrithew, co-founder of Stott Pilates, says, “Pilates exercises perform moves that can almost massage the muscles. While you’re gaining muscular strength, you’ll also be relieving yourself of muscular tension, helping you become a more relaxed person. While performing Pilates, you’re also relaxing your mind.”

Suzanne Farrell

‘Many people enter into depression because they feel like they are losing control of their lives. With Pilates, you are required to mentally and physically control every aspect of the workout, giving you good mental practice to help you better control your life. Pilates requires a lot of focus. Suzanne Farrell, a ballerina from the 20th century, loved using Pilates. She once said about it, “nothing about the Pilates Method is haphazard. The reason you need to concentrate so thoroughly is so you can be in control of every aspect of every moment.”

‘Speaking more about how Pilates can help those affected by depression, Alycea Ungaro, owner of Real Pilates in New York City and author of a book on Pilates, said, “Pilates can be a mental and emotional respite for those suffering from depression, anxiety or everyday stress. Pilates forces you to focus inward for the duration of the workout by concentrating on the detail, form and execution of each exercise. Pilates can rejuvenate the mind and restore the spirit. I sometimes think the benefits are almost in line with those of meditation…we work with individuals who have had bouts of depression and anxiety. These clients walk in with a look of tension, sometimes even despair. They respond in an enormously positive way. Anxiety and depression can be overwhelming. But when you see your own body performing healthy, active and elegant moves, it restores your faith and belief in what you can achieve. A healthy self-image is incredibly positive and enormously empowering.’

Don Draper reading Frank O'Hara's Meditations in an Emergency

‘Pilates serves as a physical exercise, but also a mental nap. The ability to control your body, become more flexible and get in better shape puts you at the helm of something that you didn’t have control over before: your mind and body.’

To read the article in full, click here.

If you’d like to try Pilates to help ease any anxious or depressive thoughts you might currently be experiencing, why not come along to one of the six classes Embody Pilates’ runs at The Wellbeing Studio in Clevedon each week. Alternatively, perhaps a private Pilates session, either at the studio or in your own home might suit you better.

Don Draper meditating


Pilates Inspiration – Phillip PacMan Chbeeb and Renee Kester

Renee Kester  and Phillip Chbeeb perform Slip

Contradiction is at the heart of Pilates and arguably the source its power and effectiveness. The Pilates breathing method, exhaling whilst at the same time sucking in the tummy, is a perfect example of this opposition, and it is the navel-to-spine outbreath which provides the engine and support for most of the large movements in each exercise.

In dance too, the best pas de deux involve contradiction, the meeting of opposites. This is beautifully demonstrated in a new duet, SLIP between I.aM.mE hip hop dance crew member, Phillip “PacMan” Chbeeb and ballerina, Renee Kester. Choreographed by Chbeeb, SLIP uses the languages of hip hop and contemporary dance to create a piece which explores contradiction. See how Kester’s lush extensions perfectly offset the hard angles of Chbeeb’s movements . SLIP also shows all eight principles of Pilates in action



Music by Elliot Moss.


Pilates for Golfers

Annika Sorenstam

Many of the professional golfers on the PGA TOUR, e.g. Tiger Woods, Annika Sorenstam, Rich Beem, are using Pilates to improve their bodies and their games. Golfers of all levels find that consistent Pilates practice specific to their golfing needs, quickly improves their performance and reduces pain and injuries.

Approximately 60% of all amateur golfers experience injuries playing the game, whereas half of all professional golfers are forced to retire because of golf-related injuries. Golf injuries in amateurs are the result of overuse, poor swing mechanics and/or striking the ground with the club.

The most common sites for injury among amateur men are the lower back (36%), elbows (32.5%), hands and wrists (21.2%) and shoulders (11%). The greatest occurrence of injuries for amateur women golfers are in the elbows (35.5%), followed by the lower back (27.4%), shoulders (16.1%) and hands and wrists (14.5%).

Golf requires force, flexibility and control. In addition to the sheer physicality involved in carrying a heavy golf bag for 18 holes and leaning over dozens of putts, the actual swing is a delicate balance between freedom of movement and body control. Golfers can find great benefit from working with a Pilates professional, who understands not only how the body works, but how the right movements address specific needs on the tee, fairway and green.

As golf is a single-sided physical activity, it’s essential to assess each player’s individual muscular imbalances. Pilates can be very useful in correcting asymmetries in a golfer’s physiology. Mental focus can also improve, owing to the concentration required to move through the fluid movements of each Pilates exercise whilst simultaneously maintaining core stability.

The game hinges on the golf swing, a complex, coordinated movement that on the moment of impact applies compressive forces approximately eight times a player’s body weight.

The golf swing includes several phases:

• ADDRESS: the moments before swing initiation
• BACKSWING: the movement of the club head from initial address to the top of the arc swing;
• DOWNSWING: the club head’s movement from the top of the arc toward the golf ball
• IMPACT: the moment the club head contacts the golf ball;
• FOLLOW-THROUGH: the movement of the club head past impact.

The Biomechanics of a Golf Swing

During the initial address, a golfer isometrically, (i.e. the length of the muscle and angle of the joint don’t change) contracts the forearms, wrists and hands to grip the club. Core musculature stabilizes the lower-extremity muscles to maintain the position. During the backswing, the rotator cuff muscles stabilize the shoulders and obliques, while the spinal extensors and hip rotators are used to rotate the torso. During the downswing, the rotator cuff, trapezius, core and hip muscles maintain torso stability as the pectoral muscles draw the arms down and the leg muscles transfer weight from back to front, enabling the player to make a powerful, yet controlled impact. The hip and trunk musculature supports the body during follow-through and the rotator cuff decelerates the golf club.

A golf pro can help correct a golfer’s technique by altering stance, grip and hip turn ratio. But the underlying fault in any golf swing is in the body itself. The way the ball is hit correlates to physical limitations, such as lack of flexibility, poor rotation, hip instability, general hip or leg weakness, shoulder girdle instability, weakness in the wrists and forearms, and poor core strength. Correcting the swing at the time the swing is taking place will not improve the physical cause. The underlying limitations need to be addressed at their physical source.  In other words, the body needs to be retrained in order to improve the swing, prevent injury and increase overall performance.

Tiger Woods

Both golf and Pilates are mind-body activities that share some of the same basic principles. Golf swing principles are fluid motion, co-ordination, accuracy, stamina and power, whereas Pilates principles focus on control, concentration, core strength, alignment, flow of movement, stamina and proper breathing.

Incorporating Pilates exercises into a golfer’s training regime will promote greater freedom of movement during the swing phase. Pilates will also fine-tune the delicate balance of strength and control that is so key to a successful golf swing. Pilates, like golf, calls for a stable torso while the extremities fluidly rotate, flex and extend in multi-planar movement.

A golfer-specific Pilates conditioning programme that assesses performance, lengthens tight muscles, decreases multi-joint tightness and strengthens weaker muscles for power on impact will improve a player’s game, prevent injury and improve general fitness.

Pilates Inspiration – The World’s Best at Parkour and Free Running


Few things demonstrate the beauty of movement better than parkour and free running.  Parkour is a sport which involves moving rapidly through an area, typically in an urban environment, negotiating obstacles by running, jumping, and climbing.  Free running is a version of parkour that places more emphasis on acrobatic techniques and self-expression.

Some of the world’s best at parkour and free running appear in the video below.  Take a look and see all eight Pilates principles in action