The Pilates exercise program has seen an explosion of popularity over the past 15 years. Since its conception in the early 1900s, Pilates techniques have mainly been utilized by dancers and physical therapists because the fitness system stresses both strength and flexibility, two elements which are vital to those niches.
Pilates was actually partially developed during WWI while Joseph Pilates, a German boxer and performer, was held at detention centers in England. He modified and used his personal strength training concepts to help with the rehabilitation of injured soldiers.
However, Pilates has become quite a favorite form of fitness exercise with other circles and is now being routinely practiced by professional athletes and physical therapists. Baby boomers are jumping on the Pilates wagon by the hordes because the techniques and principles guiding them are easy on the joints and muscles and don’t require strenuous weight training.
You can also find the Pilates fitness program being practiced at luxury spas, wellness centers, YMCA centers, public and private schools, corporate retreats and other establishments where wellness and fitness programs are offered.
The Six Principles of Pilates
The Pilates exercise program is founded on six principles, although the actual number and order of their arrangement is sometimes contested between various Pilates followers. Regardless, if you are interested in getting involved in Pilates classes then you will undoubtedly encounter a great deal of emphasis placed on the following principles and, therefore, should be familiar with them.
You should also be aware that some of the principles have a close resemblance to spiritual concepts. This is due to Joseph Pilates’ extensive self-study in Zen and yoga which were combined with his studies of ancient Roman and Greek physical training exercises.
Pilates Principle #1 – Centering
The energy used for performing Pilates exercises is believed to be drawn from the center of your being. Therefore, you are encouraged to focus on your center, which lies behind your navel, the core area between your hips and lower rib cage, when performing Pilates exercises.
Pilates Principle #2 – Concentration
Maximum benefits are believed to be derived by placing full commitment to and concentration on the exercise at hand.
Pilates Principle #3 – Control
Regardless of the Pilates exercise being performed, total muscular control is utilized over every body part.
Pilates Principle #4 – Precision
No movement is done haphazardly. Each Pilates exercise focuses on the precise alignment, placement and trajectory of every body part during every Pilates workout.
Pilates Principle #5 – Breathing
The emphasis in all Pilates exercises is on taking full, deep breaths. Joseph Pilates often referred to the lungs as billows which needed to be used to forcefully pump air into and out of the body. Practically every exercise stresses coordination with correct breathing methods which are an important aspect of the Pilates workout.
Pilates Principle #6 – Flow
The fluidity in which Pilates exercises are performed is another vital aspect to the exercise program. That fluidity, coupled with movement ease and gracefulness, is the goal which is strived to be achieved in every exercise. It is believed that every Pilates exercise should be done in such a way whereas the body’s energy flows freely through all your body parts.
Even though the Pilates principles seem to be based on somewhat simple and abstract methods, they are quite effective in producing grace, balance and ease of fluidity in movement which comes from practicing the Pilates exercise program.