Sometimes as teachers we become so engrossed in the practice of teaching and training, we take for granted we ourselves started as beginners. And the Pilates method was rigorously prescribed and drilled into our practice.
After a recent wave of new beginners starting at the studio, I was reminded of the 6 main principles of Pilates and reflected on how these have evolved in my practice and teachings.
Concentration — The truth of the matter is Pilates is as much a mental exercise as it is physical. If you have done pilates, you would be familiar with the million and one things to activate, relax, squeeze (not clench!), draw in, pull up etc… and this all happens before any movement! To exercise with mindfulness takes a lot of focus. For me, this meditative aspect is what drew me to Pilates in the first place.
Control — Romana Kryzanowska famously said, “Pilates is about stretch, strength and control. And control is most important because it uses your mind”. There is something quite existential about feeling strong in mind and body. To be in control and have strength in movement is empowering. The art to control is a beautiful thing to witness especially when it is done with fluidity.
Flow (economy of movement) — like a well-choreographed dance, Pilates can be much the same. This is a more advanced precept as it requires memory of exercise to move from one exercise to another with fluidity and ease — in Pilates we call these transitions. This is also a precursor to a more dynamic and cardiovascular workout.
Centering — Working strength and stretch in correct alignment aids to a better posture. The duality of meaning is also centering both your mind and body — bringing focus of mind to the body.
Precision — It is in the precision of movement where you exercise your body intelligently. I was reminded of this from one of my favourite teacher trainers in NYC when she always stressed, “it’s in the detail that will change the body”.
…learning new movement concepts can be like learning a whole new language.
Breathing — this is one of the hardest principles to master. Breathing is a matter of necessity to inspire life, but to work control into the breath is a matter of mindfulness. When used effectively, the breath can inspire strength and integrity to each movement.
As a teacher, it is important to revisit the basics. As we become more advanced in our own practice we move further away from what it was like to be a beginner. We forget that learning new movement concepts can be like learning a whole new language. And how patience and discipline are virtues both the teacher and student must continually nurture in life and practice.
(Images are sourced from Archival photographs of Joseph Pilates)