Pilates practitioner Sam Hobbs describes the principles behind the exercise

What is Pilates?

Pilates is a wonderful exercise technique, with so many benefits which help improve the quality of our lives in ways never thought possible without medication, surgery or restriction in daily activities.

When I am asked what pilates is, I say “The mind-body workout that focuses on posture, alignment, abdominal and back strength, breathing and relaxation”.

Many celebrities swear by it, physiotherapists recommend it and Pippa Middleton used it to streamline a very admired rear. But how much do we really understand about pilates? “Contrology is complete coordination of the body, mind and spirit. Through contrology you first purposefully acquire complete control of your own body and then through proper repetition of its exercises you gradually and progressively acquire that natural rhythm and coordination associated with all your subconscious activities.

The Principles of Pilates are:

  • Control
  • Centering
  • l Concentration
  • Breathing
  • Precision
  • Flow For many these principles are the foundation of the pilates approach to exercise. Their application to the pilates method is part of what makes it unique in the fitness world.

It is important to note that Joseph Pilates did not directly set out the Pilates Principles, they are concepts distilled from Joseph Pilates’ work by later instructors.


Joseph Pilates said: “Good posture can be successfully acquired only when the entire mechanism of the body is under perfect control.”

All pilates movements are slow and controlled. They should be performed at a constant speed.


“Pilates develops the body uniformly, corrects wrong postures, restores physical vitality, invigorates the mind and elevates the spirit.”

Joseph Pilates believed that the abdominal muscles function as the ‘powerhouse’ for the whole body. In Pilates the abdominals are the centre and they initiate every movement. A strong centre combines an equal balance of strength between the abdominals and the back. Core stability means providing a strong and stable base from which the limbs can move.


“Always keep your mind wholly concentrated on the purpose of the exercises as you perform them.” Pilates is the thinking way of moving. When performing pilates exercises we focus exactly on each movement and concentrate.


“Breathing is the first act of life. Our very life depends on it. Millions have never learned to master the art of correct breathing.”

Breathing properly encourages effective oxygenation of the blood, incorporating proper breathing during exercise helps relax the muscles and avoid tension. A relaxed and full breath pattern helps focus the mind and allow concentration upon each exercise. Exhaling deeply can help activate deep abdominal muscles.


“A few well designed movements, properly performed in a balanced sequence, are worth hours of doing sloppy callisthenics or forced contortion."

Pilates focuses on the quality and precision of each movement and exercise. Each movement is precise and flows smoothly with emphasis on the quality of each movement and not the quantity.


“Designed to give you suppleness, grace and skill that will be unmistakably reflected in the way you walk, the way you play and in the way you work.”

The flow of a pilates session should be smooth, flowing and rhythmically even, almost like Tai Chi. Pilates moves are continuous and have no beginning and no end. Each repetition flows into the next, nothing should be forced, strained or sharp. The same amount of effort should be applied during the eccentric movement as the concentric movement.

  • To find out more about Sam Hobbs’ pilates classes, see www.samhpilates.com