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Concepts of Pilates

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Since the exercise form's conception, Pilates has been known to be a type of exercise that sets itself apart from similar forms of exercise like Yoga. One of the major differences between arts like Yoga and meditation and Pilates is the absence of religious or spiritual concepts present in the latter.

Instead, Pilates focuses upon form, function and concentration as a way of relaxing the mind and freeing the body from harmful emotions and waste build up. In addition, Pilates exercise routines can be performed without any equipment, similar to Yoga, or wholly performed using equipment that is specifically designed to perform the movements that are unique to Pilates.

The form of exercise was originally developed by Joseph Pilates in the 1920's and was designed to facilitate rehabilitation and body control for prisoners of war that were injured on the battle field. In fact the original name of Pilates was actually Contrology. The exercises are meant to develop the body into a form of complete mental and physical control through use of machines or the body itself.

The following are the six major concepts that are required for successful performance of any exercise or complete routine. You will notice that, although they are different arts, the concepts of Pilates and Yoga look remarkably similar. In fact, you could use these concepts with your Yoga poses as an added benefit.

The Six Major Concepts of Pilates

Center Focus

  • This concept involves the body concentrating on the physical centering of the body (often referred to as the core in other methods). In Pilates, this physical center is called the power house area. The specific area that is involved in centering exercises is the area located in the space between the bottom of the rib cage and the pubic bone. Most Pilates workouts are designed to work from the power house area to the rest of the body.


  • The concept involved in the body being able to concentrate is generally thought to be one of the most important in this form of exercise. In order to achieve the best results, you must concentrate on every single motion that you perform during each workout. Not only must you concentrate on each motion, you must show the commitment to do so by adhering to a regular and carefully scheduled program.

Ability to Control

  • As well as being able to concentrate on every single motion in Pilates, you must be able to practice complete control over every portion of your body while doing so. Exercises done without sufficient control (even with body parts that do not seem to be involved with the movement) are thought to be minimally effective in the long run. After all, without physical control over the exercises, mental control is very difficult if not impossible to obtain. Always practice control over your entire body. This also includes periods when you are not exercising.

Precise Motions

  • As well as being in control of your entire body, you must develop a system of precise motions that are specifically designed to have the most effect on your muscles. The motions that you perform must not be done to their maximum efficiency or done to such a small degree that they do not have enough of a positive effect on the body and mind. Three terms that should always be on your mind while exercising are placement, alignment and trajectory.


  • Is every mental practice of exercise, breath control and regularity is of utmost importance. Just like in every other slow exercise program, you must remember to exhale while pushing weight and inhale while releasing it. For example, while doing bicep curls, you would take a deep and cleansing breath then exhale as you pulled the dumbbell towards your body. As you lowered the weight back toward your hips, you would take another deep and cleansing breath. Almost every movement that is done within Pilates is done in coordination with breathing techniques.


  • One of the most important concepts involved with Pilates is the flow at which the exercises are done. This concept is closely related to control as all controlled movements are done with a fluid and graceful approach. One of the best ways that you can exercise with fluidity and control is by using Pilates equipment. This equipment is specifically designed to mimic the proper motions required to meet most of the above concepts. In fact, if you are not doing the exercises correctly, the equipment will cease to work or become very loud and obtrusive.

Implementing the Concepts of Pilates into Your Life

Every Pilates workout program should incorporate all of the elements that you wish to work on. Keep in mind that Pilates is more focused on balance and flexibility than other similar forms of relaxing exercise. It is important to maintain focus on proper breathing. In general, you should exhale as you move into a position and inhale as you leave it.

pilates exercise

Pilates is one of the few exercise types that is designed for, and can be, performed everyday as the stress that is placed on the joints is minimal. In addition, Pilates does not tax the cardiovascular system to the extent that other forms of exercise do. For these reasons, Pilates is ideal for individuals that are looking to improve both their physical and mental health without having to perform a high intensity exercise type.

As you design your own Pilates program it is best to make it short enough that you feel you would be able to perform it every day before your morning shower or right before bed. As with other similar forms of exercise, remaining consistent (both in time and proper technique) is the most important part.