After an insanely busy season here in Englewood, Florida, I have to admit, my personal Pilates practice suffered. I felt I needed to reconnect with why I love this method so much. So I revisited my training manuals, jumped on the various apparatus for a wonderful week of reconnecting with my personal, physical salvation.
Here is some of what I relearned: Pilates is an exercise regimen developed by Joseph Pilates over 100 years ago. Mr. Pilates thought of his method as a way to connect and develop the mind, body and spirit. The key principles derived from his teachings were not handed down from Joseph, but were articulated by his followers from their personal dealings with Joseph and from his books: Your Health and Return to Life Through Contrology.
I was reminded that, instead of going through a set of “mindless exercises” (Joe’s words), we use movement and the application of the following principles to connect the mind, body and spirit.
Breathing – The breath is the essential link between the mind and the body. It draws our wandering mind back into our bodies and back to the task at hand. In Pilates, the breath is integrated into every movement in order to keep our awareness on what we are doing, to improve the flow of oxygen, enhance core control and improve lung capacity.
Concentration - You should pay attention and focus on the movement and the task at hand. Without concentration the exercises lose their form and their purpose.
Control – Move with intention. Understand and maintain the proper form, alignment and effort during an entire exercise
Centering - All Pilates movements radiates outward from the center of the body. Developing a strong, stable and flexible center is one of the defining features of this form of exercise.
Precision – Precision is the end product of concentration, control, centering and practice. Make your movement as 'perfect' as possible each and every time.
Rhythm/Flow – Flow creates smooth, graceful and functional movements. It decreases the amount of stress placed on our joints and develops movement patterns that integrate our body into a smoothly flowing whole.
Relaxation – In Pilates we learn to use just the amount of effort needed to complete the exercise correctly, no more, no less. Releasing unnecessary tension in our bodies helps us to find ease and flow in movement, and in the rest of our lives
Applying these principles leads to:
Balanced Muscle Development –Understanding and maintaining correct body alignment and form is essential to Pilates. When the above principles become second nature and are practiced regularly, it leads to improved posture, increased comfort and enhanced physical abilities.
Whole Body Movement – Pilates is fundamentally about integration: integrating movement into a flowing whole body experience, integrating the mind and body to create clarity and purpose, integrating mind, body and spirit to create a life of balance.
If you’re practice does not include the above principles, please read Joseph’s books and get to know the ‘real’ Pilates. May you find Peace and Balance in your own personal practice.
Please note that there are movement principles that are also applied to Pilates exercises; ie. Core control, shoulder stabilization, etc. and that is a subject for another day.
*based on readings from Balanced Body Pilates, Polestar Pilates, and Stott Pilates instructor training manuals.