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The Origins of Pilates

Joseph Pilates, the creator of the Pilates method, famously said “In 10 sessions you will feel the difference, in 20 you will see the difference. In 30 you will be on your way to having a whole new body.” A former boxer and gymnast, Joseph developed the concept of the reformer in during World War I using rigged hospital bed springs. He enabled bedridden patients of the war to exercise against resistance. Once returning to the States his method was adopted by the dance community – eventually evolving to become one of the most sought after methods of training today. If you like yoga and an emphasis on the core… this workout is for you. The focus on strength and flexibility with good posture meant there was a much lower chance of injury. Form is key and each instructor and class elaborates on the original method to create an engaging and challenging workout. Read on for the 6 defining principles of Pilates…



  1. Control: This is considered the primary principle of Pilates, so much so the original name was “Contrology”. Josephs philosophy revolved around the idea that few movements performed correctly were more effective than many repetitions performed sloppily. This principle applies to all movement. The relationship between breathe and movement is key when applying control.
  2. Concentration: Carrying on from the above, Pilates requests a deep focus. Joseph asked for “complete coordination of body, mind and spirit” The micro-movements in Pilates require a lot of concentration so in a class you will often be made aware of your breathe. Many people find Pilates not only a great physical workout, but also relaxing due to the emphasis on mindfulness.
  3. Centering: Energy in movement “flows from a strong center” By drawing in the belly “Navel to Spine” and tightening the muscles around the waist , the spine is supported and strong. This is referred to as the powerhouse: the upper abdominals, buttocks, and inner thigh muscles. Try to lift up your pelvic floor, pause at the end of each movement and activate your center.
  4. Precision: the goal is to execute each movement in a mindful and precise manner. Alignment is key for this workout as is a focused approach to each breathe and movement. No part of the exercise should be an afterthought or met with preference.
  5. Breath: Lateral breathing is the preferred method for Pilates. This includes breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth – but activating the bodys back and sides. You should feel your ribcage expand at the sides not your belly rising forward. This allows you to focus on the principle of centering. Movement and breath are very much synchronised in this workout.
  6. Flow: In Pilates, the flow of movement is essential. You should operate each movement as if you are working with a metronome. The fluidity of the practice is why the dance community were such avid adopters. The seamless nature of transitional movements allow for no wasted time and a full body workout.