Therapists train their patients to become self-aware. This is a significant step toward mental and emotional well-being. Similarly, exercise instructors teach you to become physically self-aware. By recognizing your habits and body mechanics, you can embark upon a path of physical health and well-being. Your body is amazing. The coordination of events required for simple actions such as bending your knee or opening your hand is astonishing, yet they happen without us noticing a thing.
By contrast, Pilates teaches our mind to train our body in order to achieve the optimal healthy lifestyle. During the programs you will continually be required to recognize your positions, make adjustments and note your physical sensations. In addition, you must also be focused on the order of exercises, so that you can anticipate and prepare for the next move. This “mind–body” connection often suggests a workout that is neither physical nor rigorous, but Pilates is both. Just because we think our way through Pilates does not make it less taxing on the muscles. In fact, just the opposite is true. In the words of the late Frederick Schiller, “It is the mind itself that builds the body.”Joseph Pilates was quite fond of this saying.
LEARNING NEW PATTERNS
Our brains are built to learn new patterns. When we learn new skills and acquire knowledge, certain connections between previously unconnected brain cells are formed. Repetition is key. Each time you do a correct abdominal curl you are building a connection that makes it easier to do correctly the next time. In sum, “cells that fire together, wire together.” Pilates trains this mind-to-body dialog. You will learn to direct your actions on a gross motor scale as well as a fine motor scale so your results will be amplified and expedited.
• Pay attention to your body throughout your day. Self-awareness is key to good health. If you watch how you move, your exercise routine will improve.
• Exercise is an activity. It is not something that happens to you—you make it happen.
• It requires more energy to avoid something than simply to do it. Don’t waste any time making excuses. Just hit the mat and get started!
Your Pilates technique, form and posture can constantly be upgraded and improved upon. Just as musicians must rehearse tirelessly, Pilates will only get better as you train. Think of it as a language. First you learn the words, then some phrases, and finally you work on your accent. Let’s begin here with your first Pilates words.
Before you can start on the mechanics of Pilates, there are six fundamental principles that you should become familiar with. These principles give substance and purpose to the workouts and help you learn to integrate your workout into your life so you begin to feel healthy and strong. Remember, the benefits of Pilates are meant to extend well beyond the actual workout.
This is the primary principle of the system. In his time, Mr. Pilates called his method “Contrology.” His focus on controlled movement was a result of his years of blending Eastern and Western disciplines. As you work out, control your muscles, your positions, and your tempos. Your body is your tool and by exerting control over it, it will produce better and better results.
This is a somewhat vague principle to many people. The idea is that all movement begins from your center. I’m of the mind that Pilates was really drawing on the principle that you must “stabilize before you mobilize.” In Pilates we brace or stabilize the core and then mobilize the limbs. Beyond that, there is an energetic component in working from your center. It’s as though you were able to harness and then project out through the limbs all of the energy and activity going on in your internal organs. Centering is akin to saying you should work from the inside out.
Concentration is key to Pilates. Without focused concentration, any exercise can only be moderately beneficial. Concentration elevates your intensity and so takes your results up to a far higher level.
This is the fourth principle and just as many of the other principles apply globally, so “precision” serves as an umbrella for this whole list.
Breathing is a focus of the Pilates work. Many people come to Pilates because they have heard that it is a breathing technique. You will learn step-by-step breathing in these programs but it is not their focus. As a general rule, inhale to prepare for a movement and exhale as you execute it.
FLOW OF MOVEMENT
This is an element that comes later in the practice but can be incorporated early on. As you learn each exercise, be sure to perform it in a seamless, flowing manner. Eventually you’ll work on creating one long routine.
MINIMUM OF MOVEMENT
Other ideas and concepts, such as symmetry, balance, and integration arise as instructors make their own contributions to Pilates. All of these are applicable but Mr. Pilates clearly intended his work to be succinct, so when establishing its main tenets, he chose only the key moves and critical concepts. This working list of six incorporates all the dozens of ideas and concepts at play in Pilates.
OFF THE FLOOR AND OUT THE DOOR
Now that you’ve learned the six principles, think about how they apply to real life. Concepts such as control, precision, or breath can be applied to your life anywhere and anytime. Your workout should be a microcosm of how you live. If you never did any of these programs, you could still embark upon a brand-new lifestyle simply by incorporating these key principles.