Updated: May 8, 2022
Within The Pilates Method, there are 6 guiding principles that help us better understand the original intention of Joseph Pilates. Today, I’m dedicating this post to the principle of “Concentration” which might sound like the most boring principle — except it just might be the most interesting of all!!
Pilates: Principle of Concentration
While looking at Pilates through the lens of “Concentration”, we learn that our minds have a direct and significant impact on how our bodies feel.
Benefits Of Concentration In Pilates
Within the Pilates exercises, we use concentration in three important ways… to gain better focus, improve coordination, and to move more naturally by fostering our imagination.
At first, we bring the mind into the present moment. Be thoughtful, curious, and mindful of what the body is doing, how the body feels, and the way it is taking up space and energy. Do this every time you come to your mat. Approach your workout like it’s the very first time and do yourself the service of learning something new(just one thing!) each and every time you practice Pilates.
It is often thought that Pilates requires a lot of brain power. It does, but not the exhausting type. The rejuvenating type that fills up your cup. Being present in your workout is a lot like meditation. Allow the thoughts in your head to come and go, allow the exercises to come and go, all while breathing and discarding any judgements. Just notice and keep moving. Stay curious!
I find it interesting that the definition of coordination is as follows… “The ability to use different parts of the body together smoothly and efficiently.” Not only should our body parts be moving together, but they should do so in a manner that is smooth and efficient. And exactly how does that happen, you might ask? Concentration.
As you advance through the Pilates work, we will challenge your sense of coordination more and more. You will have no choice but to keep your ears perked up, body ready to move and with your mind sharply focused. There will be no time to think about your ‘to-do’ list. Only what is coming next! A sort of, forced mediation, perhaps?!
As Pilates instructors, we offer you a multitude of different ways to think about the same exercise or body part. Imagination and imagery are some of the best tools in our belt.
For example, in the Rolling Like A Ball exercise, you could think about tightening your center, tensing your arms, and tipping your pelvic floor to roll back and forth. OR— you could think about being inside a huge inflatable ball that is encircling your body and breathing into your lungs to fill up that ball as you roll back. Either way is effective, but they offer very different sensations in the body.
Depending on the image, you might engage different muscle groups. While on all fours, you could try pressing your chin into your chest in order to round your back. OR— you could think about your tail pulling through your legs to touch your nose. Again, neither are wrong, they just produce a different effect on the body.
Act Like An Animal
In 1965, there was an article written in Sports Illustrated magazine titled, “Act Like an Animal” in which they describe Joe’s method of studying cats and the way they move. In fact, Joe encouraged his students to move in very natural, functional, and animalistic ways.
He recognized that the modern world was beginning to have negative effects on our bodies throughout our everyday life. We weren’t meant to sit for hours and hours on end. We weren’t meant to look downward at screens while making repeated movements with our thumbs. Our bodies weren’t even meant to sit on couches, never making our way to the ground and back up again. He noticed these things were stopping us from using the full range of motion our bodies, creating a convenient, comfortable world in which we would never have to lift a finger, literally.
New Video Release
As part of our upcoming series, “Concentration”, we will be exploring this notion of moving like an animal in hopes that you might find a more natural way to move your body-- outside of your normal routine.
"It can take years to change your body, but only your mind can do that."