The Fundamental Principles of Pilates

physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness

There are fundamental principles to any practice and the Pilates method is no different though they often are not discussed in a traditional mat class at your local gym.

Breathing, Centering, Concentration, Control, Flow and Precision are the six fundamental principles of the Pilates method as written by Joseph Pilates.

I have excerpted the text below in blue from “Pilates’ Return to Life Through Contrology” published by Presentation Dynamics [not an affiliate link].

In Return to Life through Contrology, Joseph Pilates writes:

Breathing is the first act of life, and the last.  Our very life depends on it.  Since we cannot live without breathing, it is tragically deplorable to contemplate the millions and millions who have never learned to master the art of correct breathing.”

In Pilates’ original exercise instructions, you will find extraordinary instructional emphasis on the inhalations and exhalations.  Pilates continually emphasized that students should use very full, deep breaths.  He used the metaphor of a bellows being much like our lungs; we should expand and contract our lungs in a full, complete and similar way to pump the air fully in and out of the body.

Centering represents the act of drawing your own mental and physical focus during each exercise to the core, or center (often called the “powerhouse”) of your body.  This is roughly the area between your lower ribs and hips, although it also includes the lower and upper back muscles.

Concentration is simply paying close attention to the specifics and details of every Pilates exercise.  Bring your full attention to the movements of each exercise in order to obtain maximum value.

“Concentrate on the correct movements EACH TIME YOU EXERCISE, lest you do them improperly and thus lose all the vital benefits of their value.  Correctly executed and mastered to the point of subconscious reaction, these exercises will reflect grace and balance in your routine activities.  Contrology exercises build a sturdy body and sound mind fitted to perform every daily task with ease and perfection as well as to provide tremendous reserve energy for sport, recreation, emergencies.”

Control represents the concept that it is your mind that directs and manages each separate muscular movement.

“Be certain that you have your entire body under complete mental control… Good posture can be successfully acquired only when the entire mechanism of the body is under perfect control.”

Flow.  Pilates exercises can and should be done in a flowing manner, with the goals of fluidity, elegance, and grace.  The intention is that the energy one exerts during each exercise should connect all body parts smoothly and thereby flow evenly through your body.

Precision is the final fundamental principle and for the technically inclined among us, it is imperative that we as students maintain, and we as instructors teach, a conscious awareness of precision during each exercise’s movements.  Pilates’ original teachings and step by step instructions were always very specific in the placement, alignment, and trajectory for each moving part of the body.

Each time an exercise is executed, you begin with precision, then move into flow.  As a beginner, once the movements are understood, you incorporate breath patterns, and then concentrate on the control and centering of the body.  Through continued practice, these six principles become incorporated in every movement your body makes, even in your every day life.

For me, it is these principles that keep me coming back to the mat to practice.  They challenge my focus, attention as well as my body.  How about you, when you practice, do you actively take these six principles into account, or are they more of an underlying general theme?

Until next time Stars, with gratitude,


The Build-Up


My first official class is tonight.  I’m nervous.  There are people signed up who I do not yet know, and the others who are coming have various levels of fitness. As a brand-spanking new teacher, I hope that I am able to give my students an experience that they will enjoy coming back to again next week.

Since my accreditation weekend, my father has been my biggest supporter.  At 65, he’s in pretty decent shape and makes a point to get to the gym at least twice a week.  He has been through several practice classes with me, and each time he gives me more feedback from his student perspective.  I’ve been taking Pilates classes for so many years now, that I have a hard time remembering the feeling of being a beginner.  It has been really fun to see his progression in his understanding of the exercises and he is starting to notice when I deviate from the manual.

One of the big themes I took away from my accreditation was that the Pilates practice is layered.  There are beginner exercises, specific breath patterns for certain movements, and cueing that needs to take place.  Increasing the distance from your center makes exercises more challenging, just like stepping out of your comfort zone to try something new.  It is important to be patient with yourself, and be okay with the modifications if that’s where you are that day, because other days you will be ready to challenge yourself to get to the next level.

Now, I just need to shift my perspective to the teacher side and tell myself the same thing.  I will have my “script” with me as a safety blanket because there is a certain order, and breath patterns to certain exercises, but I trust that over time, the more comfortable I get teaching, the less I will feel the need for it and the more I will feel as a teacher in the moment focused on the bodies moving in front of me without having to rely on the notes.

Honestly, even just writing out this post this morning has made me feel more relaxed and confident going into my first class tonight.  I know that I have friends there to support me in this journey, as well as friends I have yet to meet who are interested in taking this journey with me too.

Thank you for betting on me, as well as yourself, Star.  You are worth the work we are going to put in, I promise!

With gratitude,