Picture the scene – it’s 7:00 pm, your working day is over, you feel tired after all those hours in front of the monitor but still satisfied you’ve successfully accomplished another day.
What do you do next?
Until not long ago, I used to shut down my laptop and lie down in search of the best (or worst?) trash TV show that let me shut my brain off, too. I’ve always been kind of a couch potato. I’ve never been that much into sports – only happy hours and nights out would convince me out.
To tell the truth, translation IS actually a tiring and demanding process for the brain and what I thought at the end of the day was that I deserved some time off – no thinking, no elaboration, no decisions. But things quickly changed. Now I embrace a completely different lifestyle.
What happened? COVID-19.
Let me explain this for you. Let’s rewind a bit – we’re in March 2020, the world is on hold, everybody is blocked at home. I have to admit that I was very lucky work-wise: few times I saw such an increase of projects and invoices were probably the highest I have ever issued. Still, when I wasn’t working, I was bored to death. Obviously, I couldn’t hang out with my friends nor go for a walk. Every hour I spent in front of the TV felt like a waste of time.
Not long after lockdown started, a friend of mine suggested we started exercising. Every day, we would agree on a time and work out together, remotely. She suggested we follow some Pilates workouts on YouTube. At first it started out like a way to spend time, but it slowly became a revelation.
Like I said before, sports were not really my cup of tea. I always hated team sports and the competition that follows. When I was young, I played volleyball for a couple of years but I couldn’t care less about matches, winners, losers, whatever. I’ve always liked dancing – calling all Caribbean salsa and bachata dancers out there! – and I thought that was my thing. Still, Pilates opened a whole new world for me! Not only did I find a way to keep fit that I actually like, it helped a lot with my job, too.
Sitting long hours in front of my laptop, I tended to have a lot of tension in my shoulders and back and I used to assume a hunched up posture – I think all desk workers could relate. But with a few focused Pilates exercises, I loosened up tensions and learnt how to sit and stand upright.
It was beneficial for both my muscles and my stress. Now, when I feel stressed and overwhelmed, I simply take a moment off, focus on my breath – Pilates gives you a completely new approach on breathing – and how it is linked with my body muscles working, and wait for things to calm down. It may look simple and obvious, but it is mind blowing. It gives you a level of body awareness like nothing else. And trust me, it is ESSENTIAL when you spend your days projected onto a screen.
Some people find the same benefits in Yoga, but I am not really such a spiritual person – I prefer focusing on something more tangible, i.e. the benefits it is still having on my body, my blood flow, my ability to concentrate and to overcome stressful situations.
To this day, I still practice regularly about one hour a day – and when I don’t for a certain period, I always end up missing it. But first thing that Pilates teaches you is to listen to your body – so I don’t feel that guilty when I don’t feel like exercising. It is the same approach I learnt to apply to all aspects of my life: you simply cannot force yourself into doing something, you’ll do it wrong. There’s a time for everything. (Btw, I wrote a whole article about it – have you read it already?)
I would like to finish with one of my favorite Joseph Pilates’s quote:
“Everyone is the architect of their own happiness.”
…you only have to find your own way!