The principles of Pilates (part 1)
It is important to understand the principles behind the Pilates technique in order to get the best results from your classes.
With Pilates the way in which the exercises are executed is of more importance than the number of repetitions completed or the exertion used. Mastering a simple exercise is often far more complicated than producing a larger movement!
Joseph Pilates created 6 principles of Pilates, but over time these have been added to and there are now deemed to be 8 key principles:
- flowing movement
Although each one may be easy to grasp, trying to combine all of them into each exercise can be tricky so I suggest that you focus on 1 or 2 to start with and gradually introduce aspects of the others as you progress. Over time, a simple movement can become more challenging simply by focusing on several of the key principles at once.
Start with what you can do, be patient and allow your mind to learn how to focus on the things which may initially be more challenging.
Let’s start by looking at concentration.
‘Concentrate on the correct movements each time you exercise, lest you do them improperly and thus lose all the vital benefits of their value’ J Pilates
With some forms of exercise the mind can switch off but in Pilates it must remain focused to ensure that the body stays in alignment and that the breathing is controlled. This ‘mind/body’ connection not only enhances the physical execution of the exercises but also promotes relaxation and a feeling of well-being.
The first part of concentration is becoming aware that the position of every part of the body is important and that all movements and positions are interconnected. In order to walk, many different interactions take place in the joints and muscles of the body so that for example, the position of your foot influences the position of your knee, hip, spine, shoulder & head. In order to achieve optimal alignment throughout the body (and thus an efficient movement pattern) we need to first become aware of these interactions through concentrating on how we are moving.
Obviously it is hard to concentrate on every part of the body at once, but the more you practice the more you will be able to ‘tune in’ to what is happening in different places at the same time.
Improved concentration not only leads to an improved physical performance but also offers wide-ranging mental benefits:
- clarity of thought
- increased mental energy
- mental calmness in stressful situations
- enhanced ability to tackle problems in a fresh way
Think of your Pilates sessions as time for yourself, time to leave behind what you have come from and where you are going to. Focus on each exercise in turn and pay attention to how your body feels as you move.
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