Well done to the Tuesday pilates groups. Today being the start of term I thought a quick tour through the six principles of Pilates would be appropriate.
The application of the principles to the Pilates method of exercise is part of what makes it unique in the fitness world. Without these 6 principles you are not getting the benefits that the Joseph Pilates method intends. Said in another way: without these 6 principles the exercise is not Pilates!
Joseph Pilates originally called his work ” Contrology.” He considered this to be a body-mind-spirit approach to movement. What follows is an overview of the 6 principles
1. Centering: This concept is defined as physically bringing the focus to the center of the body, the powerhouse area between the lower ribs and pubic bone. Cues given are “zipping up“, “center yourself”, “engage your powerhouse”. I often break it down into separate instructions to “breathe in, pull up on pelvic floor and pull navel to spine”. Each movement starts from this centering and you should rest for a breath when you feel those muscles tire. Performing exercises without correct centering is to be avoided as it can result in injury and training your muscles in the wrong way.
2. Breath: Joseph Pilates advocated using a very full breath in his exercises. He spoke about thinking of the lungs as a bellows, using them strongly to pump the air fully in and out of the body. In Pilates we breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. Most Pilates exercises coordinate with the breath. Different breath patterns can be used to change the difficulty of an exercise. We never hold the breath in Pilates.
3. Concentration: Each movement has a lot going on. We have to concentrate and keep a part of the brain on the center, a part on the breath and a part on the moving limbs. Without concentration you lose the method and the benefits. Full attention and full commitment to each exercise gives the best results.
4. Control: We aim to complete every Pilates exercise with complete muscular control. Each part of the body has a role, either to stabilise and remain still or to move with fluidity and precision and it’s all being controlled from the mind using your concentration.
5. Precision: In Pilates there is an appropriate place, alignment and angle for each part of the body within an exercise. I often give cues encouraging the attention to various areas to help students achieve correct alignment and understand when they may be fatiguing so that precision and therefore benefits are being lost. I call these “ precision markers” If you reach a point where you lose the precision marker cue please stop and rest for a breath or two then rejoin. It’s quality over quantity every time!
6. Flow: Once we have mastered the first 5 principles we aim to flow the movements. This takes great concentration and muscle control as well as strength and flexibility to achieve. Flow is our goal for each movement and may not be achieved in your early sessions as it takes time to master the other 5 principles which underpin it.
I hope you found this a useful recap of the Pilates principles. There is a lot to take in and I do tend to talk for the entire hour (!!!), so to have some of it here in black and white to refer to is hopefully a useful tool.
Below – the man himself, Joseph Pilates, performing the full advanced version of “scissors”. We did this exercise today but modified with leg position and also use of the Pilates ball to give us a little assistance. All classes are planned to give exercises from beginner to advanced to ensure everyone can participate and everyone is challenged.
Have a great week