The Essence of Pilates by Karrie Adamany

Regardless of whether or not you are new to Pilates, a seasoned practitioner, or an instructor, your body feels the difference between Pilates and all other forms of exercise. There have been many spin-offs and mutations, yogilates, for example, but at its purist and most basic, Pilates is an exercise method that will alter the course of your life and improve your whole outlook on life. Finding an inspiring teacher is a great way to get started.

The essence of Pilates is found in the six principles that make up the foundation on which Pilates is built: breathing, centering, control, concentration, fluidity and precision. Using these principles, you will learn total body awareness. The essence of Pilates is not found in fancy studios, or on infomercials – it is found in the individuals who have taken the time to change their bodies and their lives by strengthening their muscles, stretching their limbs, and building a balanced body by better awareness.

Breathing: Normally, we breathe without giving it much thought. But breathing actually builds endurance and creates energy, while encouraging relaxation. While working through a Pilates routine, proper breathing is a vital component to building stamina as it keeps the bloodstream pure by circulating oxygen. Centering: Your abdominal muscles, lower back and buttocks are your powerhouse, your center, your core. Strengthening the abdominal muscles results in a stable pelvis and a balanced pelvis will support the lumbar spine and keep your feet and legs in proper alignment. Control: Pilates is best described as a combination of stretch and strength with control. All movements in Pilates are initiated from the powerhouse, the center of control. Control allows you to perform the exercises with precision and is crucial in preventing injuries. Concentration: Concentration is the focus needed to achieve quality movements. The other five principles become easier to follow once concentration is established.

An increased level of concentration enables you to visualize a movement and carry it out to the best of your ability. Fluidity: Pilates is much like choreography where each exercise flows into the next with energy. It is therefore essential to keep your mind focused on how each movement relates to the next during the workout. Learning to anticipate the next movement and carry it out smoothly helps to improve your Pilates workout and will help to conserve energy. Precision: Each movement must be performed with precision due to the fluid nature of the Pilates routine. In Pilates, quality rules over quantity. Fewer precise movements produce the greatest results, while more movements than necessary create fatigue.

All of the Pilates exercises are designed to respond to the above mentioned principles.You may also find that they are applicable to everyday living. Whether bending over to pick up your child, carrying heavy bags, or walking long distances, you will notice great changes in your body, posture, how you feel and how other people see you when you have incorporated these principles into your daily life.

Pilates re-energizes the mind and body. Regular performance of the routine will lead to increased energy levels and focus as you progress. You will look forward to more physical challenges as you start to feel and see changes in your body. Be patient along the way. It is a completely new way of moving your body, but once you become familiar with the movements, you will come to understand how far-reaching the results of practicing Pilates are.

The essence of Pilates is found in the every day activities and how you apply the basic principles to Pilates to your own life. The essence of Pilates can be found in the subtleties of the movements and how those sometimes small adjustments can make all the difference. Start small or forge ahead with gusto, in your living room or private lessons at a Pilates studio, you will feel and see the difference in your posture and how you carry yourself with confidence in the world.

Karrie Adamany is the co-author of the recently published The Pilates Edge: An Athlete’s Guide to Strength and Performance (Avery/Penguin). She is also the co-owner of The Pilates Edge Studio in New York City. For more information, please visit the website at www.thepilatesedge.com.