Our Pilates Principles
ConcentrationPilates demands intense focus: "You have to concentrate on what you're doing. All the time. And you must concentrate on your entire body". This is not easy, but in Pilates the way that exercises are done is more important than the exercises themselves.
Control"Contrology" was Joseph Pilates preferred name for his method and it is based on the idea of muscle control. "Nothing about the Pilates Method is haphazard. The reason you need to concentrate so thoroughly is so you can be in control of every aspect of every moment". All exercises are done with control with the muscles working to lift against gravity or the resistance of the apparatus and thereby control the movement of the body and the apparatus. "The Pilates Method teaches you to be in control of your body and not at its mercy".
CenteringIn order to attain control of your body you must have a starting place: the center. The center is the focal point of the Pilates Method. Many Pilates teachers refer to the group of muscles in the center of the body - encompassing the abdomen, lower and upper back, hips, buttocks and inner thighs - the "powerhouse." All movement in Pilates should begin from the powerhouse and flow outward to the limbs.
Flow or efficiency of movementPilates aims for elegant sufficiency of movement, creating flow through the use of appropriate transitions. Once precision has been achieved, the exercises are intended to flow within and into each other in order to build strength and stamina. In other words, the Pilates technique asserts that physical energy exerted from the center should coordinate movements of the extremities: Pilates is flowing movement outward from a strong core.
PowerhouseThe power engine is a muscular network which provides the basic control and stability in the lumbo-pelvic region, which furthermore consists of the Pelvic floor muscles, the Transversus, the Multifidus, the diaphragm, the muscles of the inner thigh, and the muscles encircling the sitting bone area. You activate the power engine effectively by hollowing of the deep abdominals and pelvic floor muscles ("Deep muscle corset"), by drawing the navel back into the spine in a zipping-up motion, from the pubic bone to the breast bone thereby engaging the heels, the back of the inner thighs,the deep lower back muscles, and the muscles surrounding the sitting bones and tailbone area without inhibiting the natural function of the diaphragm - that is without holding your breath either from lifting the chest upwards or contracting the chest. Apart from providing core control and stability to the lumbo-pelvic region; in the sitting position, the power engine elevates the torso and places the centre of gravity at its highest and most efficient position; in prone position, it elongates the body bidirectionally to reduce weight in the upper body; in supine position, it elongates the body bidirectionally and places the centre of gravity again at its highest and most efficient position. The Power Engine opens up the vertical dimension of the body by grounding the pelvis to the earth and by elevating the spine towards the sky, much like a tree; the pelvis being the root and the branches being the spine.
Posterior Lateral BreathingPosterior lateral breathing is a way of breathing that facilitates bibasal expansion of the ribcage. To understand this concept properly you have to first learn to expand and release the ribcage without deliberately breathing in or out. The in-breath (inhalation) and out-breath(exhalation) should occur instinctively as a result of the conscious expansion and release of the ribcage. This is how you would do this: You place your hands on your lower ribs with you thumbs facing the back of your ribcage, try not to think of breathing, relax your upper abdominals and expand your ribcage to the side against the soft resistance of your hands. Release the expansion of the ribcage by first melting away the area of the clavicles. You can also try this with a scarf around the lower ribcage. You will not be able to expand and release the ribcage effectively if you try to contract your abdominal muscles to expand the ribcage and if you try to contract the ribcage instead of first release it. Now you should try to duplicate this action with conscious breathing in and breathing out. The in-breath (let it come) widens the ribcage laterally, posteriorly, and superiorly in the ratio of 60:30:10. That is 60% laterally, 30 % posteriorly and 10% superiorly. The effect of this ratio of distribution is felt mainly as a back activity. The out-breath (gradually let it out) exits the body first through the gradual and gentle release of tension (intention) in the upper chest and breastbone area, without collapsing the front of the ribcage, and terminates through the activation of the power engine.
PrecisionPrecision is essential to correct pilates: "concentrate on the correct movements each time you exercise, lest you do them improperly and thus lose all the vital benefits of their value". The focus is on doing one precise and perfect movement, rather than many halfhearted ones. Pilates is here reflecting common physical culture wisdom: "You will gain more strength from a few energetic, concentrated efforts that from a thousand listless, sluggish movements". The goal is for this precision to eventually become second nature, and carry over into everyday life as grace and economy of movement.
BreathingBreathing is important in the Pilates method. In Return to Life, Pilates devotes a section of his introduction specifically to breathing "Bodily house-cleaning with blood circulation". He saw considerable value in increasing the intake of oxygen and the circulation of this oxygenated blood to every part of the body. This he saw as cleansing and invigorating. Proper full inhalation and complete exhalation were key to this. "Pilates saw forced exhalation as the key to full inhalation". He advised people to squeeze out the lungs as you would wring a wet towel dry. In Pilates exercises, you breathe in with the effort and out on the return. In order to keep the lower abdominals close to the spine; the breathing needs to be directed laterally, into the lower ribcage. Pilates breathing is described as a posterior lateral breathing, meaning that the practitioner is instructed to breathe deep into the back and sides of his or her rib cage. When practitioners exhale, they are instructed to note the engagement of their deep abdominal and pelvic floor muscles and maintain this engagement as they inhale. Pilates attempts to properly coordinate this breathing practice with movement, including breathing instructions with every exercise. "Above all, learn to breathe correctly."