If it's possible to summarize the Pilates philosophy, it would be to say that mind control is necessary for muscle control. Arriving at this summation though, requires looking at all aspects and principles that make up the Pilates method. "By reawakening thousands and thousands of otherwise ordinary dormant muscle cells, Contrology correspondingly reawakens thousands and thousands of dormant brain cells, thus activating new areas and stimulating further the functioning of the mind." (1)

Another way to look at this philosophy is that, "when you work your body without engaging your mind, you are performing only half a workout. It is the least efficient way to achieve the goals you have set for yourself." (2) The basic principles of Pilates are better understood and defined by first learning the principles behind the Pilates technique. With this exercise method, the manner in which exercises are performed is of greater significance than the time spent exercising, or the number of repetitions. (1)

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Principles

  1. Concentration: Mental focus is of primary importance with any movement we attempt to have our body carry out. Understanding where each part of the body is positioned and the interconnectedness of movements of the body is critical to attaining the necessary level of concentration. As you work with the Pilates movements, in time your concentration and the exercises will be fluid and seamlessly integrated. (1, 2)
    Example: Diminishing extraneous sounds, activity or other distractions in your exercise area. (3)

  2. Centering: The muscles comprising what Pilates considered the center are abdominal, mid and lower back, hips, and buttocks. "Pilates called this center the 'powerhouse'". Strength in this area of the body is essential for maintenance of overall body control and balance. By learning proper positioning of these muscles which are used in all Pilates-based exercises, one gains both abdominal strength and control which supports and provides fluidity for all the body's movements. (1,2)
    Example: Proper positioning for the Hundred includes pulling the abdominal muscles up and in toward your spine ('belly button to spine'). This not only strenthens the core muscles but also protects the lower back. (3)

  3. Breathing: Taking deep inhalations energizes and replenishes your mind and body, while full exhalations help rid the body of toxins. "To breate correctly you must completely exhale and inhale, always trying very hard to 'squeeze' every atom of impure air from your lungs in much the same manner that you would wring every drop of water from a wet cloth." (2)
    Example: Once in a seated position for the Saw, with back straight, take a teep, full, inhalation followed by a full exhalation which allows you to draw your abdominal muscles in toward the spine as you turn your torso reaching toward the opposite foot. (3)

  4. Control: Control involves the previous three principles. It allows movement of the body to occur avoiding injury and promoting effective exercise movements. Every move we make in our daily activities as well as specific exercise movements should be done purposefully. (2)
    Example: When performing the Roll Up, the first three principles are employed to facilitate a strong and controlled use of muscles for transition from a supine to seated position. (3)

  5. Precision: Precision is directly associated to the principle of concentration in that it requires focus. The opposite of precision based movements is movement that is sloppy and haphazard. Performing with precision requires time and training to attain the desired level of effortlessness. (1,2)
    Example: After rolling your hips and legs back to the Plow position, the articulation of the spinal column as you lower your hips to the mat is carried out as if you were painting a stripe on the mat with your spinal column. (3)

  6. Fluidity: The Pilates method is not based on "static, isolated movements". Whether we are going about our daily activities or doing mat work, our bodies should move in a synchronized and flowing manner. (2) Sharp jerky movements increase the risk of injury and reduce potential toning effects. (1)
    Example: When performing the Single Leg Stretch, all parts of the body are engaged and the transition from right to left leg occurs smoothly and seamlessly. (3)

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Learning and utilizing these principles to correctly perform Pilates movements will not only ensure the fullest possible benefit from the exercise, but with time, will become integral to everyday movement, posture, and sense of well being.