A Breakdown of Pilates Principles

These are the principles in which Joseph Pilates built his system upon. I want to break them down and give them a little more detail and life, one by one. Each of these principles is so incredibly important to Pilates and are things that we must focus on in each of our sessions. The Principles are as follows:

1. Breathing
2. Concentration
3. Control
4. Centering
5. Flow
6. Postural Alignment
7. Precision
8. Relaxation
9. Stamina

In this blog, I want to talk about relaxation and breathing. Two things that I believe go very closely together in this business. We all know that when we are taking shallower and quicker breaths, our heart rate goes up. When the heart rate is up that tends to lead to anxiety and puts us into fight/flight mode. It’s hard to relax in these states.

If you are like me, it’s incredibly hard to just relax. Some of us even feel guilty when we do finally take the time to relax. If I’m not moving or doing something, I feel like I’m letting someone down. Even though I’m usually moving a million miles a minute. But as I get older and dive deeper into my Pilates and nutrition practice, I realize the absolute importance of taking time every single day for myself.

And so did Joseph.

How does Pilates help one to relax? Well for one you are breathing in new life with each movement and breathing out stale and old air as well. You are helping your system to circulate and create new cells. You are energizing every piece of your being by breathing deeper. Stop and do this exercise for me:

Just sit or lie down for a few minutes with your eyes closed. I want you to think of some stressor in your life or something that brings a negative emotion to you. Think about it and sit on it. Where do you feel it most? Does your stomach feel sick? Do you immediately get a headache? Do your palms start to sweat? Notice where you feel this negative emotion. Now. Pick a color that represents peace to you. It can be anything. I want you to imagine the place where the emotion affects you as a black color. Then I want you to pick the color that represents peace to you. Breathe your color into where you feel that negative emotion. Breathe in the light and exhale out the dark. Do this for about 10 minutes. This exercise is a great example of the powerful effect breathing has on us. There’s a reason Michelle Branch wrote the song “Breathe”. One of my favorites!

So how does Pilates help you to breathe and relax? In Pilates, there is a big emphasis on the breath. We constantly remind you to breathe so that, first, you don’t pass out on us, and second, Pilates teaches you how to breathe correctly, encouraging filling the abdomen with air as opposed to the chest, and then breathing laterally through instead of pushing out the stomach. Pilates encourages deep breathing, and deep breathing cleanses the organs and helps get nutrients to different areas of the body.

Pilates encourages breathing on the exertion and paying attention to that breath. When I teach and I notice clients tensing up on an exercise I automatically tell them to go back to their breathing. That puts the focus elsewhere then on the difficulty of the exercise. Instead of going into fight or flight mode, they begin to relax by breathing into their movement. Clients also become aware of how their breathing and the exercises form a rhythm when used correctly. Once clients become aware of their breathing just in Pilates, they are better able to see how it can affect their daily life in so many areas, especially in relaxation. Hence beginning the beautiful mind/body connection which was one of Joseph’s main goals.

After developing a Pilates practice many clients come back telling me how incredibly good they feel in every area of their life. By just connecting these two principles, they learn how to better deal with daily stress and tensions in the body those stresses cause. They learn where they are holding those stressors because they are becoming more aware of their body.

I feel like this is the biggest win in Pilates. Seeing how it affects everyday lives in positive ways. Pilates isn’t just about weight loss, although that is always a benefit! Pilates literally can change lives. One principle at a time. Need proof? Come on in and try it out for yourself!

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