In this blog series we are unraveling the six principles of Pilates: ~Control ~Concentration ~Centering ~Flow ~Precision ~Breath The third principle of Pilates is Centering. Pilates strengthens the core, or the Powerhouse, as Joseph Pilates called it. Our core is not simply our abdominals. Our core is composed of our deep stabilizing muscles: transverse abdominis, multifidis, diaphragm, and pelvic floor. These muscles are important for proper posture and optimal mechanics. While working out, they are often neglected in favor of more popular muscles such as the biceps and pecs. However, development of the deeper muscles is necessary for Centering.
The muscles depicted above are the:
transverse abdominus, multifidus, and diaphragm.
Pelvic floor not shown.
In life, we should move our limbs from a stable Center. But we often do the opposite – we move our spine and lock out our other joints. This reminds me of paddleboarding. When I paddleboard, I must focus on my Center to maintain balance. I should have a stable core, but be able to move fluidly from my arms to paddle forward. I also need to move from my knees and ankles to keep from falling in. It takes me a minute to remember this, but once I’m warmed up it’s smooth sailing! Well, until a boat zooms by sending menacing waves towards me. Suddenly, my Physical Therapy and Pilates logic leaves my brain. Fear sets in as I don’t want to fall in. I lock my knee joints and grip my paddle in two hands. This results in a stiff position that attempts to fight the waves instead of riding the wave.
To remain Centered, we should focus on normal posture. This includes good alignment of the pelvis and the three curves of our spine. The three natural curves are: the low back, midback, and neck.
You can improve your posture by elongating your spine towards the ceiling. In other words, imagine you are a marionette puppet and there is a string attached to your head. As someone gently tugs on that string, your spine will straighten out towards the ceiling.
With ideal posture, you could draw a straight line through your body as seen in the diagram. The line travels through the ear, tip of the shoulder, slightly behind the hip joint, and slightly in front of both the knee and ankle joint.
Aim to keep this posture throughout the day. Every time your smartwatch tells you to breathe, stand up, walk etc, check in with your posture.
Faulty posture leads to chronic strain on the muscles and joints in the body. This leads to neck, shoulder, jaw, low back, and hip pain. I have truly found that Pilates is the best exercise to improve posture and restore the natural curves of the spine.
The waves in the ocean aren’t the only thing in life that attempt to throw us off Center. Sometimes it can be a daily situation, such as the temptation to slump over our phones and laptops. Other times it can be a life altering event, such as COVID-19- see my story here.
Even when the waves of life come your way, stay calm, hold your composure, and stay Centered. “Developing minor muscles naturally helps to strengthen major muscles…when all of your muscles are properly developed you will perform your work with a minimum of effort and a maximum of pleasure.” ~Joseph Pilates