The Fundamental Concepts of Pilates
Contrology is complete coordination of body, mind, and spirit.
Contrology develops the body uniformly, corrects wrong postures, restores physical vitality, invigorates the mind, and elevates the spirit.
- Joseph H. Pilates
There are several variations of Pilates fundamentals, ranging from those that Joseph Pilates pioneered in the early 1900's to contemporary adaptations that incorporate modern understanding of fitness, anatomy and biomechanics.
Essentially the Pilates principles are as follows :
* Breathing - Deep, coordinated, conscious diaphragmatic patterns of inhales and exhales initiate movement.
It helps activate deep muscles and keep you focused.
In Pilates, breathing, much like yoga, has the effect of clearing the mind and cleansing the body.
More importantly, the breath is essential to and will facilitate the execution of many of the exercises.
So many people breathe poorly or ineffectively. Often they even hold their breath during a move, which is quite dangerous.
Remember in Pilates we breathe in through our nose and out through our mouth.
We direct the breath sideways spreading apart the ribcage as we inhale, like two big balloons filling with air.
We exhale and deflate those big balloons, sliding the ribcage together and down towards the hips.
Joseph Pilates believed in getting the blood pumping so that it could awaken all the cells in the body and carry away the wastes that are related to fatigue.
For the blood to do its work properly, it has to be charged with oxygen and purged of waste gases through proper breathing.
Full and thorough inhalation and exhalation are part of every Pilates exercise. Pilates saw forced exhalation as the key to full inhalation.
"Squeeze out the lungs as you would ring a wet towel dry", he is reputed to have said.
"Soon the entire body is charged with fresh oxygen from toes to fingertips, just as the head of steam in a boiler rushes to every radiator in the house".
Breathing, too, should be done with concentration, control, and precision. It should be properly coordinated with movement. Each exercise is accompanied by breathing instructions.
In addition, there are a few general principles that will help when you're doing something that doesn't come with breathing instructions attached.
And always remember the words of Uncle Joe: "Even if you follow no other instructions, learn to breathe correctly".
* Alignment - Proper alignment is key to good posture.
You'll be aware of the position of your head and neck on the spine and pelvis, right down through the legs and toes.
* The Neutral Spine Position
The neutral spine positioning for Pilates exercises is the greatest modification to the original Pilates exercise program.
Joseph Pilates taught all of his flexion based exercises in what is called a flat-back position. Known today as a posterior pelvic tilt, it is where the pubic symphysis is positioned higher than the anterior superior iliac spines (ASIS).
The goal of finding spinal neutral is to activate the stabilizing muscles of the spine.
To find the neutral position, the individual performs an anterior pelvic tilt by tilting the pelvis forward or dropping the pubic symphysis below the anterior superior iliac spine (ASIS). The individual then performs a posterior pelvic tilt in which they tilt the pelvis so that the public symphysis is above the ASIS.
The individual then finds the position of the spine in which the ASIS and the pubic symphysis are level. This is considered the neutral spine position and the most recent research states is this position that the spine should be in to facilitate lumbar stabilization.
Certified Pilates instructors can provide focusing on activating the core musculature.
* Centering - A mental focus within the body calms the spirit.
A particular focus on the torso, as develops a strong core and enables the rest of the body to function efficiently.
Pilates called the very large group of muscles in our centre - encompassing our abdomen, lower back, hips, and buttocks - the "powerhouse".
All action in Pilates initiates from the powerhouse and flows outward to the extremities.
Physical energy is exerted from the center to coordinate one's movements. In this way a strong foundation is built upon which to rely in daily living.
* Concentration - That all important mind-body connection.
Conscious control of movement enhances body awareness.
You have to concentrate on what you are doing. All the time. And you must concentrate on your entire body.
This is not something you'll be able to do when you start, because it's harder than you think.
Once you begin really to pay attention to your body, you will find that a movement which may have seemed simple is actually quite complex.
* Control - It's not about intensity or multiple repetitions, it's more about proper form for safe effective results.
The focus is on Quality not on Quantity ...
Pilates training teaches complete muscle control, and there are no sloppy, haphazard movements in this method.
Thorough concentration is needed in order to be in control of every aspect of every movement.
This applies not just to the large motions of limbs, but to the positions of fingers, head, and toes, the degree of arching or flatness of the back, the rotation of the wrists, and the turning in or out of the legs.
* Precision - Each and every single detail of each and every movement in Pilates is done with precision.
Each student constantly strives to achieve perfection. Pilates is about the sum of perfect details.
Doing this is quite challenging and that is why Pilates focuses on performing a very few precise movements, rather than endless repetitions done in poor form.
Every movement in the Pilates method has a purpose. Every instruction is vitally important to the success of the whole.
To leave out any detail is to forsake the intrinsic value of the exercise. The focus is on doing one precise and perfect movement, rather than many halfhearted ones.
Eventually this precision becomes second nature, and carries over into everyday life as grace and economy of movement.
* Fluidity / Flowing Movement - Smooth, continuous motion rather that jarring jerky repetitions.
Pilates has grace and elegance to it. Pilates exercises are performed fluidly.
There are no static, isolated movements because our bodies do not naturally function that way. Dynamic energy replaces the quick, jerky movements of other exercise regimes.
Grace of motion is emphasized over speed; ultimately the movements should feel as fluid as a long stride or a waltz.
Uniformly developed muscles are the key to good posture, suppleness, and natural grace.
* Integration - Several different muscle groups are engaged simultaneously to control and support movement.
All principles come together, making for a holistic mind-body workout.