Going back to school sometimes means reviewing fundamental elements – the stepping stones from which we grow and develop our learning.  I also like to think of it as an opportunity to discover “newness” in that which we may have looked at plainly before.  So it seems like the perfect time to re-examine the essential groundwork that is the core of Pilates.  And, compare it to your ongoing work.

Joseph Pilates was inspired by the Greek culture and their desire to attain perfection in body, mind and spirit.  While various teachers and experts may pose a different number, these following 6 are the most commonly referred to as the Basic Principles of Pilates.  These are the necessary elements on your Pilates Periodic Table!

Concentration.  A mental exercise of focus to what you are doing.  “Tuning in” rather than “tuning out” of the quality of your movement.  Tap into all your outward senses to execute a coordinated effort.  The literal ‘brainwork’ of Pilates helps you establish new neural pathways, which provides you greater control, builds awareness, and in turn permits deeper concentration.

Centering.  Approach this principle in its blended meanings:  1) Understanding one’s own center of gravity and how the body is aligned in relationship to it.  For instance, women carry their center of gravity in the pelvis, whereas men carry it higher, toward the chest; and 2) a spiritual aptitude of balance – where your chi or your life source resides.  We strive to move from our center – our ‘home base.’

Control.  While he was alive, Joseph Pilates referred to his exercise system as “Contrology.”  Truly, this principle cannot be achieved without integrated practice and mastery of the other principles.  This is the aspiration born out of the mind-body practice – the lofty goal to strive toward.  That with the time and effort, your movements become efficient from habit.  Like the perfection Joe admired of the Greeks, his intent is for us as human beings to innately possess greater awareness, precision and flow in our sports and leisure, not to mention day-to-day activities

Precision.  Pilates said, “concentrate on the correct movements each time you exercise, lest you do them improperly and thus lose all the vital benefits of their value.”  Again, like with Control, this principle partners with the mindfulness of Concentration.  Once gaining insight into your own movement and alignment, you are able to fine-tune.  Schooling yourself in precision produces agility, balance and coordination – skills that keep you able-bodied for life!

Breathing.  Reknown Pilates Teacher, Rael Isacowitz cites the following benefits of breathing, in his book Pilates:

  • Oxygenates the blood and nourishes the body on a cellular level

  • Expels toxins from the body

  • Improves circulation

  • Improves skin tone

  • Calms the mind and the body

  • Encourages concentration

  • Provides a rhythm for movement

  • Assists in activating target muscles

Flow.  Also referred to as Fluidity.  This meaning can refer to the energy flow – from our center outward.  Have you ever observed someone who deeply practices Pilates?  The Method displays flowing movement of the limbs and spine based from a strong core.  That in achieving Precision, one can transition seamlessly through the exercises in the repertoire.  Flow both results and builds strength and stamina.  Of course, the visual is that of elegance and gracefulness.

The sculpture of the Nike – the Winged Victory of Samothrace is one of my favorite pieces of art.  Not only is it a statue of a Greek goddess, but how it came to be made, and the image it portrays seem to embody Joseph Pilates’ ideals in these principles.

Can you see the elements clearly present in your own practice?  Let’s review…next time I see you in class 

See you in the studio!

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