The Pilates Method of Body Conditioning is a complete system of exercises specifically designed to strengthen and stretch the body at the same time.
Joe Pilates called this concept “Contrology” because it demands focus and teaches awareness as well as total control of your mind over your body.
He believed that the mind should have the ability to control the body. He focused his method around six key principles: Centering, Control, Concentration, Precision, Breath and Flow.
By practicing the Pilates method with these six principles in mind, you will develop strength, flexibility, balance, endurance, control, energy, alignment and awareness.
The exercises all initiate from the muscles in the abdominals, hips, buttocks, inner thighs, and lower back.
Because these muscles generate so much power, Joseph Pilates called them the “powerhouse”. When the limbs connect to the powerhouse as a foundation of strength, they are capable of much more strength.
I often use the example of a stick figure to explain the importance of the powerhouse to my beginning clients:
Imagine this stick figure sculpture with very thick, strong, steel arms and legs. (Which is usually how we determine someone’s overall strength, and what many people like to focus on when they go to the gym to work out.)
What about the torso?
Now imagine the torso is made of a piece of tissue paper.
Then what good does it do to have such strong legs and arms?
Not much, especially since the torso contains the spine and powerhouse.
However, strength is only the foundation.
To balance the strength one must also be flexible.
Joe Pilates used to say….
“If your spine is inflexibly stiff at 30, you are old. If it is completely flexible at 60, you are young.”
Speaking of flexibility, as a trainer I see a lot of emphasis on stretching. Which is great, we all have tight muscles in need of a good stretch.
But in order for the body to be balanced there needs to be enough strength to balance the flexibility in a particular joint and vice versa.
Pilates has a specific sequence of exercises done in a certain order to allow for stretching and strengthening of the muscles in a balanced way.
So for a stretch to happen the opposite muscles need to be strong enough to support the own body’s ability to create that stretch.
By the end, there are very few muscles that have been left unexercised and over time you will find the entire body transformed.
I work with many clients with pain who find that Pilates helps them to strengthen, stretch, and stabilize their spine. This gives them a whole new awareness about what it means to stand tall against gravity and aging, use their joints correctly and move with freedom, often pain free.
Till next time!