The Pilates Method is famous for developing long, lean muscular bodies while improving flexibility, posture and core strength. This remarkable method created by it’s founder, Joseph H. Pilates, helps you stretch, strengthen and re-shape your entire body. Pilates also helps you recover quickly from injuries and prevent future injuries. The six basic principles specific to Pilates incorporate the ability to pay close attention to yourself while you simultaneously activate your core muscles, elongate your spine and precisely moving through each exercise. Here’s a closer look at these principles.
Concentration truly embodies the mind/body connection that is the key to Pilates and why it makes it so effective and powerful. In Pilates, we move slowly and carefully, paying attention to each detail of every movement. It’s more challenging than you may think when you begin, but eventually it becomes easier and will transfer over to all of your physical activities.
With Pilates, it is important to be in control of every part of your body, during every aspect of the movement. If you don’t know exactly what you’re doing at each moment in time, your movement will have no purpose. This type of “control” is not rigid or forced; instead, it is finding a way to move easily and gracefully, even with challenging movements.
In Pilates, finding your center means isolating and activating your lower abdominal muscles. It is the starting place of Pilates, from where every movement develops, and is often referred to as the “girdle of strength.” Once you understand how to engage your center, it will change the quality of your movement for life. It will improve your posture, flatten your stomach, and give you a strong support for your low back.
Flowing movement is a close companion to centering. Each movement flows outward from a strong center and is smooth and continues. No movement is abrupt or jerky, but transitions seamlessly into the next part of the movement or exercise. Each movement moves fluidly from one position to another, like a well choreographed dance, without stress or strain.
Precision is a close companion to control, and I consider it a form of “physical fine tuning.” Working carefully with the precision of each movement recruits individual muscle fibers and the nerve fibers that communicate with them. Smaller muscles are now able to help your bigger, stronger, bulkier muscles. As a result, your smaller, weaker muscles develop strength and your bigger muscles get longer, leaner, less bulky and more flexible. Pretty amazing, isn’t it?
In Pilates, the breathing is a major part of the ease and the flow of each exercise. The rhythm of the breath is smooth, even, flowing and natural; it is never forced. The exhale occurs during the most challenging part of the exercise to help engage the core muscles, elongate the spine and lengthen the limbs. This breathing pattern helps you complete the exercises effortlessly and gracefully.
These six basic principles and level of awareness, self attention and concentration can be applied to any exercise regime or physical activity. Give it a try, and let me know how it works out for you. You may be surprised at how good you look and feel!
Cheryl Ilov, PT, GCFP