The Practice of Yoga and Pilates
Yoga and Psychotherapy
I often recommend the practice of yoga as an adjunct to psychotherapy. Many of us are paying attention to ourselves "from the neck up" only living in our heads.
Yoga Helps You Connect to Your Body
Yoga gets you into your body, in precise, gentle, focused, meditative ways. It's not about how deeply you can stretch or contort yourself: it's about performing the posture to the limit of your ability, with maximum awareness. Yoga is not a competitive sport!
I prefer the Iyengar system of yoga for its careful attention to proper bodily alignment, and for its use of props and supports to help maintain correct alignment. I also recommend finding a good teacher in addition to using one or more of these books. A teacher has a sharp eye on his/her students and can often prevent injury by correcting the alignment of the pose.
Becoming Aware of Emotions
As yoga connects you more deeply with your body you may experience some emotion. This is a wonderful benefit of yoga, in that it is possible to reconnect with feelings that may have been submerged for a long time. Tears or joy or anger or other strong emotions which may arise do not mean that anything is wrong, but rather that you are releasing and letting go of these old feelings.
Inner Stability from Yoga
At the same time, yoga imparts to the practitioner a deep sense of inner strength, sturdiness and balance. Yoga practice strengthens and tones the body, enhances flexibility, and bolsters the immune system.
History of Pilates
Joseph Pilates (1880-1967) was a sickly child who dedicated his life to becoming physically stronger. In his twenties he developed a series of exercises to strengthen himself, and later used these methods to train police officers and self-defense experts.
After immigrating to America he began to apply his approach to the training and strengthening of dancers, emphasizing the development of what he called "core strength" in the abdominal muscles.
Advantages of Pilates Work
Pilates work emphasizes flexibility, agility, physical strength and coordination with the breath. It is an excellent way to strengthen and tone the body without bulking up and losing flexibility. Pilates and yoga are complementary approaches to a subtler, deeper strengthening of the body.
Resources for Yoga and Pilates
The recommended books in the section on Yoga and Pilates are helpful guides to exploring the world of yoga and pilates.