Principles of Pilates #2

The principles of Pilates (part 2)

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:

  1. concentration
  2. centering
  3. breathing
  4. control
  5. precision
  6. flowing movement
  7. isolation
  8. routine

Last time we looked at concentration; now we’re going to look at centering.

Centering:

In Pilates the ‘centre’ refers to the neutral position of the lumbar spine (lower back) & pelvis. Joseph Pilates describes the centre as the area between the ribs & the hips, at the front & back of the body. Nowadays we have extended that definition to include the sides of the torso.

Your centre is the pivotal point of the body from which all movements emanate. Movement, balance, force & strength all come from the centre – a weakness in the core will affect the body’s ability to perform any of these functions.

It is important to understand that core control is more important than core strength. Abdominal control provides fluidity of movement which is crucial; abdominal strength provides support which is beneficial but secondary.

Your centre is controlled by use of the abdominal muscles, the muscles in the lower back, the pelvic floor muscles and the diaphragm. Together these muscles surround your abdominal cavity and form a central cylinder – your ‘core’.

core musculature Burrell Education

(image credit: Burrell Education)

When you activate your core you increase stability of the spine which is why it is important to activate the core before each movement.

Once the core/centre has been ‘set’, we can add arm & leg movements to challenge your stability further and develop muscle tone.

One of the keys to success is being aware of when you have ‘lost’ your centre, and making sure that you work within the capabilities of your core strength – if you try to progress too soon, or push ahead without maintaining your centre, you will not develop a stronger core and overuse the muscles in your lower back causing aches & pains and less stability than your started with.

There are many ways to find and activate your centre/core and we spend time doing this each time we move into a new position – we find a neutral pelvis, we think of a belt tightening lightly around the pelvis, we think of drawing upwards and inwards with the pelvic floor; all of these are designed to help with core activation. It is important to keep thinking of them during the class so that you are always aware of your centre.

Outside of Pilates, it is useful to keep an awareness of your centre to improve your posture in everyday life.

Finally, remember that we are looking to achieve a light connection with the core muscles – you don’t want to activate them to 100% otherwise movements will not flow and your posture will become unnatural – aim for 30% contraction so that you are just aware of a gentle feeling in the tummy wall.

 

Jx

Please click here to find out more about of my current Pilates classes

Principles of Pilates #1

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:

  1. concentration
  2. centering
  3. breathing
  4. control
  5. precision
  6. flowing movement
  7. isolation
  8. routine

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.

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.

wherever you are, be all there

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.

 

Jx

Please click here to find out more about of my current Pilates classes