Six Essential Principles for your Pilates Practice

How to Make your Pilates Practice Effortless with Six Essential Key Principles

Whether you are a complete beginner or a seasoned practitioner, the following blog will demystify the fundamental principles of Pilates and how you can apply them in Pilates and your life.

Pilates Origins

Pilates is a method of exercise designed to cultivate a strong, flexible, and balanced body using a systematic practice of exercises with a strong focus on breathing.  The practice is for everybody.  It is an excellent tool for fitness enthusiasts, professional sports, and physical rehabilitation.

Pilates takes its name from Joseph Pilates.  A German-born emigré to Britain and then America, he devised the Pilates method as a new approach to exercise and body-conditioning in the early decades of the last century.  Joseph Pilates was originally a gymnast and bodybuilder, part mechanical genius, anatomist, and part scientist.  He earned a living as a professional boxer, circus performer, and self-defense trainer at police schools in England around 1912.  The British authorities interned him during World War I in an internment camp.  Later, Joseph Pilates was transferred to the Isle of Man, where he developed his concept of an integrated, comprehensive system of physical exercise.  He called this system “Contrology.”  In addition, Joseph studied yoga and animal movements.   After World War I, Joseph Pilates returned to Germany, collaborating with dance and physical exercise experts.  Joseph Pilates emigrated to the United States around 1925, where he met his future wife, Clara.  The couple started teaching in their newly founded studio in New York.  They taught in the studio into the 1960s.  Joseph and Clara Pilates soon established a devoted following in the local dance and movement.  They had a loyal following in the local New York dance and performing arts community.  George Balanchine and Martha Graham became Pilate students.  Joseph Pilates died in 1967 at the age of 83 in New York.

There are many variations from “classical” Pilates.  As our lifestyle evolves, so is the method.  To practice Pilates is to set your intention and focus your attention to share equal prominence for all methods.

Six Key Principles of Pilates Practice


Six Key Principles Of Pilates Practice#1 – Breath

Breath is the key focus of the Pilates practice.  Firstly, breath is the fuel of the powerhouse and the engine that drives the movement.  Secondly, it brings the body, mind, and spirit to alignment.  Finally, breath is one of the keys to life itself!  The respiratory muscles are the only skeletal muscles that are essential to life.  So, the subject of breathing is vast, and we’ll talk about breathing techniques in detail later.

#2 – Concentration

Concentration is a direction of attention.  Once we are on the mat, we need to focus on the body, breath, and movement.  When we start our Pilates practice, we set the intention to perform each movement or flow based on our current skill level.  We always begin where we are, concentrating on the proper alignment and maintaining this alignment throughout the practice of Pilates.

#3 – Center

The center is generally viewed as the core of the body.  Therefore, the center is our starting place.  We often refer to the center as the powerhouse encompassing the core, upper and lower back, hips, butt, and inner thighs.  All movement in Pilates should begin from our center or our powerhouse and flow out to the limbs.

#4 – Control

Control is about the performance of the exercise.  The practice of Pilates is all about quality and not quantity.  The control is how we can use strength and flexibility to master a movement.  Control gives us the aesthetically pleasing view of the movement that might seem effortless without any tension.  As we progress in our journey, we can control movements and complete them precisely.  Control is essential because it helps us achieve greater mobility, strength, flexibility, and self-awareness.

#5 – Precision

Precision is how we perform a given exercise.  First, we need to understand anatomy (which muscles are on and which ones are off).  Then, we can align the body based on the goals of the exercise and our individual goals.  Precision is the key to the pilates approach to movement.

#6 – Flow

Like all the other principles of Pilates, flow can be viewed as a principle of Pilates or life itself.  As one of my favorite authors, Steven Kotler defined flow:

“Flow is an “optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.  In flow, concentration becomes so laser-focused that everything else falls away.  Action and awareness merge.  Our sense of self and our sense of self-consciousness completely disappear.  Time dilates, meaning it slows down (like the freeze-frame of a car crash) or speeds up (and five hours pass by in five minutes).  And throughout, all aspects of performance are incredibly heightened – and that includes creative performance.”

Flow is something we can strive for in our Pilates practice.  When we set our intention to be present and pay attention to each movement and transition based on our current skill level, we can let go and be fully present.

So, here are the six original elements of Pilates in a nutshell.  You can see that each principle can be applied to your pilates practice and will translate into your life.

Pilates Mat

Woman Exercsing Fitness Pilates Ball

When you embark on the path of practice, you typically start with the Pilates Mat practice, which is the foundation of Pilates.  So, what should you take home from the six fundamental principles?

  • Respect and understand where you are in your life and fitness journey.
  • Focus on learning fundamentals based on breath, position, and flow.
  • Find a qualified and certified Pilates teacher.
  • Concentrate when practicing to the point when the exercises become a moving meditation and your second nature.
  • Learn how to turn the muscles on or off for the appropriate exercise.
  • Master timing and principles; pay attention to transitions that take you into a flow.
  • Combine the principles of Pilates with an understanding of anatomy and practice consistently.

To conclude, the Pilates practice is suitable for men and women in a wide range of physical conditions, from professional athletes to out-of-shape folks, injured, young, old, etc.  In other words, anyone who is looking to make some life improvements.  We can say that Pilates can be low impact and compelling or energetic.  When done correctly and consistently with explicit instruction, focus, and dedication, the practice will help you embrace the fundamental principles and change your life, improve your posture, keep you looking young, and feel fantastic!

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