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Beat the heat with Pilates

Published:Wednesday | July 6, 2016 | 3:58 PMJanelle Oswald
Sonita Abrahams demonstrates a Pilates pose.
Sonita Abrahams is enjoying what she does.

The rising summer temperatures have also affected many corporate heads' stress level to increase.

Trying to stay cool while stuck at the desk for hours, or going from one meeting to the other, can increase the blood pressure and raised temperatures in the body, mind and spirit.

Owner and founder of Afya Yoga and Pilates Studio in St Andrew, Sonita Abrahams, suggests doing Pilates if one cannot go on vacation. The qualified Pilates instructor offers suggestions for avoiding the stress trap at work to improve overall health and become more effective and productive.


"Becoming a Pilates student allows your mind, body and spirit to feel as if they have had a holiday due to how great the practice is at eliminating stress, building motivation and making you feel brand new," Abrahams said.

Afya means 'health and harmony' in Swahili, said Abrahams, who provides a friendly and nurturing space in a lush garden setting for corporate executives and those who need to find peace while living in the city.

"The most common complaints I hear from corporate executives are about stiff joints, back injuries, high stress levels and insomnia. However, all these things can be cured through the power of Pilates," Abrahams said.

Becoming a Pilates student and teacher has equipped Abrahams with the tools to live a balanced, healthy and happy life. It has also taught her how to effectively manage stress and remain youthful.

very beneficial

Advocating that men, too, can do Pilates, Abrahams said, "Although the mat work can be challenging for some men, Pilates can be very beneficial, especially for runners and other athletes, due to the stretching and flexibility building exercises.

"Apart from the obvious benefits of strengthening and toning the body, in particular the stomach and back muscles, a regular Pilates practice can bring about improved breathing and energy levels, improved posture, inner serenity, ease joint pains and improve mobility, develop concentration and emotional well-being," she added.

Abrahams, who became a certified yoga instructor in 2000, said Pilates and yoga give her the tools to maintain a balanced and healthy life. Abrahams is also a trained clinical psychologist and winner of a Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 1993 to attend the School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University.

Top 10 tips for staying alert and focused in the summer heat

1. Take short breaks to do some simple stretching and joint exercises for neck, shoulders, arms, wrists and ankles.

2. Practise breathing exercises - aternate breathing to relax and balance both hemispheres of the brain, or simply breathe in for a count of five. Breathe out and repeat for five rounds.

3. Stand and walk around every 30 minutes, if possible, to ensure continuous blood circulation.

4. Keep water close and drink often to keep hydrated and maintain alertness.

5. Do simple eye exercises like looking out at a distance, then circling the eyes.

6. Take a feel-good break and think of at least three things you are grateful for every day.

7. If you have access to a window, open it. Being able to enjoy the fresh air from your desk will allow you to focus on your work, rather than staring out the closed window.

8. Schedule some time outside during your workday. Step out for a few minutes once you have completed a particular task.

9. Incorporate the outdoors into your work by meeting with co-workers away from the building, taking walks around the block while you strategise.

10. Join a Pilates or exercise class.