Classically speaking, there are 6 principles to Pilates. If you are new to the practice or in a place of reshaping your goals or relationship to your practice, thinking about these concepts can be useful while actively applying them during your time in the studio can be amazing.
Pilates is a mind body form of exercise. Technically any form of exercise could be- it's all in your approach. In the case of Pilates, it's embedded in the approach. Concentration is about focus, awareness and harnessing your mind to listen, direct and stay present with each movement in the studio. It is not enough to just do the movements. We increase our longevity and depth of understanding when we are willing to concentrate on how we are moving and why we are moving that way. Concentration takes patience and practice, just like the actual exercises do. If you place your clear attention to each exercise you are able to get the most out of the practice.
We don't flop around in Pilates. We are using our bodies willfully, mindfully and with control. In Pilates control is about the intention with which you approach the movement and refining what your entire body is up to during each exercise. (Momentum can be approached with control like in rolling like a ball.)
Wow this is a big one. There is a lot of talk about what we define as core or center these days. Pilates has a long standing reputation of working from center or on your center, but what does that really mean?
How can you feel when you are working from center? Can you feel a connection out in each direction and back in towards the middle or mid line? It can be light and energizing, connected and spacious simultaneously. Sometimes it sneaks up on you. Being centered is a distinct sensation like coffee is a distinct smell. It may take some time to identify or you might have to re find it when you put you body in a new position, but your center is always a source you can tap into.
Pilates is not about the hardest work you can do. Pilates requires efficient effort and precise work. It's about knowing how much effort is needed to complete the task at hand. Precision is also about proprioception. Where does your arm go in relationship to the rest of your body, the equipment or prop and why? Do you have a strong sense of where you are in space? Can you honor your unique anatomy directly and precisely? How are you moving and with what quality? Precise execution makes efficient practice.
In the studio we are building the body you use outside of the studio. Can you find fluid transition between the mat and standing? Are you using your awareness to move from one exercise to the other? Are you able to move from one movement or quality to another with specific and thoughtful ease? Can you let energy, space and length flow from your center out unblocked and fully manifested?
Breath is the element that travels into our body and connects us to the space around us. Breath can help you bring your mind to a more centered place as you practice. Utilizing and understanding breath is a crucial part of your Pilates practice. We use the breath to both support and challenge movement and control. We also use breath to create space, calm the body/mind and invigorate the body/mind. Breath is unique, individual and will differ in what works for each practitioner.