What is Pilates?, Pilates is a body conditioning programme that uses exercises to change the way we use our bodies. Pilates was created by the German Joseph Pilates and when he created it, was known as Contrology. The aim of Pilates is to improve our muscle recruitment patterns by restoring good postural alignment. The repetition of these good movement patterns during your Pilates sessions will encourage you to move this way on a daily basis.

Body Control Pilates has 8 principles that should apply to every exercise, the principles are:

Concentration:
Pilates requires constant awareness of the movement process, positive change can only occur once awareness has been achieved. The focus always remains on the present and not the end result.

Relaxation:
Releasing tension within the body before and during the exercises is important as it allows constructive change to occur. The mind will also relax as its focusing only on the movement itself and how it is performed.

Alignment:
Correct alignment of each and every part of the body while exercising is crucial to safety and to functional movement. It is necessary for all of the joints of the body to be correctly aligned in order to encourage the desired muscles to work efficiently.

Breathing:
The breathing patterns of each exercise are essential to facilitate the movement, aid stability and encourage fluidity of movement. Synchronising the breath to movements is therefore key to mastering the Pilates Method. Effective use of the breath can also help the mind to relax, focus and recharge.

Pilates teaches lateral or thoracic breathing. This encourages the expansion of the lower ribs into the sides and into the back.

“Before any real benefit can be derived from physical exercises, one must first learn how to breathe properly. Our very life depends on it.” Joseph Pilates (Return to Life)

Centring (Core Stability):
Core stability is the ability to maintain control of the position of the pelvis, spine, shoulders and head, in order to provide a stable (but not necessary still) base of support from which all movement is initiated.

Centring is a dynamic process that relates directly to both the challenge of limiting any unwanted movement as well as maintaining the control and flow of the movements that are supposed to be taking place at any given moment throughout the exercise.

Co-ordination (Control):
In basic matwork sessions simple and functional movement patterns are first taught to encourage precision and control; as you develop these skills, the complexity of the movement sequences increase. The actual process of learning this co-ordination is excellent mental and physical training.

Flowing Movements:
A Pilates exercise must never be executed with force or strain, instead each movement should feel light and fluid with a focus on grace and ease of movement. If all other Pilates Principles are considered and interrelated then flowing movement should occur as a result.

Stamina:
Pilates builds endurance by ensuring that the body is used efficiently. As you become more proficient at the exercises and your muscles begin to work more functionally, energy will no longer be wasted holding onto unnecessary tension or moving inefficiently and your stamina will develop.

“Contrology (Pilates) exercises build a sturdy body and sound mind fitted to perform every daily task with ease and perfection as well as to provide tremendous reserve energy for sports, recreation, emergencies”. Joseph Pilates (Return to life).

Reference: BodyControl Pilates Course notes.