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:
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.
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.
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
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.
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 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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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 clients
confidence when undertaking the exercises. For
example, in Pilates for rehabilitation, light
weights are used to strengthen weak muscles as
appropriate to an individuals 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
Ideally group mat Pilates classes have a manageable
student-teacher ratio (10-15 students) so that
the instructor can monitor each individual's form
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.