02 Nov Are you getting the most out of your Pilates sessions?
Since its inception by Joseph Pilates in the first half of the 20th century, the Pilates method has developed and advanced significantly. But some things have remained consistent throughout its evolution: the primary principles of the practice as described below.
As the Pilates method teaches that a physical movement originates from the mind, concentration is a key element in connecting the mind and body, enabling the isolation of individual muscles and body parts, and the fine-tuning of movements.
It is now widely believed that having a strong and stable centre/’core’ allows efficient and effective movement of the limbs. Once described as the ‘powerhouse’ of the body, Pilates recognised that the lumbar and pelvic regions of the body required strong muscular support, and so trained the global abdominal muscles in a rigid, ‘flat back’ spinal posture. Contemporary approaches are to increase lumbo-pelvic stability in a neutral lower back curve, and centering through coordinated activation of the pelvic floor from below, the deep abdominal muscles and supportive spinal muscles around the waist, and the diaphragm from above.
The Pilates method is founded on the notion of muscular and mind over body control, and teaches that purposeful movement is crucial. Maintaining correct postural control is essential, whether performing basic or advanced repertoire. Control also allows for fluidity of movement without excess tension creeping into the body.
Pilates follows the belief of ‘quality, not quantity’, and that the size of the movement and number of repetitions of an exercise are not important. Precision is to be emphasised, and if the integrity of the movement is lost, the exercise should be stopped- it is better to do 3 repetitions correctly rather than 10 repetitions with incorrect and potentially unsafe technique. The principle of precision also applies to the integration of the other principles whilst performing each exercise.
Contradictory to Pilates’ original exercises, movements are performed smoothly and efficiently, flowing with ease and grace through a large range of movement- nothing should be jerky or stiff. Movements mustn’t be performed too quickly or too slowly, but in a skilful manner and ideally in rhythm with a natural pace of breath.
Originally, Pilates taught his exercises with a forceful, percussive breath. This is no longer followed (although there are some exceptions). Nowadays, a natural breath pattern is encouraged. People use breath with a variety of beliefs: to help with intra-abdominal control; to exhale with the effort and inhale with the return/relaxation; to inhale in preparation of a movement; to exhale as the limbs move away from the centre and inhale as the limbs return close to the body. However one belief is universal – do not hold your breath!
Our contemporary lifestyles and attitudes towards fast-paced fitness promote exercise in a hurry; it is easy to lose sight of the fundamentals of the Pilates method and what makes it so unique and effective. To gain the greatest benefit and highest appreciation from a Pilates workout, endeavour to consistently apply these principles throughout your Pilates session.
Pilates Practitioner and Physiotherapist