Joseph Pilates created and described the Principles of Pilates in his book Return to Life. When the Principles are applied while performing Pilates exercises you will gain more mental depth of the work and see and feel the results of this focus in your body. The Principles are guidelines to creating a focused, efficient, and effective mind-body experience.
As you read the Principles, take a moment and think about each one.
"Always keep your mind wholly concentrated on the purpose of the exercises as you perform them." Joseph Pilates
With concentration the other principles will be more effective. Concentration involves listening to your trainer, listening to your body, and focusing on the smallest details of the task at hand. How many times have you participated in an exercise class without thinking much about form or technique but just wanted to get through it? Pilates is a discipline of learning that every movement is a conscious act controlled by the power of your mind. You will discover through concentration that the simplest of movements has many layers of complexity. Concentration requires practice but it is a practice that will serve you well in other areas of your life.
"Good posture can be successfully acquired only when the entire mechanism of the body is under perfect control." Joseph Pilates
Pilates was originally called "Contrology". It is about controling your mind and body. When we feel out of control, we also feel stress. In Pilates, control is not only during a movement but also transitioning to the next movement. Control is keeping the mind focused on all of the body, not only the parts that are moving but the parts that are stabilizing and the parts that are supposed to be relaxed. Control is an important component in preventing injury while exercising.
"Pilates develops the body uniformly, corrects wrong postures, restores physical vitality, invigorates the mind and elevates the spirit." Joseph Pilates
The center of your body, your core, is the center of your power. If you are always aware of whether you are moving from your core or with your core you will develop a symetry of strength and balance in your body. It is astounding how much we can actually do with mental and physical focus. Joseph Pilates coined the phrase 'powerhouse'. Becoming aware of that power is the first step, learning how to use it efficiently is the life long task. The body will from time to time create imbalances whether it is because of injury, a sport, or wearing 3 inch heels for work. It is important to know that training a body out of alignment shows up in even the simple task of walking or sitting. However, practicing and exercising in alignment from your center will create a strong, functional body.
"Designed to give you suppleness, grace, and skill that will be unmistakeably reflected in the way you walk, the way you play, and in the way you work." Joseph Pilates
Pilates movement is graceful, flowing, and unrestricted by tension. The movement comes from the limbs moving without constriction from the joints. The flow throughout the work should be with equal resistance and intensity. The concentric (shortening) and eccentric (lengthening) of muscles should be with equal effort. Keep the flow and connectivity as you move through each posture. This will develop strength and flexibility equally.
"The benefits of Pilates depends solely on your performing the exercises exactly according to the instructions."
Precision is essential in the practice of Pilates. One vital area requiring precision is core alignment. You move from and come back to your core alignment regardless of the piece of equipment you are on or the exercise you are doing. Precision in establishing neutral core and neutral spine are essential as we strive to create controlled and directed movement to achieve the balance, strength, and alignment your body has the capacity to develope.
"Completely inhaling and exhaling supplies the bloodstream with vital, neccessary life-giving oxygen from the tips of your fingers to your toes. Breathing is the first act of life. Our very life depends on it. Correct breathing will result in the bloodstream receiving its full quota of oxygen and thus ward off undue fatigue."
Breathing is an automatic function to sustain life. In the practice of Pilates, breathing facilitates movement. Deep inhalation and exhalation with emphasis on the inhalation is part of every movement. Developing a smooth, continuous, rhythm of breath control will not only energize you but will help facilitate the same smooth, continuous flow of movement. The correct method of breathing is to inhale wtihin the initial movement, or the one that requires the initiation of stability. Breathing efficiently takes time. It is a very important part of your Pilates training but will affect every part of your life. Start now. Be concious of the pattern of your breath.