Expert Commentary: Mary S. Burns, PhD 12/2/2009

In this day and age – stress and tension is life, not just part of life.  One must find a healthy means of tension release, otherwise the stress only builds up over time. Yoga has been in existence for a few thousand years; and the body, mind and spirit join with the higher one, if such a creature exists. Joseph Pilates evolved his study of yoga into a higher degree of musculoskeletal control through focus and concentration. In fact, during Joseph Pilates’ lifetime, his method was never called “Pilates” but rather “Contrology,” which Pilates explained was “The Art of Control.” Pilates develops specific muscular isolations; strengthening “lazy”, less utilized muscle groups. Yoga’s fluid breathing patterns are maintained throughout Pilates; assisting areas such as the neck, face, shoulders, and hands to soften amid challenging exercise regimes. 

The effects of Pilates? After my students leave a Pilates session or a group class, common existing statements are, “I feel two inches taller!” and “Everything feels in place – now I can deal with my boss” as well as “Everything is always in better perspective after class!” My dancers often respond “Everything just let go – but my abs/obliques/et al are gonna be sore tomorrow!”  And yes, they usually are!

And speaking of dance, I must argue all humans were made to dance – not just the aspiring professional - and dance too is a beautiful means of tension release! Dance has been part of the human existence since evolution; all must dance. From the beginner to the professional, those with dance training develop not only a more aligned posture and stronger musculature, but through dance one develops flexibility, coordination and rhythmic versatility while exercising a healthy means of tension release.  Dance is a direct expression of the body and the mind; it is an intimate and powerful medium for therapy. 

So find a class or a dance style you enjoy – with a positive, fun teacher, great music, and an encouraging, friendly studio atmosphere, or a place where you and your friends love to go after a long, rough week of work - and just dance! 

Mary Burns works at AthletiCo Gold Coast/Near North center located in Chicago.  She is a Dance Education Specialist, Certified Simonson & Evans/Bartenieff Dance Instructor, Certified Full Apparatus Pilates Instructor (BASI), and NASM Certified Personal Trainer.


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