Living The Pilates Lifestyle in Vancouver BC

by Elisabeth Ormandy

I’ve been practicing Pilates at least once a week since 2014. What I’ve come to learn is that Pilates can be much more than a workout or routine; it can be a way of life!

There are 5 fundamental goals of Pilates:

  1. Body/Mind/Spirit Balance
  2. Uniform Development
  3. Proper Breathing
  4. Flexible and Decompressed Spine/Joints
  5. Robust Circulation

While these are fantastic things to channel during a Pilates session, these goals don’t need to be limited to the studio. Taking these ideas out into the world is something I call “living the Pilates lifestyle.”

In sharing some of my own tips for living the Pilates lifestyle in Vancouver, British Columbia, my hope is that these core goals can be woven into your everyday life as well!

1. BODY/MIND/SPIRIT BALANCE

Pilates teaches us how to establish balance between body, mind and spirit. In so doing, it speaks to the importance of understanding and implementing healthy work-life boundaries.

Here are my top three life hacks for maintaining balance and nurturing mental wellness.

Favourite Mental Wellness Tips

Don’t respond to work emails on weekends (or whichever days you have off each week)

In fact, don’t even check! Creating an email signature that says as much will also help make boundaries and expectations clear to others. I started doing this a couple years ago and it’s become key for striking the right balance between work and life.

Say “no” more often.

This can be really easy when you’re saying no to something that you’re not too excited about but the real trick is being honest about your limitations and saying no to things you’d be stoked to do if only you weren’t at maximum bandwidth already. Just remember, saying “no” now means you’ll be able to show up reliably and commit 100% to the things you can say “yes” to.

Take a day off when you’re feeling amazing.

In other words, don’t restrict your days off to when you’re sick. I recently took a day off when things were going really well for me, and it was a game-changer. Instead of my usual strategy of only taking time for myself when I’m at breaking point, taking a day off when I was actually feeling good felt amazing!

If you’re not used to taking a day to yourself, and not quite sure how you’d spend that time, here are some of my favourite ideas. Of course, you don’t need to be (or stay) in Vancouver, but this is just my Vancouver-specific list.

Favourite Vancouver Day Trips

Sunshine Coast or Bowen Island

Sunshine Coast of Vancouver BC

These kinds of excursions can be done in a day. Every time I step off the ferry at either of these places, I let out a huge exhale. There’s something primal about the lands here that does my spirit a world of good. Leaving the city behind for a day or a weekend is the perfect way to press the reset button.

Happy Herd Farm Sanctuary

Happy Her Farm Sanctuary in Aldergrove BC

Make some lovely new animal friends in a responsible setting for a few hours. Note: for the sake of the animals, you must book ahead before visiting!

Cambie Climbing Tree

Brave the climb and you’ll get to enjoy hanging in a hammock amongst the highest branches, while everyone else is going about their daily commute.

Indian Arm from Deep Cove

Kayaking near Vancouver's Indian Arm & Deep Cove

Kayaking is a great way to reset the balance. There’s something about the serene quiet, and the closeness to the water that no other type of transport or activity can quite capture for me.

We’d love to hear about your personal favourites, so feel free to share some of your own hidden gems in the comment section below!

2. UNIFORM DEVELOPMENT

We need to exercise our muscles to keep them functioning properly and to keep our circulation and lungs healthy. Pilates provides a well-rounded, full-body workout, but in order to keep everything in tip-top shape, we also need to pay attention to what we’re fuelling our bodies with. Lucky for us Vancouverites, there’s an abundance of incredible, nutritious restaurants to choose from.

Favourite Vancouver Restaurants

Heirloom

Heirloom Restaurant Interior in Vancouver BC

A tried and tested favourite on 12th Ave at Granville. Go for the abundance of whole foods, stay for the epic vegan desserts!

Chomp

Chomp Vegan Eatery on East Hastings

Offers a meal delivery program, which is a life saver when things get too hectic.

Chickpea

Chickpea Restaurant on Main Street

A favourite among locals that actually started out as a food truck. The brick and mortar restaurant opened last year, serving simple healthy dishes and the best roasted cauliflower in the town!

Bandidas

Bandidas Restaurant in Vancouver BC

More than just a restaurant, Bandidas regularly takes on fundraising for social justice issues and often donates their profits to causes that customers get to vote on! Socially responsible and delicious.

Virtuous Pie

Virtuous Pie Restaurant on Main Street in Vancouver, BC

Hands down the best plant-based pizza in the city. Creative flavours, 100% plant-based, and beautiful spaces to eat-in.

Sula Indian

Sula Indian Restaurant on Commercial Drive

The two guys who run this place (Natesh and Shar) are well-known to their committed customer base for delivering some of the best Indian food around. The addition of a thoughtful vegan section on their menu makes all the difference.

East End Food Co-op

East End Food Co-op on Commercial Drive in Vancouver

The best deals on organic produce. Stock up on seasonal fruits and veggies and get canning or freezing to see you over the out-of-season months.

Buddha-Full

Buddha Full Raw Vegan Restaurant, North Vancouver

A great pit stop for an epic smoothie or plant-based lunch. Always delicious, healthy fuel for your body!

Obviously, there are so many more places I could have mentioned. We’re spoiled with the abundance of great places to eat and the variety of global cuisines this city has to offer. Eating out here doesn’t have to break the bank either. Especially in Vancouver, it’s entirely possible to eat out often and stay healthy. So, where will your next meal be?!

3. PROPER BREATHING

A fundamental lesson in Pilates is how to breathe properly. While essential in class, this core teaching has changed the way I breathe out of the studio as well. When I’m feeling stressed or anxious, I now take a few really deep breaths before re-evaluating the situation. While I get some decent breathing in during my weekly Pilates practice at Tone Pilates, I also try to get out there and fill my lungs as much as possible! We’re obviously surrounded by some of the most beautiful and accessible outdoor spaces, but here are just a few of my favourite spots to take in a nourishing breath of that West Coast air.

Favourite Day Hikes

Best Vancouver Day Hikes

Lynn Valley Peak

I love this hike for its challenge and its accessibility. Located on the North Shore, the Lynn Valley Peak trail is a short 40-min hop across the Lions Gate, and also accessible by transit. It’s perfect if you want a cardio work out, but want to avoid the crowds at Grouse Mountain.

Golden Ears Canyon Loop

A 1.5 hour drive east of Vancouver in the district of Maple Ridge, this is a wonderful, not-too-challenging day hike in the beautiful Golden Ears Provincial Park.

Mount Gardner trail

The views both along the trail and at the top are well worth the jaunt to Horseshoe Bay and ferry over to Bowen Island. Very doable in a day in the Summer months (although the trail is accessible all year round).

Mount Erskine Juniper to Summit trail

This Salt Spring hike made my favourites list because it is complete with fairy doors along the route! The views from the top of Mount Erskine also offer a nice reward after the steep climb.

Favourite Vancouver Running Trails

Best Trail Running Near Vancouver BC

Burnaby Lake

A local favourite for running clubs, this gentle 10km loop is perfect for tuning out the world, settling into a running rhythm and getting in some decent cardio.

Jericho Beach

A well-used shorefront trail takes you from the Jericho parking lot to the end of the peninsula. There and back is about 5km with lots of opportunities for breaks at the water fountains dotted along the way. While the trail can be a bit busy, you’ll meet lots of friendly local dogs as you gaze out at the backdrop of the North Shore mountains.

Pacific Spirit Park

Great for those rainy Vancouver days when you want to run, but don’t want to get soaked. The evergreen trees in the park provide the perfect canopy, and the extra bonus is the blissful scent of cedar.

Favourite Swimming Lakes

Favourite Metro Vancouver Swimming Lakes

Brohm Lake

A lovely woodland stroll takes you to a crisp rock-edged lake. Located en route to Squamish, it’s off the beaten track enough not to be packed, even on a hot summer day.

Cabin Lake

Expect very chilly waters even in the Summer months — a surefire way to get you breathing. But after the hour-long uphill trek to this mountain lake within Cypress Provincial Park, you’ll be eager to strip down and jump in!

Blackburn Lake

idyllic lilypads line this small, pretty lake on Salt Spring. This one is easy to miss, which helps to keep it relatively unpopulated. It’s a clothing-optional lake and no banks to speak of, but there is a small wooden jetty to sunbathe, with steps into the water.

Alice Lake

a family favourite located near Squamish. It can get very busy on the hotter days but it remains a wonderful place for a summertime dip!

Favourite Places To Just Sit And Take A Breath

Best Vancouver Parks to Relax and Breathe

Nitobe Gardens

Spend some time exploring, ideally when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. The garden is designed so that when you walk through it, you transition through the various life stages: birth, adolescence, adulthood, aging/dying. It’s a beautiful place to recommit to the kind of life you want to build for yourself.

Queen Elizabeth Park

In the centre of our bustling city is a beautiful, horticultural jewel that sits at the highest point and provides amazing views of the city.

Wreck Beach

while Wreck beach can get festive in the summer, my favourite time to go there is early on a Spring/Fall morning when there are barely any other people around. The beach is a serene place, tucked away from the rest of UBC campus thanks to a steep staircase through the forest down to the shoreline.

4. FLEXIBLE AND DECOMPRESSED SPINE & JOINTS

Staying physically supple and flexible is a crucial aspect of Pilates teaching. In addition to practicing Pilates regularly, there are a lot of places in Vancouver that have become part of my routine and a nice complement to my practice.

Favourite Places To Keep Flexible

Klinik Massage Therapy

Klinik Massage Therapy on East 17th Avenue in Vancouver BC

A sweet clinic on East 17th Avenue (near Main Street) that offers a calming, non-pretentious space to relax in. Massage is a great way to undo some of the knots of tension in our muscles and connective tissue that build up over time.

Poke and The Acupuncture Hub

The Acupuncture Hub in Vancouver BC

For community acupuncture and cupping. Both of these are community spaces, and while that means you don’t get a private room (except for during cupping at the Acupuncture Hub), the bonus of going to community acupuncture is that there’s no time limit — you can stay for as long as you like!

Ocean and Crow and Stretch

Stretch Yoga on East Pender ST V6A 1T3

Two of my favourite yoga studios in the city. Both offer a sense of community that I haven’t found in other yoga spaces. Also, both offer Yin and Restorative yoga classes, which are the perfect complement to a Pilates practice.

Life can get hectic for everyone, and we all have moments when we feel overwhelmed, overly-busy, over-committed or in need of some mental refreshment. It’s really easy to get avoidant when we feel these things, but rather than just numbing out, it’s important to stay mentally flexible (as well as physically flexible). Here are some places I like to visit to keep my mind sharp!

Favourite Ways To Keep My Mind Sharp

Van Dusen Gardens

Has a hedge maze at the far end of the gardens. It’s sure to stretch your mental muscles, with the added bonus of getting in a beautiful walk at the same time.

Geocaching

Geocaching find in the forest

A fantastic way to hone your orienteering, map-reading, observational, clue-solving and investigative skills, all while getting out into nature. There a many great cache sites all across Vancouver and the surrounding area.

Vancouver Public Library

Interior of Vancouver Public Library, Downtown Vancouver BC, West Georgia V6B 6B1

Go fact yourself! For free! Libraries are such great places to expand your knowledge, and in Vancouver we are very lucky to have a gorgeous central library downtown, which is an architectural masterpiece. An added mental game is to see how many movies you can spot it in.

5. ROBUST CIRCULATION

Pilates can be a great cardio workout once you reach the intermediate and advanced levels, and it provides a boost for the circulation no matter what level you practice at. But how do we keep that blood pumping when not in a Pilates class? Here are some ideas to add a circulation boost to your day-to-day routine.

Favourite Circulation Boosters

Boost your commute

Bicycling to work on Vancouver city streets

Cycle to work! Fit your cardio workout in on your commute, and all is golden – with a city chock full of bike lanes, and more in the works, there are fewer and fewer excuses not to get with the pedal-power program.

Get familiar with the amenities Vancouver city has to offer

For example, there’s nothing quite like starting a cold wintery day with a 15 min hot tub, a 1km swim, and a 5 min sauna at Hillcrest pool — great for those times of the year when cycling might not be an option and when lake swimming is definitely out of the question.

Lower your waste impact

Lower your waste impact, protect the earth!

A well as our personal, physical circulation, it’s also important to think broadly and pay attention to the bigger picture: that is, how waste circulates in a heavily-populated city.

Here are some ways to make sure you’re not contributing any unnecessary waste:

  • Use the Waste Wizard to check in about how to properly dispose of unwanted items.
  • There are some great stores in Vancouver for buying in bulk, and getting refills on existing containers: Soap Dispensary, Balance Botanicals, August Market, Nada. Even local coffee house JJ Bean will sell bulk organic coffee in any container you wish to bring in.
  • Your trash might be someone else’s treasure – there are numerous groups on Facebook and other social media outlets that encourage trades or where you can offer your unwanted things for sale or for free; for example, Zero Waste Vancouver, and Buy, Sell, Trade Vancouver BC.

So there you have it!

… some fun ways to take your Pilates practice out of the studio and out into the world in ways that help you aim for the core teachings of Pilates in your everyday life. Here’s to living the Pilates lifestyle and achieving balance in all we do!

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