Try utilizing one of these principles during your next session...
Like most disciplines, Pilates has certain basic principles that should be followed to get the most benefit. The six principles of Pilates are Control, Concentration, Centering, Precision, Breath and Flow. Most are of no surprise to the real Pilates enthusiast; however, one or two might give you something else to think about during your next workout.
Control is arguably the most important of the principles. If you do not do Pilates with control, you can hurt yourself. It is very important for instructors to ensure that a client stays in control of his or her body. This means learning exercises correctly and at the right pace. With heavy springs, you can imagine all the accidents that could happen. Pilates is often described in three words as being an exercise of stretch, strength and control.
The fact that we use Concentration when doing Pilates is a no brainer. Without it, you couldn't get through the Footwork Series on the Reformer. With all the cues your instructor is giving you: pull in your stomach, relax your shoulders, squeeze your bottom, you have to concentrate in order to get through the first 5 minutes of your session. The beauty of concentration is that it makes you focus on each exercise so intently (the movement and the benefit) that before you know it, the 55-minute session is over.
Centering is another important concept in Pilates. Alignment, balance and placement all stem from proper centering. Not to mention, your core is the center that you pull all your strength from. This is a basic concept in Pilates: work on strengthening your core and you will take pressure off other areas of your body (your back, your hips, your shoulders, etc...)
Precision is a great one. You want very particular, defined movements in Pilates to get the most benefit. However, Pilates does not mean perfection. We are making you do the best Pilates YOU can do, without comparison to a "perfect" pose. Doing the same exercise precisely each time you come to the studio will improve your work tremendously.
Breathing properly in Pilates can take some time to learn. It is a different concept than most other exercise disciplines. In Pilates, instead of exhaling on the start of the movement, (most of the time) you inhale at the start. A simple technique is to rest your hands on your stomach when lying down (with knees bent.) Inhale first and as you exhale, pull in your stomach and close your ribs. Now, the hard part...as you inhale, try to keep your stomach down. Expand your lungs 3-dimensionally, but do not bring the air down into your stomach (letting your stomach rise.) The purpose of this is to keep your stomach muscles engaged while breathing and performing exercises. If you let the stomach rise, your abdominals are disengaged which could make you go into your back and hurt yourself. You may feel that you do not get enough breath at first, but as you learn this technique, it will start to feel more natural.
Finally, my favorite principle is Flow. This is what gets the heartrate going and creates a routine of one nonstop movement after another. Ever wonder why your instructor keeps instructing you in between exercises? Your transitions in Pilates are extremely important when trying to keep the flowing movement of the routine going. Minimum excess movement is the key to creating a smooth workout and doing ONLY the motions necessary. This way, we don't waste our energy taking 10 minutes to lie down on the reformer. One smooth motion and you should be lying down with feet up on the footbar!
Perhaps during your next session, you can choose one or two principles to focus on. Don't try to tackle all six at once...believe me, with practice, they will all come together naturally.
Katie received her Pilates certification in Chicago in March of 2003. She trained under Juanita Lopez of Chicago and Romana Kryzanowska and Sari Mejia-Santo of New York City. After working as a Packaging Engineer for 5 years, she decided to teach Pilates full-time. She has taught in Chicago and also opened her own studio in Las Vegas. Katie is committed to continuing her education with Romana's Pilates; and showing clients the difference the original method can make in their bodies.