The mind is a wonderful servant but terrible master.

Pilates and the Gravity Game.   Embodied Cognition and how i hacked a FLOW STATE all along.

Obviously I’m going to start a MOVE blog with Pilates!  Pilates has been my movement discipline for more than fifteen years, during which time it has seeped into every part of my life.  It has shaped my mind, my heart and my body.  It has given me creativity, challenge and connection. It has never bored me. It has saturated my being.

I still remember my first session in 2002 (thank you, Lori, Lauren and Laurel of Pilates Seattle): the sensation of my body woken up, blood flowing end to end, my joints feeling as if they’d been oiled. I felt elevated.  After session one I wanted it fully, and I also knew I wanted to share it with others. But WHY?

Reading Stealing Fire by Jamie Wheal and Steven Kotler gave me my WHY.  Fifteen years on from that first session, I finally realised why Pilates dug its hooks in so fast and so deep, literally changing the course of my life.  I had unwittingly discovered Embodied Cognition and a Flow State.  

Embodied Cognition is deep embodiment. It is training mind and body together. How we train our bodies directly informs our brains, in turn our hearts and minds. We are not just a lump of grey matter, isolated from our limbs and torso, executing and ruminating. Nor are we mindless bodies, jocks and jockettes, lifting weights in a gym for body beautiful.  We are a whole system. We are humans and we are built to move and when we move consciously and deliberately we actually improve the neural networks in our brains.

Neuroscience and adventure sports athletes have pinpointed the access point to deep embodiment via  Gravity games. Zero g’s - weightlessness, multiple g’s - extreme weightedness, and polyaxial  rotation (arse over tit! :).  Basically all movements we experience through Pilates on a daily basis.


The experience of embodied cognition is especially powerful because, dear friends, it is a prerequisite to a Flow State.  A Flow State is one in which we feel our best, and perform our best.   By experiencing our body in a different way aka gravity games, we get to knock out our prefrontal cortex where our internal critic resides, and the constant internal nagging ceases.  The body is flooded with reward neurochemistry, changing our very mood. Your brain wave activity shifts out of delta into theta allowing for greater creativity, lateral thinking and problem solving.  In time your posture changes, and with that comes a greater sense of self awareness. The sense of who we are and what we can achieve changes shifting long held mindsets.

No wonder Pilates’ hooked me in. But beware!  Not all Pilates out there is real Pilates. Most of it is souped up physio, leaving you a heck of a long way off from the transformative power of gravity games.  Make sure your exercise choice gets you to play fearlessly, make it powerful, profound and beautiful, and leave the jocks and jockettes to miserably prime a bicep or idolise their own butt cheek.  Our muscles were designed to make us move, not stack up on the beach. Become your own Jordan, Baryshnikov or Bruce Lee.

Get embodied and change the way you move and think.

White Nights, Mikhail Baryshnikov & Gregory Hines

Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness
— Joseph Pilates

Holly Murray Blog

Blog by Holly Murray