The Core Pilates Principles

Pilates isn’t just a workout; it’s a holistic approach to movement  that emphasizes core strength, flexibility, and mind-body connection. At the heart of the pilates method are its foundational principles, which serve as the guiding philosophy for every exercise and movement sequence.

Understanding and applying these principles can be a challenge, but will increase your results significantly, and transform the way you move and feel. Let’s delve into the core pilates principles that form the backbone of the amazing pilates method of exercise!


” Pilates only demands that you conscientiously, faithfully and without deviation obey the instructions accompanying the exercises and keep the mind wholly concentrated on the purpose of the exercises as you perform them”  Joseph Pilates

The principle of concentration refers to mindful movement and the ability to have a conscious understanding of the purpose of the exercise and how to execute it.

It is also the balance of body and mind with neither dominating in movement.

The goal is to integrate mindful movement in to the subconscious so it becomes part of you, rather than something you do.


“Contrology is complete coordination of body, mind and spirit. You purposefully acquire complete control of your own body.”   Joseph Pilates

Joseph named his exercise method Contrology, so this principle is a central one.

The essence of control is the mind having control over muscles and directing movement, rather than the movement “just happening”.

Mastering control results in you being capable of picking and choosing which muscle you want to use to complete a movement.

And ultimately developing a high level of body intelligence.


Centering is a “modern” pilates principle which developed as our understanding of the importance of pelvic stability and strength for posture and lower back strength developed.

We consider the pelvis to be the “centre” of all movement.

So, centering refers to establishing a strong, stable pelvis to drive all movements from. This is the essence of core stability.

From a mind/body perspective, centering creates a strong connection of the mind to the body, and this contributes significantly to the development of core stability.

The Pilates Powerhouse…

The Pilates Powerhouse usually refers to the entire trunk and torso front, sides and back.

It is, essentially the engagement of all the “core” muscles to produce dynamic movement and core strength.

This is different from centering which just involves the pelvis and lower belly area.


” Indefatigably and conscientiously practice correct breathing techniques until they become habitual, automatic and subconscious. Correct breathing allows the bloodstream to receive its full quota of oxygen and thus ward off undue fatigue” Joseph Pilates

The original Pilates Method of breathing promoted extremely deep inhalation and forced exhalation, with a held, braced abdomen and percussive breathing.

In modern Pilates, there are two styles of breathing:

Alert torso breathing

Alert torso breathing combines diaphragmatic breathing with awareness of breathing in to the back (thoracic expansion) and down in to the pelvic floor. This is the style of breathing that you need to master before progressing to percussive breathing.

Percussive breathing

Percussive breathing is an increased speed and depth of breath, with more focus on the diaphragm rather than the pelvic floor and lower abdomen.

Movement is initiated by the breath…

The breath is what all movement floats on. Learning to breathe effectively is the foundation of all the pilates exercises.


 “Concentrate on correct movements each time you exercise, lest you do them improperly and thus lose all the vital benefits of their value. Correctly executed and mastered to the point of subconscious reaction, these exercises will reflect grace and balance in your routine activities” Joseph Pilates

Joseph talks endlessly about how important being precise in execution of his exercises you need to be. Without the principle of precision, the next principle of flow cannot occur. 

Precision is what creates correct biomechanics in the body and is fundamental to rehabilitating injuries.

Refining and perfecting your movements, focusing on subtle adjustments that will enhance the effectiveness of your movement is a signature of the original pilates method.


The principle of flow is possibly the hardest to achieve. All the other pilates principles need to be embodied and movement just happens, rather than being forced to happen.

It is the ability to have complete coordination of all components of a movement, without any obstruction of thought or analysis.

Each movement has no end or beginning and just flows from one to another.

It’s the instinctual type of movement that you see in animals or children.

Tension in the body blocks flow. So having a calm, relaxed mind and body is essential for flow to occur.

Flow can be fast or slow and is quite often described as graceful movement.

Flow floats on the breath and has a natural rhythm.

Flow is an outward manifestation of true mind/body/spirit connection.

Understanding and integrating these core pilates principles will deepen the connection to your body, improve your movement, and result in your pilates practice being a lot more enjoyable.

As you practice pilates, remember to centre your movements, concentrate on the task at hand, maintain control and precision, synchronize breath with movement, and flow with grace and fluidity.

By embodying these principles both on and off the mat, you’ll unlock the transformative power of pilates in your life.

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