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Pilates Method Principles | Pilates Method Dynamics

Pilates Method Principles

The Pilates Method is based on 8 principles that fuse eastern and western philosophies with the aim of teaching how to breathe with movement, whilst incorporating control, centering, precision and isolation within a flowing movement.

The principles are:

  • Breathing
    A good breathing technique is essential in Pilates as it allows the body to attain its maximum, to release tensions and to perform the exercises with maximum power and efficiency. In addition, the Pilates breathing technique helps to activate deep muscles and to keep you focused.
    Breathing while performing Pilates should be continuous and formed by diaphragmatic patterns of deep, conscious and coordinated inhalation (through the nose), and exhalation (through the mouth). In addition it should be lateral or thoracic, making maximum use of the expansion of the ribcage. This technique encourages the practitioner to breathe into their sides and back allowing the diaphragm to descend, but assuring that core stability is maintained.
    In Pilates each exercise has its own breathing pattern, but a general rule is that you inhale to prepare for movement, exhale on the movement, and inhale to recover. This timing complements the use of the abdominals and ensures that the breath is not held or excessive tension created.
  • Concentration:
    All Pilates Method exercises require the participant to engage the mind to visualize how the movements are interrelated, so that body and mind are undoubtedly connected throughout the performance of the exercises.
    This element of body awareness is fundamental to the Method because when practicing Pilates, one has to be constantly and consciously aware of what s/he is doing, otherwise one ceases to learn, and just ‘does’.
    A failure to concentrate will result in loss of alignment or use of the wrong muscles.

  • Control/Precision
    Pilates movements must be slow, controlled and precise. In Pilates the quality of movement is valued over the quantity of repetitions. The success of Pilates exercises is not attained by intensity or multiple repetitions, but by proper technique for safe, effective results. In other words, in Pilates, it is the quality rather than the quantity of repetitions which counts.

  • Alignment
    One of the main benefits of Pilates consists of helping to realign the body by eradicating bad postural habits. During its practice, every movement is performed with complete attention to correct body alignment.
    Furthermore, in Pilates it is the quality of movement which counts over the quantity of repetitions. Therfore, before starting any exercise and throughout the movements, all the parts of the body are considered, placing special attention to the aligment of the knees and feet, the ‘neutral pelvis’, the curve of the spine, the balancing of the three main body weights, the posture of neck and shoulders and the correct angle of the head.
  • Centering
    Joseph Pilates referred to centering as working from a strong core or "girdle of strength": abdomen, spinal, and pelvic areas. By doing so, control is achieved throughout the exercises. Pilates exercises develop control over all the core muscles, integrating the trunk, pelvis and shoulder girdle. By working on this area, the Method develops a strong core and enables the rest of the body to balance and function efficiently and the movement to stem outward from the center.
  • Relaxation
    Relaxation is another key principle of the Pilates Method. The starting point for all the exercises is releasing unnecessary tension from the body, and performing all the exercises without stressing any muscle.
    Joseph Pilates always said that in Pilates one must move without tenseness. This means that the exercises should be performed recruiting only the muscles needed for the activity while all other muscles should remain relaxed.
    In order to achieve this, it is necessary to keep a correct breathing technique and concentration throughout the session. This way, one can learn selective relaxation of the muscles not required for the task at hand. Therefore, Pilates' relaxation not only reduces stress but also helps you to focus on and achieve the correct muscle usage.
    In addition, by learning to recognise areas of undue tension, relaxing the body before you start each exercise and then focusing attention on the relevant area, you will be able to adjust yourself into the correct position, and then hold those positions and perform the movements efficiently. This greatly reduces the risk of injury and adds to the calming effect of a session.

  • Fluidity
    The cadence of Pilates sessions should be smooth and continuous, following the natural flow of the body. All Pilates movements are controlled, graceful and flowing, lengthening outwards from their strong centre which greatly reduces the risk of injury. Jarring repetitions, static exercises and choppy movements should be avoided.
  • Integration
    This principle makes Pilates a holistic mind-body workout. In Pilates, body and mind are considered as a whole. Via concentration and a precise technique, during the practice of the exercises, several different muscle groups are engaged simultaneously to control and support movement, providing a clean and secure workout.

Pilates Method Dynamics

In order to maximize Pilates benefits and avoid any injuries, Pilates should be practised in a Pilates studio under the careful supervision of a certified Pilates instructor, either one-on-one or in small group sessions.
These professionals are highly trained specialists who know how to tailor a Pilates program to meet individual needs and abilities, monitoring movements to ensure correct form for optimum results.

Having a Pilates instructor is indispensable specially if you are new to the Method as the correct practice of Pilates exercises requires learning its technique properly, and keeping a good aligment of the body throughout the exercises. An apt instructor will help you ensure that you have good form and are performing the exercises correctly.

In addition, positioning, concentration, and breathing are so important for obtaining the benefits from the Pilates Method, that having an experienced instructor helping you is crucial.
Always keep in mind that in Pilates good form (or quality of the exercises) is more important than the number of exercises or number of reps.

In addition, all Pilates exercises should be performed in a slow, controlled and precise way always keeping constant concentration and proper coordination of the breathing.

Pilates exercises can be performed either on mats or using special machines.

The mat class is a series of floor exercises using a variety of positions (prone, supine, semi-supine, standing, side lying, kneeling and sitting), designed to re-align and strengthen your body, with plentiful concentration given to your abdominal muscles or 'core'.
Your first Pilates class might concentrate on breathing and posture and gradually move into the exercises.

There are over 500 different exercises in the Pilates spectrum. These exercises used in conjunction with a controlled breathing technique are known to increase lung capacity and flexibility, and improve posture, balance, and coordination. It is very important to learn the correct way to practice Pilates in order to avoid injuries.
Stretching is another important aspect of the Pilates training programme; but in this case, attention is duly paid to correct alignment and the use of the stabilising muscles.

Once the right technique has been learned, there are some props like light weights, rubber bands or balance balls, circle/rings that can be used during the class in order to add extra resistance and flexibility of each exercise, enabling the participant to work harder on toning the core and limbs.

One distinct advantage for the use of Pilates in rehabilitation is that many of the exercises are performed in gravity-reduced settings which, importantly, aids a client’s confidence when undertaking the exercises. For example, in Pilates for rehabilitation, light weights are used to strengthen weak muscles as appropriate to an individual’s needs and capabilities. This is very useful in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis.

Group Mat classes are a good, relatively economical place for beginners to start, and a fun, social way to continue Pilates practice. Using standing, sitting and lying down positions, the instructor directs students through the various stretches and movements, offering visualizations and motivating discussions to help them make that mind-body connection.
Ideally group mat Pilates classes have a manageable student-teacher ratio (10-15 students) so that the instructor can monitor each individual's form and progress.

A purely mat-based routine is an authentic and effective Pilates workout by itself, but there is also special equipment designed to provide resistance to Pilates exercises.

Equipment classes or sessions use specialized complex equipment. These classes cost more and are more difficult to find than mat classes.

Pilates equipment is rigged with boards, pulleys, springs, and straps to support your feet and hands. And even though they might conjure up images of a modern torture chamber, the movements you perform on them are surprisingly gentle.

There are five major pieces of specialized Pilates equipment (Reformer, Cadillac, Barrel, Chair, Trapeze) that can add a whole new level of interest and intensity to the Pilates experience.

Some of the types of Pilates equipment offer spring resistance, others offer extra support, and there is a broad range of unique exercises for the total body that can be performed on each piece.

After a few Pilates sessions, you will soon start to feel its effects: Your body will be more agile, flexible and harmonious. Your shape will be more esvelt and slim, and you will feel more invigorated and able to cope with your daily activity.
As Joseph Pilates said: "In 10 sessions, you will feel the difference, in 20 sessions, you will see the difference, and in 30 sessions you will have a new body.”

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