The exercise method we know today as Pilates
"Be in control of your body and not at it's mercy." -Joseph Pilates
1. Breath: “Breathing is the first act of life and the last. Our very life depends on it.” -Joseph Pilates
Joseph Pilates emphasized using a very full breath in his exercises. Most Pilates exercises coordinate with the breath, and using the breath properly is an integral part of Pilates exercise. Breath is the most encapsulating principle. Without the use of the breath, none of the other key elements are being done to the best of their ability. Oxygen, blood flow, increased space to move, and many other benefits are just some of the variables of using the breath. Most people inevitably hold their breath when under stress. Learning to first breathe, and then when to breathe certain ways, helps any Pilates practitioner reach their goals. Learn more: Breathing in Pilates.
2. Centering: "You will develop muscular power with corresponding endurance, ability to preform arduous duties, to play strenuous games, to walk, run or travel for long distances without undue body fatigue or mental strain." -Joseph Pilates
Centering is physically bringing the focus to the center of the body, the Powerhouse area of the body. Energetically, Pilates exercises are sourced from the center. The powerhouse is found from the bottom of the rib cage through the hip line, the abdominal muscles, low back muscles, pelvic floor, muscles around the hips, and the glutes (butt muscles). Not only are you focusing on these core muscles, you are also balancing the right and left side of the body, while simultaneously balancing dominant and weaker muscle groups.
-The abdominal muscles are a combination of the
Transversus abdominis – the deepest muscle layer of abdominal muscles.
Rectus abdominis – slung between the ribs and the pubic bone at the front of the pelvis.
When contracting, this muscle has the characteristic bumps or bulges that are commonly
called ‘the six pack’.
External oblique muscles – these are on each side of the rectus abdominis.
Internal oblique muscles – these flank the rectus abdominis and are located just inside the
3. Concentration: “Concentrate on the correct movement each time you exercise, lest you do them improperly and thus lose all vital benefits.”-Joseph Pilates
If you bring full attention to the exercise and do it with full commitment, you will obtain maximum value from each movement. In other words allowing the mind to drift off to your day's list of to-do's, what you plan to eat after class, or the shiny object in the corner of the room will distract you from reaping the full rewards of each exercise. Instead Pilates creates an active meditation that pulls an individual away from their surrounding stressors. Every movement starts with the conscious thought of moving followed by engagement, then the movement. Making the decision to think about the motion and what muscles to activate, versus just moving through it, provides increased performance and better results that transcend into your everyday life.
4. Control: “Every moment of our life can be the beginning of great things.” -Joseph Pilates
Every Pilates exercise is done with complete muscular control. No body part is left to its own devices. It is all a conscious, deliberate movement that the mind is controlling. Even if we are doing an exercise that does not directly involve the legs we continue to keep muscle tone and control in the legs, they are not forgotten or allowed to become spaghetti. Every movement in Pilates is deliberate, and the mind should be directing every muscle.
5. Precision: “A few well-designed movements, properly performed in a balanced sequence, are worth hours of sloppy calisthenics or forced contortion.” -Joseph Pilates
In Pilates, awareness is sustained throughout each movement. There is an appropriate placement, alignment relative to other body parts, and trajectory for each part of the body. A common misconception of Pilates is that it’s “too easy.” That is directly translated as exercises being done too quickly and not knowing what muscles should be working. Each Pilates movement has a purpose, placement and technique that needs to be followed in order to be successful. Long term this will also help to have the same deliberate precision in every day life; whether we are running, cycling, lifting weights or sitting at a computer, driving a car or doing another activity that makes bad posture or misalignment easy.
6. Flow: "Correctly executed and mastered to the point of subconscious reaction, these exercises will reflect grace and balance in your routine activities." -Joseph Pilates