Pilates covers the art and science of human movement as it relates to the Pilates method. Every movement of this practice can be substantiated both scientifically (through anatomy, physiology) and artistically (through aesthetics, inner sensations). The mind and the body share a nourishing, symbiotic relationship that brings about profound and at times inexplicable results. This mind – body relationship lies at the heart of Pilates.
Pilates practisers should always be attentive to these principles, both during learning and performance of the specific work. They are the foundation of this mind – body system and make the Pilates method so unique.
The first step into the wonderful world of Pilates, and every step that follows, should be filled with awareness and mindfulness. Guide the movement with both the mind and the body. Nowadays, everything about the technology seems to be designed to separate the mind from the body; loud music, television screens,… Pilates should be performed in environment that stimulates this mind-body connection, beginning with the awareness of the body. Bringing awareness to the body and the intricacies of movement establishes a foundation for change. Without it, little can be achieved.
The word balance refers to the well-being of the whole individual, a balance of body, mind and spirit. You should strive to achieve balance, in every sense of the word, and make it an integral part of your Pilates practice.
Joseph Pilates often mentions the importance of a uniformly developed musculature which affects body functioning, true flexibility and general well-being. Simmetrically and proportionately developed musculature allows the spine to perform its function to support the body and to assist in movement ranging from intravertebral articulation to large powerful actions of the trunk.
Breathing is synonymus with life and with movement so it is important to learn how to breathe correctly. It encompasses both body and mind and spirit. Breathing is also a vehicle by which we achieve inner focus, path to relax the mind and calm the spirit. It is the engine that drives all movement and lies at the source of the Pilates method. Breath is the fuel for what Joseph Pilates calls the ?powerhouse?.
Concentration is the bridge between the awareness and movement. As you establish the starting position it is important that you know which muscles you need to recruit, how you should align your body and your chosen breathing pattern. Simply by concentrating on a particular muscle, you can motivate it to fire more accurately and intensely. Concentrating on your body alignment will help you recruit the correct muscles and avoid the unnecessary strain on the body. Concentrating on the breathing pattern will help you maintain a good rhythm for the movement and keep your mind focused. However, keep in mind that concentration can be so intense that it becomes counterproductive. It can lead into tension which results in excessive tightening of the musculature and restriction in breathing. This is clearly not the intention and should be avoided.
In Pilates, it is important to find where your center of gravity lies. It is different between men and women; in women the center lies aproximately anterior to the first and second sacral segments, soating in the middle of the pelvic bowl. In men it tends to be slightly higher, in the center of the body opposite the navel. Discovering and experiencing your body’s center of gravity is important because this is the powerhouse. The concept of powerhouse in Pilates is that all movement emanates from this core.
Furthermore, centering yourself, means more than just finding your center of gravity; it refers also to the connecting with life force that lies within us. Interestingly, in all these practices, this life force is located in approximately the same areas of the body as the center of gravity. As you delve into Pilates and open yourself to finding and moving from your center, you will experience this most gratifying and elevating sensation.
Achieving control of movement is a conscious process. It occurs through practice, practice and more practice. Ideally a teacher who has achieved control should guide you in this process. As you continue to train and integrate the work into your body, sometimes for years and many hundreds of repetition, your own movement control becomes a part of your being.
While performin Pilates we do not grimase during effort, nor grunt as the movements become difficult and demanding. We focus the work where it is needed, exerting the required amount of energy, no more and no less. The remainder of the body is relaxed and calm. You should have an agreement with yourself when performing the work; the more difficult and demanding the movements are, the more consciously relaxed you become. View efficiency of movement as a laser beam; focused and directed.
Like all the principals, flow manifests itself both physically and mentally. It manifests within each movement as well as within the Pilates session as whole. Flow can be described as the seamless connection of movement to movement, creating what appears to be a continous motion. Despite the fact that teachers offer correction and input to students and may need to stop the class periodically to do so, the overall sense of each individual movement and of the session as the whole should be one of continuum.
Without precision Pilates work becomes almost meaningless. Isolation depens entirely on precision and is only meaningful when you can stabilize your body and support the isolated movement independently. This is a mindful process that requires returning to the first movement principle, awareness, followed by concentration and control. As you gain more insight into your body, you will be able to achieve increasingly fine muscle isolation.
Precision requires complete muscle integration, which may then be followed by the isolation of certain muscles or muscle group. You will feel the work more profoundly when you perform every movement with precision down to the finest detail.
Harmony is the whole, the culmination of all we strive to achieve. It is the ultimate reward for commitment and hard work. Harmony means walking out of a session and feeling completely rejuvenated, being aware of each muscle and sense the depth of each breath. It means being focused, centered, and in control, moving efficiently coupled with flow and precision.
The article is summarized from the book Pilates by Rael Isacowitz.