Article by Risa Sheppard | Featured on Pilates Style
Approximately one in five adults in the U.S. experiences mental discord in a given year. Approximately one in 25 experiences a serious mental illness in a given year. (That’s 10 million people.) And 6.9 percent of adults had at least one major depressive episode in the past year. Meanwhile,18.1 percent experienced an anxiety disorder, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder or attention disorder.
What do these statistics have to do with Pilates? I believe that Pilates instructors, as health practitioners, have a right and a privilege to address both the mental and physical well-being of all people. If Pilates truly is a practice of “mind, body, and spirit,” as Joe Pilates claimed, then it is time we address the mental as well as the physical disorders that affect so many.
I, for one, am saddened by the stigma and the unfair judgments that so many people place on a disorder that affects so many. Almost all of have a family member, or know of someone, who has been adversely affected by a chemical imbalance that he or she was simply born with. It is a chemical imbalance within the brain. It is usually genetic. We are afraid to confront this. We are put off by those with personalities that are a bit different from the norm. We are not empathic or compassionate enough to accept someone with a mental imbalance.
On the other hand, we are quick to address and care about anything physical, from arthritis to cancer. If our back hurts, or our knees need replacement, or we feel fat from overeating at holiday time, Pilates and other forms of physical practice is there to address those needs.
But when it comes to mental disease? That’s a subject no one wants to talk about.
I, for one, want to talk about it, and I pledge to help those who suffer from a mental disorder to come to Pilates, and let movement be a form of healing. I’m not saying that Pilates can cure all mental illness, but I know that by practicing Pilates, we can bring a little sunshine into the lives of so many.
I am reminded of a quote I read recently from Bill Bullard: “Opinion is really the lowest form of human knowledge. It requires no accountability, no understanding. The highest form of knowledge…is empathy, for it requires us to suspend our egos and live in another’s world. It requires profound purpose larger than the self kind of understanding.”
It is easy to empathize when a chemical imbalance affects a person’s ability to walk correctly, or keeps one’s heart from pumping at a regular rhythm. But someone with Bipolar or depression, we run and put our head in the sand.
Just getting clients to escape their demons for a moment and go within to their own “center” forces their minds to focus on a single idea. Let them experience the way to move from that center, and feel the power and strength that comes from within. They learn to be dependent on themselves, and that power becomes it’s own form of healing.
Everyone wants to be accepted. Accept them, and if you are fortunate enough to know a discipline as Pilates, offer them a chance to explore a new way of physical conditioning that will help their situation. The self control that comes from doing Pilates can be immeasurable in the healing of a person dealing with mental-health issues.