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The Pilates Method: From Joseph Pilates to Rhythm Pilates

Lisa Hubbard

The Pilates method has expanded since its original development by Joseph Pilates.  In fact, he himself continued to develop and refine the method throughout his life.  During WWI, Joseph Pilates, a performer and boxer living in England, was placed into an internment camp along with other German nationals in England.  It was there that he taught fellow camp members the concepts and exercises that he had developed over 20 years of self-study and apprenticeship in yoga and ancient Greek and Roman regimes.  These exercises were done on the floor and are known today as “mat work”.  It was during this time, in the early 20th century, that the formation of the Pilates method began to take shape.  Pilates called his method Contrology (meaning the science of control) because he believed that his method uses the mind to control the muscles.  He believed that both mental and physical health entwine. 

During the following years he became a nurse/caretaker to many internees struck with wartime disease and physical injury.  To assist with their rehabilitation, he began devising equipment to create resistance and "movement" for the bedridden.  Our modern day Pilates equipment is still very much like those of his original creations. 

The Pilates method has since evolved. There are those who stay closer to the classical movements as done by Pilates himself, and others have chosen to incorporate more modern ideas, equipment, the knowledge of advanced science and anatomy, and their own creativity to evolve and enhance the method.  However, there are six "principles of Pilates" which are concepts, distilled from Joseph Pilates’ work by later instructors of the Pilates method, which have been widely adopted by the modern Pilates community and which provide an axis of which to work around.

The original six principles are as follows, however you may find different interpretations as the Pilates industry is not always in complete unison.

  1. Centering: Mentally and physically bringing focus to the center of the body where movements originate. Pilates called this area “powerhouse” (abs, back, pelvis, hips).  Mindful initiation from your center of gravity to allow movement to flow outwards to the extremities.
  2. Concentration: Without concentration, we lack the connection between the mind and body, therefore lacking in quality and the value of each exercise. Establishing concentration increases body awareness and conscious control.
  3. Control: Each exercise must be done with the utmost muscular control.  This allows the body to work as a whole and minimizes risk of injury and maximizes results.
  4. Precision: Focuses on placement, alignment and spatial awareness.  Over time the body integrates precise movements patterns, quality and proper positioning for an effective outcome.
  5. Breath: Oxygen is life and facilitates movement.  The lungs pump air in and out of the body enriching the blood with oxygen to awaken cells and eliminate waste.  The intention of each movement is supported by the breathing patterns.  In Rhythm Pilates the routines are coordinated with the breath, enhancing effective muscle use and facilitating proper movement and pattering.
  6. Flow: Pilates should be performed with fluidity and ease, integrating continuous rhythm and a logical blend of transitions.  This is the state of being mentally and physically 100% immersed in the moment of the movement.  In flow, the emotions are positive, energized, and thereby helping to increase endurance.  Connecting precise movement, intention and rhythm, creates flow.  Both of these concepts are celebrated in Rhythm Pilates.

Rhythm Pilates offers a challenging experience by incorporating the above traditional six Pilates principles into every routine to ensure that each class is mindful, integrated, and centered. In addition to the traditional principles, Rhythm Pilates incorporates three intrinsic ideas: Integrity, Consciousness, and Rhythm & Flow.

  1. Integrity: Integrity is a concept of consistency of high standards, values, methods, expectations, and outcomes.  It is important to adhere to the integrity of the movement so that the full muscular and functional movement benefits are reached (the appropriate stretch, strengthening, and coordination).  This means not only to try to perform the exercises with the precise body alignment, but to also incorporate and perform the exercise with the proper energy, focus, and its intention, or in other words, the “internal-integrity.”  As an instructor, we have the responsibility to our clients to teach with integrity (professional high quality instruction) and to teach ­the integrity of the work. 
  2. Consciousness: Consciousness should be found in both our movement and our teaching. Our consciousness is our relationship between our mind and the outside world. It is also linked to our self-awareness. As an instructor, the verbal and visual cues that you supply the class as well as to each individual, will help to raise the consciousness level of the client by providing them with the tools to become more self aware of their movements. As we, the instructor, demonstrate the work at the front of the class, or to break down the movement, it is vital that we remain conscientious toward how we present the material, the emphasis of our instruction, and the positive awareness that we are building for our clients.
  3. Rhythm & Flow: Rhythm is movement with uniform or patterned recurrence of a beat. The thing about ‘rhythm’ is that... let’s face it... we don’t all have it.  And some of us only think that we have it. In the Rhythm Pilates technique, movements are set to music with a consistent beat pattern. Different rhythms naturally affect people differently, so it is always important to stay aware of your class, their abilities, and the precision of their movements. The goal is for everyone to have a harmonious experience.

The music selected enhances the work and encourages a more invigorating Pilates experience by providing uplifting beat patterns to coordinate the exercises and energy.

One unique attribute of this style of work is that the music is a part of the creation of the “flow” of the class. The music increases the connection between the client and the exercises enhancing their overall experience. In Rhythm Pilates routines, you will find that there are movements, which occur on the beat, on only certain beats, and sometimes, even in-between beats. The flow of the class is achieved by ensuring that each routine is designed to address the whole body and will provide a full body workout challenging your client’s strength, flexibility, and coordination. The choreography of each routine has been thoughtfully designed to deliver a fun; positive and challenging Pilates mat experience. 

We believe that all of the above principles, Joseph Pilates’ original six, and the three Rhythm Pilates principles, work together create a strong foundation for our unique program, and we work diligently to ensure they are a key component of every routine and workout.

Are you interested in attending or hosting a Rhythm Pilates course? Please contact us for more information. Visit our Upcoming Courses page to find a course near you.