The 8 Principles of Pilates

By Liz Nelson from Last Chance Training

The Pilates Method was developed by Joseph Pilates in the early 1900s.  Sickly as a child, Joseph Pilates began experimenting with a number of different methods of physical conditioning – both from Eastern and Western perspectives from which he would eventually select the best features and devised a series of original exercises which were dubbed “Contrology”. 

Contrology later morphed into what is known as the Pilates Method today and is based on eight guiding principles.

These are:

·     Alignment – how the body constantly adapts and adjusts to its surroundings.   In today’s pilates training, alignment encompasses correct postural alignment, which in turn allows our body’s core stabilizers to work efficiently and effectively.

·    Breathing – Pilates proposed that by focusing on the breath, it was a way of keeping the bloodstream pure.  Breathing in modern day pilates aids concentration, relaxation and teaches us how to expand our thoracic muscles properly.

·    Concentration – Listening to the body using the internal focus of concentration brings another dimension to each pilates exercise and helps condition our nervous system to switch on the correct muscles when asked to. 

·    Core – All movements in pilates have a physical centre from which movement proceeds – in Pilates terms, this is known as the “Powerhouse”.  In the pilates practice of today, this is about developing control through our core musculature, namely our abdominals, pelvic floor lower back muscles, hips and gluteals.   Focusing on initiating movements from the core allows the limbs to move without excessive tension and provides support and stability.

·   Stamina – in the Pilates Method, the core’s ability to be able to sustain the correct amount of activation is tested through graduation of workload through various exercises.     Sustained muscular endurance is crucial in developing and keeping a healthy core.

·    Co-ordination – pilates improves kinaesthetic (movement) awareness and improves co-ordination by developing a heightened awareness in the body.

Flexibility and contol- Pilates encourages optimal mobility through targeted flexibility work for stiff bodies and strength and stability work for those with hyper mobile joints. 

·   Flow and Relaxation – in order to be able to perform pilates movements properly, it’s important to be relaxed.  Joseph Pilates incorporated relaxation and flexibility exercises into his method for just that purpose.   Pilates movements have often been described as “flowing motion outwards from a strong centre.”


Pilates is an exercise method that when performed precisely can benefit everybody.  Pilates is particularly effective for women, especially those who have had children as it combines relaxation with core stability retraining, which can improve post partum belly tone and control of the pelvic floor.  Instruction by a qualified Pilates instructor is crucial – as the technique is very precise.

Pilates improves postural problems, can prevent injury and enhances ease of movement and best of all is no impact and very easy on the joints.   Pilates can be done with or without equipment, making it a very versatile method of exercise.


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