“Concentrate on the correct movement each time you exercise, lest you do them improperly and thus lose all vital benefits." – Joseph Pilates
When you’ve been doing Pilates for a long time, it’s easy to get caught up in rushing the exercises and just "going through the motions." We often call this “muscling it,” as opposed to moving with control and precision.
In Pilates, we play with tempo to increase aerobic capacity and develop endurance, and as a challenge to see if we can maintain posture, stability and alignment. It’s part of advancing your Pilates practice.
That said, it’s important to slow things down every once in a while—and get back to the basics—to ensure proper and efficient movement, and to remember our foundation.
The Importance Of A Strong Foundation In Pilates
Like in any pure art form, a solid foundation is of utmost importance to the Pilates practice. If there are any holes or gaps of strength, connection or understanding in one's body, the preceding exercises will be ineffective and counterproductive.
It takes using and controlling one's entire body—we call this full-body integration—to properly perform the exercises in the Pilates method.
Three reasons why a strong foundation is so crucial:
Getting “Back To The Basics” (As A Seasoned Veteran)
Like I mentioned above, once you have a strong Pilates foundation, you never forget it, like riding a bike. But that doesn’t mean we don’t get lazy every now and again as we speed things up and start performing more powerful movements.
This is why I encourage you to slow down and remember your foundation. Rather, let your body remember your foundation.
One can continue to practice the foundation and basic level of Pilates without getting bored or being too redundant. Pilates has so many valuable principles that allow us to shift our focus on precision, imagination, concentration, breath, intuition, fluidity, centering, control, integration.
Be "OK" with doing repetitive footwork, hundreds and other exercises that strengthen your foundation.
Be "OK" with slowing things down occasionally and bringing it back to the basics.
The “Powerhouse” is one of the most important concepts in the classical Pilates method, as Joe Pilates wrote about in his book Return To Life in the 1930s.
In recent years, the ideas of “core strength” and “core training” have become very popular and are used somewhat interchangeably with “Powerhouse,” but they’re not the same.
Let’s dive deeper into the anatomy of the Pilates “Powerhouse” and why it’s so important to the practice of Pilates.
New to the Pilates world? Here are 15 Pilates terms to familiarize yourself with before taking your first class.
The Anatomy of The Pilates Powerhouse
Joe Pilates’ “Powerhouse” is an area of the body that includes the following muscle groups and subgroups.
The Abdominal Muscles
The Deep Back Muscles
Three big words and a lot of information to get caught up on here. So, in brief, together these deep back muscles create a chevron-like shaped musculature. They attach to the back bones and side bones of the body. These muscles are responsible for extension, rotation and side-bending.
When back muscles are weak, the spine can become compromised and cause back pain and various other issues. The semispinalis, multifidus and rotatores muscles help stabilize the verbal column, aid in balance and help maintain posture.
The Hip Flexor Muscles
- Psoas major
- Psoas minor
These three hip flexor muscles are what attach the thigh bone to the pelvis. The psoas attaches to the spine and crosses the hip flexor, supporting the body’s upper extremities and lifting the legs in conjunction with the abdominals.
Modern life puts a lot of stress on the hip flexor muscles and consequentially pulls the spine into forward flexion if they are weak, causing back issues.
Why Is The Powerhouse Important?
The muscles that make up the “Powerhouse” work together to form a supportive corset for your trunk. Joe Pilates’ method teaches that all movement starts in the “Powerhouse.” Not only do these core muscles help stabilize and balance, but they also help us create the bigger and more explosive moves we make.
A strong and pliable “Powerhouse” promotes better posture and improves spinal health. It leads to noticeable improvements in one’s strength, stamina, flexibility and balance, plus a greater overall feeling of wellness.
The Pilates method teaches students how to activate their “Powerhouse” in various exercises while stabilizing and engaging specific muscles. It is taught along with proper breathing and focus to retrain the body to “power-up,” breathe and engage from the center (including your hips and glutes—we will talk more about the gluteal muscles soon).
Activate Your Pilates Powerhouse
Discovering, building and strengthening your Pilates “Powerhouse” is a huge part of our practice at Studio Be. We believe it’s never too late to retrain and learn how your use your body for stronger, healthier results.
Ready to start engaging your “Powerhouse”? Come take a class with us! If you’re new to the Pilates world, the best way to get started is taking a private class to learn the proper movements.
For a limited time, we’re offering 3 private sessions for only $225—click here to get started!
Understanding Pilates terminology before you take your first class can help make the experience more enjoyable—and less confusing.
Below, we give you a glossary of some of the most commonly used Pilates terms (that you might hear your instructor use) to prepare you for class.
We promise there’s no quiz at the end, but there may be a special offer…
The c-curve refers to the shape your body takes and maintains during certain Pilates exercises on the Mat and Reformer. The c-curve position should be initiated by your abdominals. It sets the stage for a flexible spine and a strong core.
The term “box” was coined by Joe Pilates, the creator of Pilates, and refers to the line across your collarbone (from shoulder to shoulder) and the two lines that go down the sides of your torso, and then crossing your hip bones. The Pilates “box” is meant to bring awareness to your posture. It’s a way to keep your shoulders and hips level and even, like a box.
In Pilates, it’s important to learn to move from your center. In class you will hear this a lot—return to your center, be always in your center—whether you are standing, sitting, or lying down.
Imprinting is the action of rolling down your spine and articulating it to improve your spinal alignment during certain Pilates movements. Imprinting correctly should release tightness, improve your posture and help align your “box.”
You use your inner eye to become more aware of your surroundings, alignment and posture.
Simply put, these are the muscles located between your ribs.
This type of conscious breathing emphasizes the lateral expansion of your rib cage and expands the intercostal muscles. It’s done while maintaining a consistent inward pull of the deep abdominal muscles as you breath in and out.
Read more about the importance of breathing in Pilates.
In Pilates, your “midline” refers to the (imaginary) straight line that runs from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet.
This stance, thought of as a neutral position in Pilates, is used to set up and prepare for an exercise. When in Pilates stance, your legs are together, straight and rotated outward from the top of the thigh, bringing your heels together with the toes pointing slightly out (into a V-shape). You can think of this position like “first” position in ballet, but not quite as extreme.
This is your upper shoulder girdle, including your entire core from your upper ribcage to your lower pelvic area, pelvic-floor muscles, hips and glutes.
This piece of equipment—one of the most widely known Pilates apparatus—is made up of a unique combination of springs, pulleys, straps and a sliding carriage.
Learn more about the Reformer and other common types of Pilates equipment.
When you perform an abdominal scoop, you engage the pelvic floor and pull your abs inward and, at the same time, draw your belly button down towards your spine.
Tabletop is the starting position for many Pilates exercises performed on the Mat. When in “tabletop” position, you lay flat on your back with your knees bent at a 45-degree angle. Your thighs are perpendicular to the ground and your legs should gently squeeze together and engage the inner thighs.
The motion of drawing your abdominals in and up, like you’re zipping up a vest.
To “button-up” means to draw your ribs in and down—like you’re buttoning up a vest that is too small and drawing your ribs inward to fit.
New to Pilates and looking for a place to start? Now that you know all of the essential Pilates terms, you’re ready to crush your first class.
Click here to sign up for one of our new student special offers!
“Above all learn to breathe” – Joe Pilates.
For those who are just beginning to explore and practice the Pilates method, it often comes as a surprise how much emphasis is put on the act of breathing. We all breathe, all day long, every second… so we typically don’t give it much thought.
Joe Pilates, the creator of the Pilates method, stressed the importance of inhaling fresh air and exhaling stale air. He believed proper breathing promotes a path towards “total health.”
The History Behind Pilates Breath
Joe Pilates was born in Dusseldorf, Germany in 1883. He was a small, weak child who suffered from asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever, a disease that affects the heart, joints, brain and skin.
His father was a prize-winning gymnast and his mother was a naturopath, so when a family physician gave him an old anatomy book, his fascination with the human body came quite naturally. He memorized every page and every muscle, learning how each one functioned and moved. Later he studied both Eastern and Western forms of exercise, including yoga. By the time he was 14, he had worked so hard developing his body that he was modeling for anatomy charts.
The Pilates method sprang from Joe Pilates’ determination to strengthen his own frail and sickly body. And he learned at a young age the importance of proper breathing, which is why it’s part of the very foundation of his practice.
What Is Pilates Breathing?
The human body needs ample amounts of oxygen to function at optimal performance, and the lungs are responsible for feeding that oxygen to the body’s cells through the bloodstream. By employing full inhalations and full exhalations, you expel stale air and noxious gases from the depths of your lungs, replenishing your body with fresh air to energize and revitalize your system. The Pilates method is built around cleansing the bloodstream through oxygenation.
Joe Pilates believed that proper breathing helps control your movements both during the Pilates exercises and in daily life. It gives you more stamina, allows for better concentration and makes you feel more alive and alert.
When we talk about breathing in Pilates, we mean effective, conscious breathing that expands your lungs fully with each inhalation. Over time, ineffective or “lazy” breathing can overwork the more flexible parts of your lungs and allow other areas to grow continually stiffer and tighter.
On the contrary, deep and uniform breathing leads to uniform development, allowing you to find the unexpanded areas of your lungs and teach them to stretch to full capacity.
Pilates “Rolling” Technique
Many Pilates exercises involve an action known as “rolling”. According to Joe Pilates, “It is this very action of rolling and unrolling that cleanses your lungs so effectively by driving out the impure air and forcing in the pure air.” (Return to Life Through Contrology).
Joe Pilates believed the concept of cleansing the lungs by rolling the spine so important that he created a multitude of exercises incorporating this spinal massage movement.
When you roll forward your body’s action helps push all the air out of your lungs, and when you roll backward, your lungs naturally expand to fill again with fresh, pure air.
How To Practice Pilates Breathing At Home
Ready to practice Pilates breathing in your daily life? Try this exercise anywhere!
This book is also a great resource for learning about the importance of breathing and how to do it correctly in order to jump-start athletic performance, rejuvenate internal organs, halt snoring, asthma and autoimmune disease—the health benefits are endless.
New to Pilates or Studio Be? Come take a class with us and experience the benefits of Pilates breathing. Click here to check out our special offers!
If you’ve been to a Pilates studio, you’ve likely been introduced to a wide range of equipment, also known as the Pilates apparatus. Or maybe you’ve peaked into your local studio or seen Pilates performed on TV and have been wondering about all of those “crazy-looking” contraptions.
Pilates is a system of exercise that combines both Mat-work and apparatus-based exercises. These pieces of apparatus can seem intimidating at first, but once you understand the purpose and proper technique, they can be life-changing.
Below, I explain the three main types of Pilates apparatus, as well as Mat Pilates and why we still need it to complete the Pilates practice.
Aside from the Mat, the Reformer is probably the most widely known piece of Pilates apparatus. The Reformer’s unique combination of springs, pulleys, straps and sliding carriage make it an incredibly versatile piece of equipment. Joe Pilates, the creator of the Pilates method, was way ahead of his time when he invented this apparatus we still use today.
Like most Pilates equipment, the Reformer differs from traditional fitness equipment in very fundamental ways. Rather than using an isolated set of muscles to move an external force, such as how weight training machines work, you use your “Powerhouse” (core muscles) to lift and pull your body’s weight along with the Reformer’s spring-loaded carriage. This action automatically centers you and helps develop balance, coordination, as well as body and space awareness. At the same time, it strengthens and stretches your entire body, not just any one isolated set of muscles.
When Joe Pilates developed a series of exercises for the Reformer, he intended for them to be performed in a specific sequence and manner, resulting in a series of constant, flowing movements. This is done while inhaling and exhaling for 30 to 60 minutes during the nonstop workout.
Each Reformer exercise prepares your mind and body for the next one—warming your muscles, awakening your mind and body, stimulating your organs, coordinating your breathing and training your muscles to “fire” in the correct sequence to give you the maximum fitness benefits from the exercise movements. I love this workout and how it feels.
The Tower is an adaptation of The Cadillac (also known as a Trapeze Table). It is a Pilates apparatus that is attached to the Reformer, but offers a more stable surface to work from.
Unlike the Reformer, which slides back and forth, the Tower remains stationary and is positioned on an integrated Mat. The client can hold on to the handles or the grab bar that is attached to springs of varying tension. To work the lower body, they can put their feet inside of the loops that attach to the springs.
For some, the stable base of the Tower can make it less intimidating than the Reformer with all of its moving parts. That’s why this apparatus is ideal for beginning clients, or those recovering from injuries. Additionally, there is very little pressure on the joints because your body weight is supported by the Mat portion of the apparatus.
Ultimately, there’s an unlimited number of possibilities with the Tower that incorporate basic Mat exercises, ranging from gentle to the most extreme depending upon your needs and abilities. At Studio Be, the Tower Class is a signature class because it’s one of the best ways to utilize springs for a deeper stretch with resistance training, allowing for a full-body workout.
The Wunda Chair
In the Pilates system there are two main types of chairs: the Wunda Chair (also known as the “Low” chair) and the High chair. The main difference between the two is the High Chair has a back and two handles that rise on either side and the Wunda chair does not. The Wunda chair has simplistic design, consisting of a box with a padded top and a pedal on one side that moves against the resistance of springs anchored to the opposite side of the chair. We typically use the Wunda Chair for group classes at Studio Be.
Joe Pilates would perform over 50 exercises on the Wunda Chair. You can sit, kneel, lie or stand on, in front of or behind the chair, face toward or away from it—even sideways—as you move the spring-loaded bar.
The chair’s versatile design enables users to get amazing results, from beginners and injured clients to the most advanced students challenging themselves with pushups, backbends and pull-ups.
Pilates Mat work is a system of exercises that happen in a very specific order, performed on—you guessed it—a Mat. Joe Pilates created the Mat-based exercises before he created the Pilates apparatus. His Mat work complements the apparatus exercises, and vice versa.
Although born in a different era, Joe Pilates understood the physical and mental pressures of a busy schedule. He believed his Pilates method would propel people to become more productive both physically and mentally. For this reason, Pilates Mat work is designed to fit into the time constraints of each individual without diminishing its comprehensive elements—Mat exercises can be performed anytime, anywhere.
Getting Started With Pilates
Ultimately, Joe Pilates taught the importance to train on all types of Pilates apparatus to gain a deeper understanding of the Pilates method. He taught that practicing Pilates is a balancing act between body and mind, therefore he coined his method “Contrology”—meaning pure control of the mind and body.
Are you ready to take back control? The best way to get started is taking a private class to learn the proper movements and techniques. For a limited time, we’re offering a series of three private sessions for only $225 to help you get started.
Learn how to book your private sessions here.
If you’ve been around the fitness world, you’ve likely heard of Pilates. Or maybe you’ve heard that your favorite celebrity is doing Pilates and the practice has “changed their life.” But why Pilates, over all of the other exercise and fitness methods out there?
Before we dive into why people choose Pilates (keep scrolling if you can’t wait), it’s important to understand exactly what Pilates is all about.
Let’s get down to it…
What Is Pilates, Exactly?
Developed by Joe Pilates in the early 20th century, Pilates is a unique, systematic and integrative approach to body conditioning—utilizing body weight and springs for resistance training to strengthen, stretch and realign. It’s a compressive program that progresses a person from simple fundamental movements to very advanced skills on multiple Pilates apparatuses. (Yes, I’m talking about those crazy-looking contraptions you’ve seen when you’ve peaked into your local Pilates studio, and they all serve a purpose.)
Pilates brings a myriad of benefits for everyone, including the following improvements to your physical and mental condition:
One buzz word you might hear in Pilates is “Powerhouse.” This word was coined by Joe Pilates as the core muscles, which include, the hips, abdominals and upper shoulder girdle. When a person works from their “Powerhouse,” there are noticeable improvements in their posture, strength, stamina, flexibility, balance and an overall feeling of wellness. Regular practice is guaranteed to energize the body and sharpen the mind.
As a whole-body exercise—encompassing mind, body and spirit—Joe Pilates believed that the mind plays a vital role in body conditioning, so he designed the Pilates method around these six guiding principles:
Why Pilates Over Other Exercise Methods?
There are seemingly thousands of workouts, fitness trends and exercise methods to choose from. It can become overwhelming at times when you’re just trying to find the best way to improve your health and get moving.
So why choose Pilates?
I tell clients that practicing Pilates is like reading, learning and memorizing the owner’s manual of how to properly move your body. It’s therapeutic in a way that brings you back to balance, proper posture and grounds you in your center.
It’s a complete lifestyle, on-and-off the Mat (or apparatus).
There’s a reason professionals and performers—such as musicians, athletes, dancers, you name it—turn to Pilates as their exercise method of choice or add it to their fitness repertoire.
Pilates is incredibly athletic and advanced, and a lot of people don’t understand this until they’ve done it for years (and seen the results). This shouldn’t stop anyone from trying it out, though. Pilates is for everyone, and you can start at any point in your life. It’s all about learning the technique, first and foremost. We recommend starting out with a series of privates.
Not convinced yet? Read on for the many undeniable health benefits Pilates has to offer.
5 Health Benefits Of Pilates
1. Improves Flexibility & Elongates Muscles
Instead of holding static stretches, Pilates is all about movements that incorporate the resistance of springs to deepen the stretch and overall flexibility. This allows tight, short muscles to lengthen and grow stronger in their full extension.
2. Increases Stability & Balance
Stability and balance come from having a strong core, stable joints and flexibility. A regular Pilates routine helps develop a more stable and balanced body.
3. Promotes Better Posture
Pilates promotes better posture by helping to realign the body and spine. Sitting and standing with proper alignment keeps your spine healthy and strong. This is what we mean when we say Pilates isn’t just a type of workout, it’s a whole lifestyle. A regular Pilates routine spills into everyday life and promotes better habits when you’re sitting at work, driving your car, and so on.
4. Strengthens The “Powerhouse”
The core is the center of the body from which all movement stems. That being said, it’s important for people to realize that core is more than just the abdominal muscles. It’s the entire trunk, which also includes the hips, the inner and outer thighs and the back. When strengthened and pliable, these muscles support and stabilize the body. They’re also where all of your explosive movements come from (hence the name “Powerhouse”) and contribute to your overall stamina.
5. Improves Breathing
In the words of Joe Pilates, "Above all, learn how to breathe correctly." Breathing well nourishes every system of the body and allows the body to operate optimally—during Pilates class and long after you leave the studio. Proper breathing eases and releases tension in the body, leaving you feeling calm, less stressed and more energized.
Getting Started With Pilates
If you’re new to the Pilates world, the best way to get started is taking a private class to learn the proper movements and techniques.
For a limited time, we’re offering 3 private sessions for only $225. You don’t want to miss this—click here to learn more and claim your offer.
About The Author
Fitness has always been a guiding force for Kathy Lopez, owner of Studio Be. Her inherent drive for health has naturally translated into helping others achieve strength, balance and wellness. Kathy has been voted Ventura's best Pilates instructor nine years in a row. Learn more...