Pilates Principles: The Basics for a Strong, Lean Body

Pilates can have a place in everyone’s workout routine – young or old, male or female (no, Pilates is not just for women … in fact, numerous stories have been published recently involving professional football and basketball players actively participating in Pilates classes). Used for years as rehabilitation for dancers, Pilates has gained popularity in the last 10 or so years. Numerous modifications can be made to the core Pilates exercises, making it ideal for both novices and extremely conditioned athletes.

When beginning a Pilates practice (and even if you’ve been a Pilates devotee for years), focus on the following elements, all of which are the basis for a successful Pilates experience:

Breathing Pilates breath is based on deep inhalation through the nose, and forced exhalation through the mouth. Most importantly, never hold your breath!

Concentration Begin by removing distractions and mentally preparing for the upcoming work. Focus on proper movements, executed correctly – eventually you should feel as if the movements take place without subconscious thought.

Control Always focus on working with your muscles, versus allowing momentum to take you through each exercise. Maintain mental control over your movements, working slowly and with complete control.

Centering Focus on maintaining a stable core – all work should come from your center.

Flow Movements should always be executed smoothly and evenly, flowing one into the next, guided by full inhalation and complete exhalation.

Relaxation Be aware of your body – only use the correct muscles to produce each movement. Aim to reduce tension in the neck, shoulders and hips.

Most of all, remember to do what feels good for your body on any given day. You never want to force the movements – it eliminates the element of control, which takes away from the muscle work and could introduce the possibility of injury. Before long, you’ll find yourself growing leaner and stronger!