The Elusive Balance
The Elusive Balance, pilates, mat, nutrition, balance, apparatus,
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The Elusive Balance

The Elusive Balance


As a Pilates Instructor and a Nutrition Advisor people expect me to live a virtuous, guilt-free life where the only foods that pass my lips are wholesome and nutritious and with only positive and beneficial thoughts buzzing around my head.

However, the fact is, Bangkok which is where I live is one of the wildest cities in the world, I absolutely adore pizza, drinking a glass of wine (or two!) on a Saturday night is one of my favorite things to do and I have a personality that has a predisposition to anxiety. So, how do I manage to maintain a healthy body and mind? Its all about balance and forgiving yourself if necessary.

Would you believe that Joseph Pilates was a big drinker? He was famously quoted as saying “I drink a quart of liquor a day, plus some beers…”. Yet he managed to live until he was 83 and developed one of the most successful exercise practices in the world which, even today is still going strong. The understanding of balance is key to Joseph Pilates’ long and healthy life. He maintained that practicing Contrology (which is what Pilates used to be called before Joe’s death) on a daily basis would give one the necessary strength and physical fitness to not only complete any daily demanding activities but also live a very long, happy and healthful life. One thing that Joseph failed to mention though is that regular Pilates does give the body one set of shit hot abs!

Please don’t think that I am suggesting you all develop daily liquor drinking habits (please, wine is so much nicer!) but I do recommend maintaining Joe’s theory of balance in your lives. I try to live my life on a 80-20 basis in terms of food. 80% of the time I eat healthy, nutritious food which is high in vitamins and minerals, drink plenty of water, exercise and get plenty of rest. Then 20% of the time I am not quite so strict with myself; I eat the odd pizza and carrot cake (my favorite cake EVER!), drink wine and even treat myself to some chocolate.

This 80-20 split usually coincides with week days and the weekends. As a Pilates Instructor I work a lot of evenings, often not getting home until gone nine in the evenings. When I do get home I am generally pretty exhausted and in no mood to prepare an elaborate meal. I get around this by making a big bowl of homemade soup every Sunday afternoon which I can then heat up in the evenings for dinner.

My soup needs to contain a balance of carbohydrates, protein, vitamins and minerals to ensure my body is getting what it needs to carry out my physically demanding job.

I’d love to regale you here with stories of my soup recipes and the blends of different herbs and spices I use but the fact is I am a Nutrition Advisor not a Gourmet Chef! I try not to over-think the ingredients too much. Potatoes of course to make sure I get plenty of starchy carbohydrates, leafy greens, lentils or fish for protein and generally lots of different coloured vegetables as they will provide a variety of different vitamins and minerals. I must admit when I first started doing this I would end up with a pot of something resembling cat sick but through trial and error (and plenty of locally grown pumpkin) I have managed to create a soup that

tastes pretty good, is filling and nutritious. Roasting the vegetables can give a whole different taste to the soup.

Balance for the mind is also important and necessary for me as I do have a tendency to veer towards the anxious side of thinking. A few years ago I discovered meditation and had visions of myself sat with my legs crossed, eyes closed and generally just healing myself and being virtuous for hour long sessions at a time. Any of you who have tried Meditation will know that it can actually be quite hard work. I originally set myself 20 minutes a day to Meditate. I would light nice scented candles, sit in a comfortable chair and listen to a Meditation app called Take10 which really is a very good meditation guide. The idea of Meditation is not to stop thinking but to simply let your thoughts pass you buy like the cars on a road (possible not Sukhumvit Road though!). This is something that I find very difficult and I would get very excited when a thought actually passed me by and I didn’t latch on to it which would then start the thinking cycle and the ‘beating myself up’ for being so bad at meditating and not being the crossed legged virtuous healed person I was hoping to be. In the end meditation became counter productive for me as I was finding myself more wound up by the end of the 20 minutes than I was at the start.

The British Oxford Dictionary defines meditation as “(to) focus one’s mind for a period of time in silence…”. A ha, not to sit quietly for 20 minutes every day trying to let your thoughts pass by and become fluffy floaty clouds. This definition of meditation is something I can handle. I now have two times per day that I practice my own kind of meditation. One is on the way to work when I travel along Soi Ekemai to the BTS. I look at the colours of the trees, the faces of the people and focus on the sunshine on my shoulders. The other time is just before I go to sleep when I have my cup of hot milk. I try to observe my body as if from afar, watching the shoulders relax and fall deeper into the pillows, the smile on my face as the warmth of the milk spreads throughout my whole body. And lo and behold during these two times of the day my thoughts do just naturally come and go.

My final piece of advise about balance is to actually balance. Yes, stand on one leg for a period of time every day. Balancing uses the core and intrinsic stabilizing muscles which in turn can lead to better posture and more general ease of movement in the body.

Nicola Caswell