Mon 04th May 2020

Zooming on this Corona-coaster and why we need to smile at people in the supermarket


  1. The ups and downs of your mood during the pandemic. You’re loving lockdown one minute but suddenly weepy with anxiety the next

I feel now like we were unwittingly queuing for weeks for some kind of ride, unsure if it would be a quick waltzer in the tea cups or the full Nemesis with corkscrew turns and stomach-dipping drops. And then within moments we all seemed to be thrust onto this Corona-coaster and we Pilates teachers were Zoomed into this virtual thing, with barely time to pull on the safety bar and call the insurance company. Six weeks seems like seconds and years, especially now that Father Time seems to wax and wane with the whims of my sourdough Mother starter.

Initially, I went loop-the-loop as I moved furniture, found a live-ish pot plant and set up my ‘studio’. ‘Going Zoom’ felt so, well, wrong. I LOVE the social contact of our Pilates classes. How was Zooming going to have the same impact?  When my Corona-coaster finally slowed to a fairly flat bit, I retreated to type as a finder of knowledge and seeker of links, as ever to find ways to once again prove how fabulous Pilates is. And I always seem to wander my way back to the very wonderful vegus nerve as the centre of all things mind and movement related.

So, just to re-cap, our vagabond vegus nerve is the 10th cranial nerve that wanders from our heads through our heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, digesting tubes, reproductive organs and back again, sending a shedload of info back to the brain. It effects our mood, immune system, digestion and heart rate. (See our previous blog for more). Activating this nerve puts us into our more steady-and-rational ‘rest and digest’ state rather than the way more common one at the moment, the-what-the-heck-is-happening-why is everyone-looking-at-me-funny-do-I-need-a-face-mask ‘fight or flight’ state. It’s basically driving our Corona-coaster!

Now whilst a bit of ‘fight or flight’ is ok, too much in a sustained state ain’t. It’s stressful on the body. But your Pilates class can help us grab those Corona-coaster controls and help to stimulate the vegus nerve into it our parasympathetic ‘Rest and Digest’ state. It can guide us to be calmer and even tone the vegus up and don’t we all love that word! It can help us be more rational when things get waaaay toooo much on this Corona-coaster.

And here are just 3 super simplistic ways that, whilst still Zooming, Pilates can stimulate that nerve:

  1. SMILING – All movement is good and smiling is movement. The nerve runs through the neck so smile and your neck and face muscles move stimulating the nerve. Simples. But, that’s not the only reason why we aim to greet you all with a smile when you flash up on our screens. We do love to see you and connect. We are primal, social beings who read facial expressions to help know if we are seeing friend or foe. A blank face can say fear/foe whereas a smile makes us feel safe. We are also great (often unconscious) co-regulators and mimics – how hard is it not to smile back? Boom! Hence why we should practise social distancing smiling in the supermarket. Go on, make someone feel safe in the snack aisle…


  1. BREATHING – Yes, I know we bang on about it but it’s the BEST! Long, slow exhales send the message to the brain that we are OK. It’s that ‘sigh of relief’ we often do without realising. You rock up to class each week, and we are here to remind you to breathe. It helps to reduce blood pressure and your heart rate. This knocks on to all the organs the vegus nerve touches. Plus, a good deep inhale/exhale gets your neck, shoulders and spine moving. And movement is good!


  1. LAUGHING – Did you ever think you’d be asked to combine a threading the needle with a table top leg in the confines of your 3-piece-suite? Or rolling like a rocker in front of your dog/cat? You just gotta laugh as you face-plant on the carpet. You know we do in class! There is a hilarious paradox of you being ‘in the class’ with several people staring at your little screen, whilst also self-distancing, safe at home in your own space but still putting yourself out there on the movement stakes! And what is laughter but breathing and smiling with movement?

So, when we do finally get off this ride, we will most likely have to hang around in this Theme Park for a while somewhere between the tea cups and the Pirate Ship, but we can remember that just smiling, laughing, breathing and our whole Pilates practice can help us feel more in control of the Corona-coaster.