The principles

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Pilates utilises a number of principles, including centring, concentration, control, precision, breath and flow. The Menezes Method also adds isolation and routine to these concepts to increase the degree of challenge.
While some of these may seem obvious, they are essential to getting the most out of your Pilates experience.

“The principles combine and allow you to target muscles and isolate specific areas that may otherwise be ignored during the Pilates movements,” Menezes says.

Centering
Pilates is based on core strength, and this concept requires you to focus on the powerhouse of your body in order to get the most out of each routine. A strong centre is essential for maintaining control and balance in your body, and focusing your attention on your core muscles will improve the effectiveness of the exercises and improve your alignment and balance.

Concentration
Concentration is a vital aspect of Pilates because the movements require your full focus to be performed correctly. The movements involved are constantly changing, and paying close attention will allow you to flow through the routine without interruption. Concentrating on the specific muscle each movement targets also makes sure you are performing the positions correctly and getting the most out of every move.

Control
This concept is mainly focused on muscle control, and aims to ensure you are in control of every muscle movement throughout the routine. As with every form of exercise, it’s important you maintain proper form and technique, and this is especially important in Pilates because every movement is designed with a specific muscle in mind. Without control, your main muscles will do all the work while smaller and harder-to-target muscles remain neglected.

Precision

It’s important to note that each body part has a specific position in Pilates. While the specific positioning and movements of Pilates may seem like a complex science for beginners, it’s essential you attempt to perform the moves as precisely as possible to gain the maximum benefits. Remember that practice makes perfect, and although it may seem challenging at first, with practice your movements will become more precise.

Breath
Although this concept seems simple, it is one of the more complex foundations of Pilates. Joseph Pilates recognised that oxygen recharges our body and prevents fatigue. Consequently, coordinating breathing with each position is essential for proper Pilates form. Full inhalations and exhalations will assist your movement, particularly during more difficult exercises. It’s also important to remember to keep your core muscles engaged and avoid holding your breath at any time.

“A simple practise exercise is to take deep breaths, and when you exhale, remove all the air from your lungs – we call this ‘ocean breath’,” Menezes says. “If you get this right you will feel your abdominals contract and get the most out of the Pilates exercises.”

Flow
Pilates is based on a series of fluid movements to keep the routine in a steady, graceful flow that constantly engages muscles. Avoid jarring movements that interrupt the transition between positions, and avoid wasting energy on unnecessary movements. Of course, this won’t come naturally if it’s your first time at Pilates, but as you familiarise yourself with the movements, the flow of the routine will become more natural.

Isolation
Successfully isolating individual muscles will allow you to target any specific problem areas you may have and get the most out of Pilates. A general guide is to feel if the muscle is tensed. If it isn’t, then the muscle is not being isolated properly.

Routine
Persistence and dedication to your Pilates routine will ensure you are receiving the optimal benefits. The more you do, the better you will become and the greater results you will see. Don’t be put off if you don’t see results right away – sticking to a routine of at least three times a week will have you seeing results in around four weeks.

Image of Pia Muehlenbeck & workout by KX Group founder Aaron Smith.

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