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Vail Daily health column: Using yoga and pilates to reduce your stress

Angela Muzic
Special to the Daily |

Editor’s note: This is part four in a five-part series from the Vail Vitality Center at Vail Mountain Lodge. Look for columns on Tuesdays in the Health section of the Vail Daily and learn how to manage stress using a variety of modalities. Visit http://www.vaildaily.com to read the first three installments.

Stress is a normal part of life, and our bodies are designed to experience and react to it. Our experiences present themselves as a result of what happens to and around us, and by what we do to our bodies. Biological stressors turn up in the air we breathe, the food we eat, the feelings we feel and, believe it or not, overtraining in the gym or participating in outdoor activities.

Stress can be viewed in a positive light when triggered as a defense mechanism for danger or used to stay alert. The negative effects of stress, or distress, manifest in the body when a person continuously faces challenges without periods of rest or relief in between.

Stress leads to physical symptoms including headaches, stomachaches, elevated blood pressure, chest pains and problems sleeping. Research suggests that distress can also bring on or exacerbate symptoms of certain diseases, such as cancers, diabetes, obesity and heart disease, thieving our vitality.

We are not getting away from stress so how do we manage it?

As you’ve read in this series, you can manage stress using a variety of activities, nutrition and healthy habits. Stress management is unique to the individual, but moving your body is crucial.

So, how do we maintain a healthy balance and what are the best ways to spend our rest and relief periods? What modalities might you be overlooking at your fitness club?

Lifting weights and the popular metabolic circuits that have swept the nation in terms of building lean mass and reducing body weight are great ways to help achieve overall fitness. They are fun, feel good, challenge the individual and generate the results most of us desire. But, they are only one piece of the overall health and wellness puzzle. As a health professional, I think the puzzle can be as simple as 1-2-3:

1. Challenging exercise.

2. Clean nutrition.

3. Active recovery.

Let’s take a closer look at active recovery. Two perfect examples of active recovery that most of us can access easily are yoga and pilates. Yoga is recognized by most people as a viable stress reduction option. Pilates, on the other hand, is an option you may have overlooked because it’s less familiar.

USING PILATES FOR RECOVERY

If you have used pilates as a strength-training regimen you may think I’m crazy for suggesting it as an active recovery technique. Pilates can be very intense and highly challenging when practiced frequently. It also can be used as a tool for recovering from weight training or outdoor activities and for preventing and recovering from injury, all of which reduce distress and offer a great starting point for those who are less active.

Pilates is a series of movements thoughtfully designed by the instructor to activate the core, mobilize and stretch the joints and muscles, and clear the mind. Over the past few years, more and more professional athletes, including football, baseball, basketball and soccer stars, skiers, snowboarders, surfers, tennis players, golfers and cyclists have added pilates to their workout, not only for physical recovery but mental recovery, too.

NBA point guard Jason Kidd admitted, “After one session, I was energized. From that point on, I was convinced it was a great workout.”

International soccer star David Beckham has said, “I do an hour of Pilates a day … and fitness wise, I am in the best form I have been in a long time.”

Stress is part of life, and if we don’t take the time learn how to reduce and remove it, it can lead us down the road of disease — or dis-ease.

Angela Muzic is a Vail Vitality Center trainer and pilates, yoga and dance specialist. Visit http://www.vailvitalitycenter.com to learn more.


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