Sat 29th October 2022

Getting heavy and personal with Pilates and the ‘Pause…

Menopause is quite the hot topic at the moment. Indeed, the media is flushed with Davina McCall inspired programmes, Insta-ads for ‘Power powder’ products, and I even came across a patch of Sainsburys this week entirely dedicated to menopause shampoo…

For all of this I am profoundly grateful. I am the 52% of the ‘pause population – that is a woman who will/is/has experience of pre, peri and post menopause. I am lucky enough to be of the generation where increasing numbers of female journalists, broadcasters and health professionals have swelled and yelled loudly and insistently, bringing to mainstream media women’s health and social issues, from fertility to childbirth, childcare guilt to wanting it all, and now to openly discussing the menopause.

Now, I’m not going to even briefly explain all the science and symptoms of menopause. Pretty sure I’m singing mostly to the choir here if you are still reading this. We know movement is good for all of us humans, no matter what age and gender, and I can leave it up to a very reputable and peer reviewed PubMed study to give us the highlights in regards to Pilates and menopause, please and thank you:

“Pilates is a good intervention for menopausal women because it helps improve not only physical fitness like balance and flexibility but also mental fitness. In this study, a Pilates exercise program increased the subjects’ flexibility and strength.”

Yup. A proper Pilates class will ALWAYS focus on flexibility and strength. Tick. And thus, improves bone health, balance and general wellbeing and being well helps us make healthy choices for our longer term-ness of, well, just being a superb being. An evening class for example can really help some women sleep better and a morning class relax and energise you to get over the crippling fatigue and not reach for more coffee. And our ‘Vita way’ always aims to challenge you with new moves and different equipment to add variety to work the brain/body connection that can go a little foggy. And increasingly we are encouraging and including more breathwork. I particularly like and can totally relate to Amanda Savage’s view:

“I like my exercise disguised as something I actually enjoy doing – tennis, dancing or walking the dog. I especially like Pilates because although none of the individual tasks are super-challenging, I know I have given every bit of me due attention at the end of an hour…When it comes to Pilates, you only have to start with one hour once a week. For the rest of the week your brain quietly continues those muscle and energy patterns in the background, week-on-week improving the quality of the way you move.

All lovely. But what if you know all this but you just feel like a big lump of heaviness and emotion and even choosing what to wear to a class can have you in tears? Something tight to squeeze you in and feel leaner or something comfy to let it out so you can breathe and move happy? And what if the idea of lying down and moving seems all wrong when you’d rather just be having a little nap and Netflix? How can Pilates possibly help then? An hour of Pilates will not make my extra-tummy melt away and stop the mood swings, will it? WILL IT????? And breathe…

No. But I sincerely hope that it will make you FEEL your own body and check in with its needs. And not focus on the negatives if at all possible. Just turning up and dedicating an hour to your well-being is an epic achievement. Wise words here from Carolyne Sidhu Anthony’s Pilates Anytime interview:

“Instead of recognizing and dwelling on the obvious, like weight gain, I try to encourage acceptance for where they are in the moment…It’s important to focus on their strength and physical abilities, no matter how great or little that may be on a particular day. Our bodies are incredible vessels that are trying their best every second of the day to keep us alive. Don’t get angry with your body, thank it for getting you this far…Menopause is an exciting and challenging time in a woman’s life. It’s a time of physical, emotional and spiritual change. As movement specialists, we can care for the menopausal body in ways that may help support these changes and some of the symptoms associated with it.”

We can care, and we do. And personally, I am right here in it. You may possibly have seen me suddenly go red and frantically peel off a layer or six. Or on some evenings I appear to be wearing my pyjamas. I’m still dedicated to providing you the best I can. So, whether your weekly Pilates is an energetic-compression-lycra-full throttle session, or a comfy-yoga-pants-stretchy-feely-go-steady-focus-on-breathing one. One must acknowledge the benefits of just turning up and often, quite literally, go with the flow.