The Pilates Principles
Did you know that your pilates practice is underpinned by a set of principles? The pilates principles are worth taking time to know about because they will help you gain the basic philosophy behind the method, which in turn will help you improve in your practice.
Over the years, different training schools have attributed a variety of principles to the method. Below I'm talking you through the 8 that I work to.
Also known as precision of movement and is probably one of the most important ones to understand in a good pilates practice. In pilates, you look for good alignment at the start, and throughout each movement. By correctly aligning the body and bringing the joints and soft tissue into their natural neutral zones (which means the muscles are at the right position to move the joints in the right way), the right recruitment patterns are encouraged and the joints remain healthy.
Synchronisng the breath to movements is a key part of pilates and probably one of the hardest to master. The breathing patterns in pilates help with stability and encourage fluid movements. Learning how to breathe well also helps both the mind and body to relax, recharge and focus. You can read my post on Pilates Breathing, and how it supports stability here. It also includes some tips for getting started with it.
Centring (Core Stability)
This is the term we give to training your core stability. Pilates focuses on maintaining control and support of the body as movement takes place. It does this by encouraging the recruitment of the deep core muscles that help to control and stabilise whatever it is you are doing. The main muscles involved in core stability are your pelvic floor, your deep abdominals (the secret one being the transverse abs), your diaphragm and the multifidus which is a set of spinal extensors that run up your back.
Alignment, breathing and centring together are knows as the ABCs of pilates.
Coordination - a challenge for the brain over the body! Co-ordination helps focus the mind and allows for the movement to be performed purposefully and with control. By focusing on the quality and detail of each movement that make up the exercise, coordination, control, mobility, strength and the overall efficiency of the whole body are improved.
Pilates movements should be controlled, graceful and flowing. Moving your body through different planes of movement (rotation - think thread the needle, side bending - think mermaid, flexion - think roll down and extension - think cobra), and your joints through their normal ranges of motion, will lead to longer, leaner muscles that are stronger across their whole range.
Come on, be honest, who's favourite position isn't the relaxation position? Relaxation of the mind and body is an essential part of any pilates session. Focusing on releasing areas of tension within the body allows for change in the body to take place. In doing so, the mind starts to relax as conscious thought becomes purely focused on moving with grace and ease.
Pilates encourages thoughtful awareness of your whole body while your performing the movements. To bring about change to the way you move, the body and mind need to work together and pilates is a genius practice for achieving this. Pilates will help you develop greater body awareness and control, through concentration and focus on your ABCs (alignment, breathing, centring remember). When you are aware of the movements within each exercise, this way of moving will ultimately become automatic, bringing about unconscious improvements to the way the body moves in everyday life - that pilates magic!
Pilates is an endurance based movement method, where the emphasis should always be on the quality of the movement. As you progress in your practice, repetitions and the difficulty of each exercise can be increased to challenge your stamina. Small pilates equipment can also be introduced to further build muscular endurance and don't forget I've got HIP Pilates coming in August (stands for High Intensity Power Pilates), which will draw on all of the pilates principles but most of all this one!
Do you have a favourite pilates principle? Let me know in the comments below!
Love Julie x
P.S. Want to give pilates a try? Don't forget you can download my FREE 5 simple everyday pilates exercises here which also comes with a special BONUS video for you too!