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,


Practice, Patience and Persistence


“Patience and persistence are vital qualities in the ultimate successful accomplishment of any worthwhile endeavor.” ~Joseph Pilates, Return to Life Through Contrology

After I put my 8yo son to bed last night and emerged from his room around 9:00pm, I remembered how many times I have read or heard how important an at-home practice is to sticking with the Pilates (or any) Method.  Rather than putting on Netflix to fold the mountain of clean laundry, I decided to step into the office and focus on my Pilates studies instead.

This past weekend my family and I went to a store called Five Below for the first time.  As it turns out, it’s similar to a dollar store, but with a $5 limit instead of $1.  Needless to say, when I walked in and first saw their fitness display, I was in love!  They had yoga/Pilates mats, magic circles (!!), foam rollers, resistance bands, gliders, medicine balls and even weights.  I filled my basket with a bunch of inexpensive fitness items and left ridiculously excited to begin my at-home practice.

Patience and Persistence

For me, financials have proven to be a major barrier for me to both begin my certification process and attend classes at various facilities around town.  I had signed up to begin my certification last fall, but with scheduling issues and then our family car breaking down, I had to practice my patience and keep the goal in mind.

Patience has never been a strong suit of mine, and since becoming a mother and wife of a full time artist, I have had my patience tested daily.

One of the best things about Pilates is that all you need is carpet, a towel or a mat and there are endless online videos to help you improve your practice.  This is where persistence comes into play.  If you don’t practice, then you will not improve.  If you are not patient with yourself during that practice, you will not improve.  Learning to be kind and patient with myself through this process so far has been humbling.

I created my Instagram feed (@BlueStarPilates) to keep myself accountable and have a sacred space dedicated just to Pilates/fitness since my personal account runs the gamut of bands, comedians, dogs and randomness.  The accounts I have found so far have been incredibly inspiring and have helped me stay focused on my studies.  I have also discovered some fun Pilates challenges like #MagicCircleMonday, #TeaserTuesday and #FoamRollerFriday.

With my new Magic Circle, I set out to try to make my first video last night to post on my feed for #MagicCircleMonday.  Apparently though, the lighting in our office is not made for iPhone videos, so I scrapped that idea and decided instead to simply practice my beginner mat course workout instead.  I’m glad I did.

While listening and following along to the beginner mat class, I remembered a discussion that I heard on the Thinking Pilates podcast about the classical order and finding a freedom in sticking with the traditional order of the exercises.  Chantill and her guest mentioned that the benefit of working within a set order is that you learn what is expected within each exercise and then you can focus on perfecting different aspects each time.  You can come to a greater mastery if you work within a certain framework because instead of focusing on learning a brand new move, you zero in on the minor details to perfect it, with persistence.

The best way that I know how to relieve my anxiety about my first upcoming certification weekend is to be as prepared in advance as I am able.  I am confident that I will have the list all memorized by the first day and I know that I will emerge from that weekend a changed person, and I can’t wait!

Tell me Stars, what have you enjoyed about practicing your patience and persistence?

Until next time,