What is Pilates?
Principle 1: Centering
In Pilates, all movements originate from the center of the body, which is located in the pelvis, just bellow the navel (inside). Anatomically, our center connects several large muscle groups and refers to the musculature located deep within the abdominal area. From our center we support our spine and major organs, strengthen the back and improve alignment and posture. With a properly developed center we are less vulnerable to fatigue and lower-back pain.
Visualize your center as a sphere. As you contract the muscles in this area, imagine the sphere shrinking in size—a three-dimensional movement. During Pilates exercises you and your participants want to maintain this contraction without holding your breath .
Principle 2: Control
In Pilates, control is essential to the quality of every movement. Overexertion of the muscles in not a principle of Pilates. The underlying assumption is that exercise motions and movements performed without control can lead to injury, but exercises performed with control produce positive results.
Principle 3: Concentration
The mind-body connection is at the very core of Pilates, and the key to coordinating mind and body is concentration. In this discipline, the focus is on careful, precise and slow foundation work. Before you perform or teach a movement, organize your thoughts and cues to encourage full-body awareness. During each movement, stay aware, not only of the moving body part, but also of what the rest of the body is doing.
Principle 4: Precision
Movement precision builds on concentration. Precision is achieved by clearly moving, directing and placing the body and its parts. Realize that every movement has a purpose and every cue or instruction is important to the success of the movement.
Principle 5: Breathing
Pilates, like yoga, calls for complete, thorough and purposeful inhalation and exhalation. But in Pilates, unlike in yoga, inhalation is through the nose and exhalation through the mouth. Conscious breathing and specific breathing patterns assist movement by focusing the attention and direction of the body and by delivering oxygen to the muscles being used. Full breathing also assists in removing non-beneficial chemicals that may be stored in the muscles (Pilates 1945).
Visualize the capacity of the rib cage expanding three-dimensionally with each breath. In three-dimensional breathing, the ribs expand forward, sideways and backward during each inhalation. Pilates reminded practitioners to fill (their) lungs from the bottom and empty them from the top.
Principle 6: Flowing Movement
Dynamic fluid movement makes Pilates different from other exercise techniques. Smoothness and evenly flowing movement go hand in hand, assisting the connections (or transitions) between movements. An exercise should have a specific place where it begins and ends, with a seamless middle of precise motion emphasizing grace and control. Don’t allow jerky, quick or under movements in yourself or your participants.