Sunday 18 September 2016

How the Principles of Pilates can change your life!

Hi All

I've been teaching and practicing Pilates for many years. One of the things that always strikes me is that it's not really about the actual exercises that we teach that makes Pilates a great program, but it's more to do with the principles that we apply to EVERY exercise that we do which makes it great.

The 'Principles' are what sets Pilates apart from all other exercise systems, and if adhered to, make Pilates the most effective and efficient training method.  These Principles can be applied to any other sport or exercise that you do but we can also bring the principles into everyday life, and into all of our other activities that we do every day.

So what are they? - Depending on what/who you read there are up to 9 principles, Joseph Pilates did not directly write them down, so there is no concrete agreement, but they are basically the following;

Centering - this is bringing the focus to the centre of the body where all movement originates from.  Joseph Pilates called this the 'Powerhouse', or what we now call the 'core' - this is the area that incorporates from the pelvic floor, up through the abdominals, obliques, multifidus up the back and transverse abdominus (the body's natural corset).  All movement flows from the centre out to the extremities, allowing a safer more efficient movement, and strengthening the abdominal area.  
No movement should be attempted before the core is properly engaged.

Control - All Pilates exercises are performed with the utmost control (no flinging randomly in our classes!), this helps minimise the risk of injury and creates better results.  All of our exercises come with clear instructions as to which muscles to use (and which ones not to use) - attention to detail is crucial. 

Concentration - this is the mind/body connection, bringing awareness to the muscles that are working and attention to the movement that is required.  This is why Pilates can sometimes feel frustrating to beginners, as there are many different instructions to focus on for each movement - it can take years to perfect some Pilates exercises. A good tip is to close your eyes when exercising which allows the brain to focus entirely on the body and brings an awareness to the feelings and sensations.  We often live too much in our heads - thinking, planning, analysing, that we become unaware of the sensations through our body until it's too late.

Precision - this is where we focus on alignment and placement of the body.  Every exercise has a precise movement whilst keeping the body in it's true alignment.  We focus on correct posture and good alignment whilst carrying out the exercise which improves the body's overall movement in everyday life.  No floppy feet or hands - everything is engaged and has a purpose, you should always know where your body parts are in relation to the universe!

Breath - The most important of them all?  Joeseph Pilates said 'Even if you follow no other instructions, learn to breathe correctly'.  In modern life, our breath is too shallow, Pilates believed that forced exhalation was the key to full inhalation, and that as the oxygen enriches the blood all of the body's cells are awakened.  Every movement in Pilates has a specific breath pattern and timing - effective breathing can help to lengthen the abdomen, broaden the upper back and helps train the correct muscle recruitment for everyday core strength. The most common thing for beginners to say is, 'the breathing is the hardest part!' - which it is!

In Pilates we practise 'Thoracic or diaphragmatic breathing', which is the practice of pulling in the abdominal muscles whilst inhaling and exhaling - thus protecting the spine. Also exhaling deeply encourages the deep core muscles to engage.

Flow - All movements should be performed with a flowing movement - there should be no beginning and no end.  Movements are not held static (unlike yoga) and should be a continuous and even flowing movement. 

Today we hear so much about 'mindfulness' and 'being in the moment', when you practice Pilates you have no choice but to be fully concentrating - you wouldn't be able to do it if you weren't, a proper Pilates class with a good teacher should fly over - you will be fully in your body and aware of every movement and nuance, it's like a moving meditation.  

know that I always say this, but EVERYBODY should practice Pilates, and I get more and more convinced of this every week!  I sometimes hear people say that Pilates is just a fad, my answer to that is - when is it a fad for your body to be free of pain, moving beautifully and feeling good?  I don't think those benefits will ever go out of fashion!

Which is the most important of the above Principles?  They all have a place and are as important as each other.  Try applying them to your everyday life - I'm still to learn the principle of 'control' when presented with a bar of chocolate - but we can't all be perfect!!

:)  Jill x

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