7 Priniciples of Pilates


When performing Pilates movements, it is very important that you concentrate on every movement in your body.  For example, when you curl your head off the mat, what happens to your neck?  Your upper back?  What is happens to your shoulders?  Do you feel a difference between your right shoulder and your left shoulder?  What happens to your ribcage?  Your hips?  What happens to your arms?  Your legs?  What happens to your chest?  These are a few questions to ask yourself during every movement while doing Pilates.  It is of the utmost importance that you move correctly while doing each exercise.  This will take time as your body physically learns the new patterns of movement required to execute the exercises correctly.  Your mind will become more aware of the feeling of the movements and any changes that occur in other places in your body.  Your mind becomes more focused and the exercises become invasive in all you do.


I like to think of the “Powerhouse”, as Joseph Pilates would call it, as the center of all exercises.  My teachers taught me a very interesting and unique way to engage the muscles of the core or powerhouse:

I like to use the “X with a hat” with my clients to cue neutral pelvis and focus power from the center, improving control, precision, and power.


Controlled breathing is very important with all Pilates exercises.  It helps facilitate all movements and feeds oxygen to your body to help the cells do their jobs.  I recommend learning how to breathe into the pelvis than flowing the breath into the ribcage.   Sometimes with Pilates I will do ribcage breathing.  Having the ribcage open as an umbrella and closing like an umbrella.  Expanding the ribcage and contracting the ribcage.


As you become more aware of and comfortable with a particular movement, control will need to be added to increase the effects of the movement in all other parts of your body.  You must learn to keep a neutral neck position, neutral pelvic position, and soft shoulders while doing leg circles.  You must focus on form and control to produce the best benefit.

Control is needed to be precise and to activate the correct muscles.  Listen carefully to your body and feel the parts of your body that are activated.  If you are new to Pilates, it will take some time.  Be patient with yourself as your mind and your body start to develop the new skills required to do Pilates “with ease and economy”.


Precision will allow you to incorporate grace and flow into your movements.  My belly dance teacher is very precise; her movements flow and look very graceful.  But until you learn the correct movements, it is very challenging to appear that way.  To improve precision in any Pilates movement, I encourage proper centering connection.

Initiation of this movement will change the flow and activate muscles in a different way.  Precision in movement is very important for safety as well.


With isolation of the muscle, you can focus on making the weaker muscle strong, lengthening the tight muscle, and improving your balance.  In addition, your movements will be focused on the target muscles, as opposed to other, overused muscles, such as your neck and shoulder muscles.  It is when you learn isolation that you will no longer be using your neck and shoulder muscles to do the exercises.


Making a commitment to better health using the Pilates Method will enable both your mind and your body to develop.  It will require patience and persistence as you learn the fine arts of Concentration, Centering, Breathing, Control, Precision, Isolation and Routine.


It may take 10 weeks, 20 weeks, or more before you start to see the deeper benefits of Pilates.  It is an internal procedure as you focus your mind on feeling muscles you never knew you had and relaxing muscles you regularly overuse.

And be well.

Written by Karen Toth, Pilates Instructor

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~ Carnelian Sage, Author of The Greatest Manifestation Principle in the World

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