Pilates and mental health? Yes, we can help! As instructors we often work with clients in some form of recovery, usually from a physical injury or condition. The results that gentle activity makes available to these participants – peace, alignment, strength, vitality and fun, could be highly beneficial to people in vulnerable situations.
We hear a lot about how Yoga can help with wellbeing and mental health but what about Pilates? Surely is has just the same potential to teach profound body awareness to those living too much in their own heads, yes?
Well, over a year ago I began working with a homeless charity in East London who provided housing for vulnerable people. Within this, support for mental health and addiction issues were offered in order to help individuals to re-join the community. Amongst those staying at this 24 bed hostel, many residents had been there for a long time and would continue to remain there but for some, it was a transitional place. Schizophrenia and OCD were just some of the mental health issues that were the everyday norm for those residing at the hostel.
I approached this hostel with the offer to teach a weekly class that could provide breath awareness, standing mobility, balance and basic core work (often chair based).
I won’t lie to you, – I was nervous; Nervous about what to teach, how to teach it, how to engage them- just about everything. As instructors, we can all become quite introverted and self-critical but this was another level of analysing my teaching style and ability- I didn’t know what to expect or how people would react to me.
However, as with most new classes we teach, it’s just a case of biting the bullet, trusting your instincts and being confident in your ability to teach a safe, effective class.
Since this initial class over a year ago, I have worked with a small group of regular attendees on a weekly basis. At first I kept the class short (35 minutes) but the participants were keen to extend this- each class then became an hour long.
This class became the highlight of my week and it’s quite possibly one of the best things I’ve ever been involved in. Seeing the profound changes from the very first session up to now has been incredible. The concentration levels of the group and the calmness they have compared to the start has really compacted how beneficial the right form of physical activity can be. In my opinion- there should be more things like this, accessible to everyone, everywhere.
Because of this belief, I’m now due to start a class for addicts at a different hostel in South London. Again, I’m nervous because now I’m challenging myself to work with a different set of behaviour patterns. However, I’m excited too and I want to share these teaching experiences with you, particularly if it’s something you want to do too. Check out my next blog to see how I get on!