Any Pilates body (which is anyone with a body, who does Pilates) will tell you that the practice is all about progression and growth through repetition. Efficiently executing an exercise makes way for the next stage of that movement and of course improvement! If you've done Pilates, you are probably aware that the practice has 6 guiding principles, and taking a closer look at each one will assist in your Pilates progression. If you are not (yet) familiar with the practice, read on and you'll surely be signing up for your first class in no time!
The center is the focal point of the Pilates method. To maintain controlled movements you must have a starting place, and that is your center.
The idea of the center is interchangeable with the Pilates “powerhouse,” or the area of your body encompassing the abs, upper and lower back, hips, bottom, and inner thighs.
Notice this principle in action in your next session as you begin each exercise from your powerhouse and flow it through to your limbs.
If you’ve taken even one Pilates class, you’re well aware that this practice requires maximum focus. Try swirling your legs in the air and maintaining a completely still pelvis and relaxed shoulders. You get the idea.
But we are talking about more than just paying attention, this principle is linked to the mind-body connection. Channeling mindful movement is key to successfully performing the exercises, as, in many respects, the technique itself is more important than just completing the reps.
Focusing on the way your body is moving during class, rather than say, what you’re going to make for dinner, increases your body awareness overall.
In your next session, be mindful of where you are moving from and which muscles are working. This increased body awareness will (if it hasn’t already!) flow into your daily movement, making you more efficient in other tasks - whether that’s sitting at a desk or playing with your kids.
With Pilates beginning its journey as Contrology, it’s not surprising that the practice dedicates an entire principle to the concept of control.
Pilates relies on each movement being done deliberately, with thought and (you guessed it) control. This relates again to the mind-body connection - it requires complete control of the mind to get the body to do exactly what you require of it.
Unlike running on a treadmill or lifting free weights, the efficacy of your Pilates practice relies on precise and exact movements. Each movement must be initiated from the correct part of the body (somewhere within your powerhouse!) and executed with the appropriate level of effort. Timing, number of repetitions, and ensuring the proper muscles are doing the work are some keys to being precise in your Pilates practice.
The overarching goal of Pilates is to encourage fluid, easy movement in all scenarios. Each exercise is intended to flow into the next - building strength and stamina. Appropriate transitions and taking time will assist in fluidity from one movement to the next.
We’d argue that breath is the most essential principle of all. Without proper breath, you can’t give 100% to anything else. Breathing patterns impact our ability to move.
Holding your breath while attempting to curl your body is quite the feat. Allow yourself full, deep breath, and suddenly you’re curling up without a thought (well, with your thoughts on your movement, not the difficulty of the task).
What Joseph Pilates didn’t know when he made breath so central to his exercises, is that science would later prove the positive mental benefits of controlled breathing.
A deep, slow inhale sends signals to the brain to calm down.
Good breathing habits = Stress reduction
What Joseph Pilates did know, is that our physical and mental health are intimately connected.
Remember these principles next time you stop by the studio and get the most from your Pilates practice!