In my opinion the essence of Pilates is working from our center while incorporating a “2-way stretch.” Doesn’t sound so bad does it? However, What does working from our center actually mean and require? Keeping it simple and staying aware of the essence of what we are trying to achieve in our Pilates practice is not an easy task:).
For new students in particular, I know that the challenge of learning the practice of Pilates can be quite overwhelming. The practice requires a lot of body/mind synchronization and awareness as there are many parts to connect. It’s so much more than just exercise. It’s posture redefining and general reprograming that requires significant discipline and a whole lot of strength.
Something that I see often with new students, and time to time in seasoned practitioners, including myself, is that we get too stuck on “doing it right” or focus too much on what isn’t working. This “attitude” can easily distract us from seeing what is working and unfortunately disconnect us from our center to allow us to reap the benefits of the practice.
Fortunately, we can all use the principles of Pilates as tools to pull us back to our center(s) when we get lost. The principles of Pilates are the same for everyone, but, acknowledging that we are all different and not the same, we all have to listen to ourselves and pinpoint our own priorities as our own situations will differ from one another and also slightly within ourselves depending on the day. Hopefully we can adapt, adjust, and have fun!
So what are the principles of Pilates? There are 6 main principles which are the listed below.
Although there are several principles to Pilates I would like to focus on the main and first principle of Pilates – Center! As I stated above, in my opinion, the essence of Pilates basically means to work from our center incorporating a “2-way stretch”. In order to work from our center, we should be able to locate our center. The core of our pelvis is our main center(focal point) for most of our beginner and intermediate Pilates work. Being aware of the muscles that surround this center is the next step. The core of our pelvis is surrounded with our gluteals, abductors, adductors, quadriceps, hamstrings, lower back, and low abdomen. Using the muscles listed above, we need to essentially do 2 things.
1 -stabilize our center in a “balanced, symmetrical way.”
2 – sustaining our balanced stability, incorporate a “2-way stretch.”
The above actions seem simple enough, right!? The difficulty increases as you move from one posture to the next. For many, I see overworked and tight quadriceps and weak hamstrings and gluteals that pulls their pelvic center out of balance. That person may be stable, but unfortunately, in an unbalanced way. In this scenario, if not corrected they would continue to strengthen the muscles that are already too tight and the muscles they really need to turn on never get worked. How frustrating this is! I can say this as I have been there.
Furthermore, as we progress into more advanced postures in the system of Pilates so does our center(focal point)! In fact, as the flow increases and moves become more challenging there may be several centers that you would move back and forth between.
“Centers” that are focal points:
1.core of our pelvis – used in most beginner and intermediate Pilates exercises
2.back of our heart center – used when we are inverted (ex. elephant)
3.upper palate – used when inverted in which your head is part of the foundation(for more advanced work, such as long spine, head stands)
The practice of Pilates is WORK in that it challenges us to always reconnect literally and metaphorically to our center! That being said, I wanted to write this article to encourage ALL of us to to focus MORE on what is working for you, and the things you do that feel right and create more integration and good vibes for your whole body. It should feel good! Keeping this “attitude” as opposed to the other alternative of what’s not working I find allows me and my body to be more receptive and open and as consequence I experience more inner space and freedom to make the connections to work from a balanced center.
Some days are definitely more challenging than others and our body will be proof of this, but having an open, positive, attitude and continuing to be curious to learn more despite our problems will help us. Pay attention, listen, and try not to be “done” before you begin! That’s why I called my studio Le Bureau…Its’ meaning is the office (in french), and therefore, I hope you will come to work curious and ready to to grow more into your own center every single day; as that, in my opinion, is the true essence of Pilates.