You’ve probably often heard us say that Pilates is a practice – & it’s important to remind ourselves of the Core Principles that should underpin a Pilates practice.
Joseph Pilates said “Contrology (Pilates) is complete coordination of body, mind, and spirit.” In order to get the most out of Pilates it’s always helpful to remember and to apply these principles each time you practice.
“Breathing is the first act of life, and the last.” Jo Pilates
We usually take breathing for granted, but in fact breathing correctly requires practice!!
The easiest way to learn proper Pilates breathing is by placing your hands on either side of your ribcage. Then take a deep breath in through the nose, making sure that your ribcage expands, pushing your hands further away from one another. As you exhale, your ribcage will contract as you pull your navel toward your spine.
Imagine a corset tightening around your torso. With every inhale, the laces strain; with every exhale, the corset gets even tighter. Usually the inhale is used in preparation for movement, while the exhale is used for execution (though the main exception is for back extension exercises)
Breathing properly is fundamental to every other Pilates principle (and to daily life), so learning how to do it properly is essential to your practice!
Centering involves the activation of your core muscles or powerhouse to provide a foundation for movement and also the ability of the mind to harness a connection to the core.
Center yourself in the class by establishing/focusing on this connection and center yourself for each exercise using the mind to guide movement from the core. Use the pattern of inhaling and exhaling to find stillness and establish your center of gravity.
This principle is all about getting organized. Organize your body placement and alignment. Organize your thoughts to focus on the muscles you are targeting and prepare for each breath and its accompanying movement. Block out all unnecessary thoughts and concentrate on performing each exercise correctly.
Gaining control over every movement will be achieved through dedicated practice and repetition. Begin with a simpler exercise during class and make sure that you complete it without losing your focus. Then try a more difficult exercise to master and continue adding to the bank of moves that you can complete while maintaining control. Ultimately, achieving control leads to graceful movement.
Joseph Pilates choreographed Pilates to be performed in a specific sequence with one exercise flowing into the next. This logical order to, and continuation of, movement facilitates each of the other principles.
In many ways, precision is the culmination of learning to incorporate all of the other principles into your practice. Isolating the targeted muscle(s) while stabilising surrounding muscles leads to efficiency of movement. When no energy is wasted on unnecessary movement, the full benefit of the exercise is maximised. Pilates is, above all, a precise exercise, where the smallest of adjustments can profoundly deepen the movement. Anyone who has been corrected by an instructor in class can attest to this experience.
Have a think about these principles and how you believe you’ve been applying them in your recent classes. By making an effort to apply these Core Principles in every class, the quality of your exercise will continue to evolve and deepen with time.