"Centering" in Pilates – A Practice of Presence
There are six fundamental principles of the Pilates exercise method – Breathing, Centering, Concentration, Control, Flow and Precision.
Centering represents the act of drawing your own mental and physical focus during each exercise to the core or center often called ‘the powerhouse’, of your body. This is roughly the area between your lower ribs and hips, although it also includes the lower and upper back muscles.
Pilates, Joseph H. and Miller, William John. Pilates’ Return to Life Through Contrology: 1998, Print
Centering, the pre-curser to Concentration, cues us to place specific attention to these muscles. Once we focus intently on the core work of a specific exercise we can move on to adding legs, arms and other points of focus in the body but we always begin with energizing the core. It is from our center that the energy of the remaining movements radiate throughout the body.
The word “Centering” might also conjure references to meditation and/or having a sense of presence within ourselves on a more spiritual level. When comparing Yoga and Pilates, the spiritual aspect of yoga is salient by means of rich and plentiful Hindi imagery as well as incorporated meditation. The spiritual aspect of Pilates is a bit more subtle and pragmatic. The connection of mind and body is intended in each Pilates exercise as it is in yoga poses, however Pilates has a definite and continuous focus on the body's physical center as the axis of our entire Pilates practice. As we develop our Pilates practice we are able to focus more and more on deepening into the core to develop awareness of the power of that centrally located energy. By developing awareness in our bodies we intrinsically develop more awareness in the mind. Accomplishing this requires presence.
When you enter the studio, try to leave your worries, stressors, and general distractions at the door and focus solely on being present and centered during the hour of practice you are about to embark upon. Fully embrace your own body-mind connection – use your breath consciously when performing each exercise, focus and connect into your Powerhouse and acknowledge the energy that radiates from your core out into the legs, arms, neck and head. By giving your mind time to re-connect with your body during your Pilates session you give it a break from all of those thoughts waiting for you at the door where you left them. However, when you and your thoughts met up again at the end of your session you may find that you can control them instead of them controlling you!
“By reawakening thousands and thousands of otherwise ordinarily dormant muscle cells, Contrology (Pilates) correspondingly reawakens thousands and thousands of dormant brain cells, thus activating new areas and stimulating further the functioning of the mind.”
- Joseph Pilates
Presence is a practice unto itself. By practicing deliberate presence in Pilates we begin to automatically have more presence in all of our activities and interactions thus making life not only less stressful but the rich, beautiful experience we are intended to have!