What is Pilates?
"Breathing is the first act of life. Our very life depends on it. Millions have never learned to master the art of correct breathing." Joseph Pilates
Pilates is a complete exercise method developed by its founder, Joseph Pilates, over the course of a lifetime dedicated to improving physical and mental health. Pilates improves mental and physical well-being, increases flexibility and strengthens muscles through controlled movements which tone and strengthen the body. In addition, Pilates increases circulation, helps to sculpt and realign the body and strengthens the body's "core" or "powerhouse" (torso). People who practice Pilates regularly feel they have better posture, are less prone to injury and experience better overall health.
Breathing Correct breathing technique is central to the Pilates Method and each exercise has its own breathing pattern. Breathing is lateral or thoracic for the majority of the Pilates exercises. This makes it possible for the clients to maintain core stability as the clients breathe into their sides and back. Benefits of thoracic breathing are increased oxygen intake, mobilisation of the ribcage and scapular stabilisation. It also helps energise the body.
Centring Centring is the second of the six Pilates principles and lies at the heart of it: a conscious focus on beginning each exercise from the core (central) part of the muscular body – the neutral spine alignment. This is achieved by engaging the core muscles and finding the neutral at the beginning of each exercise.
Concentration “It is the mind itself which builds the body”. Friedrich Schiller’s quote was important to Joseph Pilates whose ‘Contrology’ is both mental and physical training. Focus, concentration and awareness are very important to perform the exercises correctly; the quality of the movements is more important than the quantity.
Control The method was called ‘Contrology’ before Pilates’ death. He expected his clients to have full concentration and control over their movements and body throughout a session. The exercises are complex, requiring clients to have balance, coordination, strength and flexibility – the mind and body working together to control movement and breathing.
Precision Precision of movement requires total concentration and control of the breath, the alignment of the body and the use of the centre. It also requires co-ordination and balance skills as well as good flow and pace of the movements.
Flow or Fluidity Flow can be described as a smooth, uninterrupted continuity of movement. Romana Kryzanowska (Pilates elder) describes the Pilates method as “flowing motion outward from a strong centre”.