“Concentrate on the correct movements each time you exercise, lest you do them improperly and thus lose all the vital benefits of their value.” ~Joseph Pilates In this blog series we are unraveling the six principles of Pilates: ~Control ~Concentration ~Centering ~Flow ~Precision ~Breath Concentration is the second principle of Pilates. I naturally have a great memory. I can remember appointment times, dates, and random Anatomy facts. I can remember every conversation – just ask my husband.
However, I am an absent-minded person. I constantly lose my keys, wallet, and phone. The most common question you can hear at my house starts with “Where are my…?” Followed by me muttering to myself as I pace around, “Have you seen my…? Is it in the bedroom? On the kitchen counter? Under the couch?”
I don’t know where my things are because I don’t concentrate on where I put them down. I just absentmindedly fling and drop things around the house. I am so fixated on completing the next task, that I neglect the here and now. I rush through daily stretches and mobility drills. I skip pesky areas when vacuuming, put away dishes with water droplets, and shove clean clothes into drawers.
However, when I walk into my Physical Therapy Pilates studio, my mindset changes. It has to. In order to exercise effectively, I need to concentrate on every movement. Each repetition requires my full attention to reap the greatest benefit. This same mindset must apply when I work with a client. I encourage them to concentrate on each repetition, each breath in, each breath out. I analyze how their body moves and provide feedback to improve their next movement. I love this need to focus on the present. It requires me to check my worries and to-do list at the door as I enter my studio.
The Pilates Hundred is a great exercise to concentrate on. It is used as a warm-up at the start of class to increase circulation and set the tone for the remaining workout. This exercise strengthens the core and improves scapular stabilization.
1) Lie on your back with your knees bent and arms long by your side.
2) Bring your legs into a table top position- hips and knees bent at 90 degrees. 3) Inhale and raise your arms overhead.
4) Exhale. Curl your head, neck, and shoulders up off the mat as you reach your arms straight in front of you. Contract or scoop your abdominals in toward your spine.
5) Keeping your trunk and shoulder blades still, begin to pump your arms up and down 6 inches. Breathe in for a count of 5 arm pumps. Breathe out for a count of 5 arm pumps. This completes one cycle of breath work.
Continue pumping your arms up and down until you have completed 10 full cycles.
6) Advanced Version- Extend your legs and lower to 45 degrees as you complete steps 3-5. To perform this exercise correctly, there are many components to be aware of:
- Keep the collar bone open and avoid straining through the neck.
- Maintain relaxed shoulders and avoid scrunching them up by the ears.
- Focus on drawing the abdomen “in”. If at any point the abdomen “domes” or “bulges” outward, the exercise has been performed improperly.
- And don’t forget to breathe! Breathe in for a count of 5 and out for a count of 5.
Concentrating on each component in this exercise: the breathing, the movement, and what it feels like, will help you maintain these guidelines and perform the exercise correctly.
Remember, Pilates is easy…until you do it right 🙂 Even if we are not doing Pilates, we can Concentrate on the moment at hand. Do you want to: Remember where you leave your keys? Designate a specific location and concentrate on it as you put them down. Improve your eating habits and avoid grazing on snacks? Take some time to be aware of your body and what it needs to be nourished. Prepare clean meals and be intentional when you eat them. Savor each bite and concentrate on your senses-the aroma, the texture, and flavor. Improve your positivity and suppress the negativity? Concentrate on the beauty around you-whether it is nature, a good conversation, or a success. Take note of how you experience it and what it makes you feel. Whatever it is, let’s choose to practice the Pilates Principle of Concentration and focus on what is in front of us. It can have a profound impact on our daily life. “Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The Sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.” ~ Alexander Graham Bell