The Principles of Pilates

Ahhhhh – the 8 founding principles of Pilates as introduced by Joseph Pilates.

I first learned about these principles during my Pilates training with Studio64 & the BASI method. Till then; I had not heard of them despite having attended numerous Pilates classes (both equipment and mat) for about 4 years. What a beautiful learning curve it was. Suddenly all the exercises; the breathing (the number of corrections given during classes) made sense; and my love for Pilates deepened. However; what left me confused was why no other instructor had spoken about these in our classes. They are so important in guiding our exercises and the classes that I teach I did all I could to learn as much about them as I could.

At first I did not understand how I was going to incorporate all of these into my personal practice …. let alone my teaching. I use to try and mush them all into every practice and focus on picking exercises that would highlight them. This really took away from how I felt during my sessions. I did this for nearly a year! So, I sat back after a session one day and really re-educated myself. I came to realise that these principles were not meant to be targeted in isolation; rather as a daily dose of routine. I suppose that is why Joseph wrote his book “Return to Life through Contrology” in 1945.

It is not easy to live through these principles…there are many days I am sitting at my desk, slouched with shallow breathing and breaking my normal movement patterns! But; the point is to learn to keep these front and centre of our mind; to be conscious of them; and learn through them!

Now; onto what these principles actually are! Joseph Pilates, developed his concept of exercise, called Contrology, based around 8 main principles. These include:

1) Concentration – “Concentrating on the correct movements each time you exercise, lest you do them improperly, thus lose all the vital benefits of their value” – J Pilates. Often our mental movement patterns and concentration is what alters our movement patterns.

2) Centering The “powerhouse”, refers to lumbo-sacral stability, incorporating core stability, pelvic stability and hip stability. Joseph Pilates is now know as an innovator of this idea as he recognising that lumbo-sacral control was the beginning of good function of the spine and the base of all other movement. By the 1990’s and 2000’s core stability along with pelvic and hip stability were scientifically recognised to be vital in the function of the back and our daily activities.

3) Breathing “To breath correctly you must completely exhale and inhale, always trying very hard to squeeze every atom of impure air from the lungs in much the same manner that you would wring every drop from a wet cloth” – J Pilates. Breath is what guides every one of our movements; however we do not adhere to these strict guidelines as first outlined by Joseph Pilates. At AWPilates we prefer to focus on continuity and fluidity of breath … and making sure no one is holding at any time!

4) Control “Ideally our muscles should obey our will. Reasonably our will should not be determined by the reflex actions of our muscles” – J Pilates. This principle correlates with concentration! The way we work through an exercise is equally as important as the way we push or pull on the equipment we use. We are often trying to activate and strengthen our stabiliser muscles and gain control over them; so they are recruited properly throughout our daily activities.

5) Precision “Correctly executed and mastered to the point of subconscious reaction, these exercises will reflect grace and balance in your routine activities” – J Pilates.

6) Flowing movement Each movement should be smooth creating the feeling of length in our joints and body. Our brain is excellent at remembering and form and patterns of movement based on how we practice. This is why we keep our repetitions low but form strong! We encourage flowing movements (or lengthening movements) in all our classes which can be translated into our daily routines….sensing the theme?!

7) Isolation We train each muscle of our body so that it may work alone as well as in co-ordination with each others muscles. This comes back to our ability to recruit specific stabiliser muscles (through practice and repetition) before working through whole-body movements. The small muscles need love too!

8) Routine Muscle control and muscle tone develop through practice. Maintaining regular exercising is how your brain learns new tasks and refines them into precise, repeatable and useful patterns. This is why during all our classes you will find the “staple” exercises which often everyone has a love-hate relationship with!

Now you know the foundation of our classes, programs and the exercises we practice together. If you would like to know more I HIGHLY recommend Joseph’s book – otherwise I am always up for a chat after class!


xx Anne

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