- Concentration - The exercises require a great amount of concentration as there are many elements to each exercise.
- Centre-ing - This refers to the group of 'core stability' muscles. Every movement comes from your core, therefore, the stronger your core, the easier the movements.
- Control - Each exercise needs to be fully controlled to prevent incorrect movements which could lead to injury.
- Flow - Having movements that flow helps your body move more efficiently and with control. All exercises should be performed smoothly.
- Precision - Each exercise should be precise, purposeful and perfectly performed.
- Flexibility - Many of the exercises focus on lengthening the muscles.
- Endurance - Your core muscles should be working ALL the time. Therefore, they are trained for endurance.
- Relaxation - All principles mean that you leave your Pilates class feeling relaxed.
- Breathing - Breathing correctly allows you to connect the body and mind, which helps with control and coordination.
Pilates Posture and Placement
Foot & Leg Placement
The position of the feet and legs will vary with each exercise, but in most cases, feet are at hipbone width apart and parallel. Knees will also be in line with the hips and kept relaxed. Feel that each toe is touching the ground and your weight is evenly distributed through the feet - front, back and both sides.
The pelvis should remain flat and in neutral. When the pelvis is in neutral it follows the natural curves of the spine. From a standing or supine position the triangle formed from the pubic bones and hipbones should lay flat and parallel. It is also important that the hipbones stay level and balanced.
Neutral spine is the optimal position for the spine so there is no pressure placed on any of the vertebrae or discs. A neutral spine will be slightly different for everyone. If we maintain a neutral spine in everyday life and while exercising we can greatly reduce the stress of the spine tissues. Feel the spine is lengthened at all times.
There should be an awareness of keeping the ribs softened and down to maintain the connection between the ribs and the abdominals. The rib-cage should be directly over the hips.
The scapula should lie close to the rib-cage and glide across it without forcing the scapulae down or overly squeezing them together. Daily life has meant that we actively use the shoulder girdle muscles to move the arms rather than recruit the correct muscles around the shoulder joint. This means the muscles become tight and restricts the full range of movement we should have.
The neck is a very delicate part of the body, which is often used incorrectly through the day. We should keep the neck long at the back and in neutral. This can avoid neck strain. Make sure the neck isn't jammed into the chest as this over flexes the spine. The cheek bone should be in line with the collar bone.
Abdominal Hollowing & Pelvic Floor
We often tend to think of the body as arms, legs, torso and head. The torso is just from beneath the skull and continues to the bottom of the buttocks. The vertebral column and all major internal organs are found in the torso. It is these muscles that make up the mid sections that are referred to as the core. To stand, sit and move correctly, we need to be able to use our core effectively, creating a strong mid section from which the body can move the limbs. Contracting the pelvic floor muscles and the abdominals largely does this. Think of an invisible corset - the action of pulling up and in simultaneously will engage the core and help stabilise movements and protect the back.
In Pilates we use lateral breathing, which is to breath in, full and wide into the back and side of the rib-cage. Try to avoid expanding the abdominal area or lifting the shoulders and expanding the top of the chest. The out breath is used on the effort of the exercise in most cases as this helps to connect to the core muscles.