March 14, 2016
Pilates has exploded in popularity over the past several years in the US, and Evolve Fitness classes are no exception. For men and women of all ages, we’ve found that pilates is consistently one of our most popular group exercise classes in both Cambridge and Framingham, and interest only seems to grow with each passing year.
Have you ever wondered what the hype is all about?
Pilates focuses on core strength and exercises both mind and body to develop stability, stamina, balance and flexibility. There are countless benefits to a regular practice, but in this article, we want to focus on some of the core principles of the methodology that some members might not be familiar with. Known as the “six principles of pilates”, these fundamental teachings are an integral component of any worthwhile class, and understanding them will go a long way towards preparing you to begin a regular practice of your own.
The first principle of pilates is centering. The center of our bodies, typically thought of as the area of the pelvis just below the navel, is a hugely important but often under-appreciated muscle group. In a pilates class, all movement originates from the center, with the ultimate goal being to strengthen the core. It’s a little known fact that a great deal of lower back problems originate due to tension and lack of strength in the core, and developing this critical muscle group can have a huge impact on quality of life for those struggling with back pain.
Typically, in a pilates class, the goal is to contract the abdomen (or core) without holding the breath, strengthening the area over time and easing tension in the muscles associated with the spine and major organs.
In pilates, similar to yoga, control is the name of the game. It’s not about exertion or exhaustion, but rather deliberate, dedicated motion. When we exert control and mindfulness over our movements, we’re more likely to produce positive results and less likely to injure ourselves. The goal is to dedicate full attention to each and every movement, no matter how big or small, and in doing so, we workout both body and mind.
Going hand in hand with control, and also somewhat similar to yoga, smooth, flowing movements are a central pillar of pilates. Each exercise and movement has a distinct beginning, middle and end, and transitioning seamlessly between them is the end goal. We want to try to avoid quick, jerky, hasty movements, instead opting for deliberate, fluid motion. It might take a few weeks of regular practice, but when you do feel the flow of a pilates class, your workouts will never be the same.
After control and flow, the next principle of pilates that you want to keep in mind is breath. When we exercise controlled breathing, maintaining fluid and controlled motion becomes that much easier. Unlike in yoga, most pilates practices recommended inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth, but you still want to maintain a deliberate and controlled pace. Practicing a purposeful breathing pattern allows the body to filter oxygen thoroughly to each muscle being used during the exercise, and similar to lifting weights or stretching, breathing can play a surprisingly crucial role in achieving full range of motion.
Precise movement is the foundation of a successful pilates class. Knowing that each motion serves a distinct purpose, the goal is to move with clarity, executing each step to the best of your ability. Precision can take some time to achieve of course, but perfection isn’t the point. By striving for precision with every step, no matter how big or small, we can train both the mind and body to achieve greater stability, strength, and focus. With pilates, the emphasis is always on quality over quantity.
Taken together with precision, concentration is the final principle of pilates. By focusing on controlled, precise movement, we can achieve greater concentration. And by improving concentration, you’ll find that movements become more precise automatically. It’s truly a symbiotic ecosystem.
Pilates is an exercise of both mind and body, and you might find that after participating regularly for a few weeks, you’ll be able to concentrate better in other areas of your life too. Whether it’s work, school, or simply day-to-day existence, clarity of thought and attention can work wonders for your overall spirit.
What do you have to lose? There’s a reason that pilates is quickly becoming one of the most popular ways to stay fit in the world, and the six principles are just the beginning.
So sign up for a free five day pass today, or stop by one of our locations to talk to a qualified fitness instructor. Our award-winning staff will be more than happy to help you get started on the path towards living well, in both mind, body and spirit.