Most all Pilates training programs – mine included – spend the first hour of the first training weekend imparting some basic information about Joe Pilates and his method. On my first page of notes: Pilates in 3 words = Strength, Stretch and Control.
Next my notes tell me what most if not all Pilates instructors also learn very early on:
The six principles of Pilates. These 6 principles (concentration, control, centering, precision, flowing movement and breathing) do accurately describe what differentiates Pilates from other forms of exercise, true. They do not, however, come from Joe Pilates.
Jay Grimes points out that Joe Pilates did not come down from the mountain one day with stone tablets proclaiming the Six Principles of Pilates. I like to laugh when he says this because all I can think of is Mel Brooks as Moses in History of the World Part 1. Moses comes down from the mountain with 15 Commandments, accidentally drops one stone tablet of 5 and quickly changes the number to just “…10… 10 Commandments!” But Joe Pilates would have had the stone tablets, the tiny white shorts and a cigar I think, yes?
I know, getting a little off topic.
So if not from Joe, from whom do we get these 6 lovely principles?
The Six Principles first appeared in The Pilates Method of Physical and Mental Conditioning by Philip Friedman and Gail Eisen, two students of Romana Kryzanowska. Originally published in 1980 (more than a decade after Joe Pilates died, yo.). It “was the first book of its kind – bringing Pilates out of the elite studios and into the lives of millions of Americans.”
Jogging and running had exploded in the late 1970s. By 1980 a fitness craze was sweeping the country and an obsession with health, beauty and youthfulness was having profound effects on American culture. Students Gail and Philip met with Romana seeking specific ways to differentiate the Pilates Method from other forms of exercise that people were doing. What made Pilates special?
Certainly the 6 principles they created are inherent in the Pilates system. But another more important principle is missing.
Let’s call it the 7th Principle of Pilates: Move!
Who knows, maybe when Joe dropped his stone tablet just like Moses other precious gems were lost as well such as “Thou Shalt Not Bang the Carriage,” “Quiet the Clips,” and “What you don’t like, you do twice.”
Try it for yourself. Simply follow the 7th Principle of Pilates. Move! You will have no choice but to do all those other 6 automatically or perish.
You will remember the exercises and focus on what you are doing (concentration), you will move in a safe and effective fashion (control), you’ll be toast without your stomach (centering), you will maintain your form (precision) and you will most certainly breathe (Yup) as you MOVE (flowing movement)! All this involves trust of course. Trust in the work. Trust that it is getting the job done without you micromanaging and getting all up in its grill. Let the body lead you without your mind working overtime, or over-indulging in the breathing, perhaps…you know who you are.
Trust. Let go. Let go and Let Joe…awww…