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Principles of Pilates - Part 2

Principles of Pilates: breath

This is part 2 of the 'Principles of Pilates' blogs. You can read part 1 here. The six principles form part of the Principles of the Pilates Method and they are universally acknowledged within the global Pilates community.

  1. Control

  2. Centering

  3. Concentration

  4. Breath

  5. Precision

  6. Flow

Each of the principles will and can be used in every exercise and on every piece of apparatus. Below you can read more about the principles 4 - 6.


Obviously we are all breathing, mostly subconsciously. In Pilates the breath is an essential part of the work you are doing, uniting all principles. It facilitates and/or intensifies a movement, enables core support and steadies the mind. For a lot of people new to Pilates becoming aware of the breath as a tool, a guide and an enabler, is either a revelation, scary or an eye-opener.

Who knew using your breath in a specific way, when performing Pilates, could be so helpful and demanding at the same time. The best example of using your breath is the Hundred. For Pilates newbies also the best way to learn it. Where the first few Hundreds can be quite messy with arms and legs flying around, over time clients become more focussed when they make the connection with steady breathing (inhale 5 counts, exhale 5 counts).

Some exercises do not have a specific breath rhythm which we call a natural breath. In the end using your breath must be useful and not being used for the sake of it. Clients will learn the most useful breath instruction within each exercise.

'Even if you follow no other instruction learn how to breath correctly' - JP


The Pilates exercises are done in a specific order and should be executed in a precise way. Looking at the full mat routine it may not make sense immediately but Joseph Pilates put a lot of thought into it. The entire body, especially the smaller supporting muscles, is being used when doing the exercises in a precise way.

When you don't pay attention to the details, ie. not being accurate, you will not be able to finish the routine how it is intended. These details also relate to the distal parts such as the fingers, neck, eyes and feet. When people start doing Pilates there is so much to take in that precision doesn't come natural. Over time bodies become stronger, the routine becomes familiar and that is the time to start paying more attention to details. The fine-tuning process starts.

The focus of Pilates is not so much what you do, but rather how you do it. Pilates isn’t aerobics: it demands intense concentration, focus on posture, core muscles and breathing. It’s all about working smarter, not harder. And precision is everything.

'Correctly executed to the point of subconscious reaction, these exercises will reflect grace and balance in your routine activities.' - JP


Flow is also known as efficiency of movement. Each exercise is linked and the transitions are as important as the exercises. In case there are no counts, breath will dictate the flow of an exercise. Counts also help create accents which help to execute the exercise. The flow of the work is three-fold: Breath, Rhythm and Transitions.

Sometimes flow is misinterpreted as going faster. Even though Pilates is a workout it is still done with precision and control. The rhythm of an exercise is a strong, regular repeated movement and as the body starts to integrate through the practise so the rhythm tempo will improve not sped up.

Once you are moving it must be in a steady and continuous graceful manner. Even rolling over on your front on the Mat or coming of the Reformer is not done with limbs all over the place but with a certain controlled elegance. Hence why it is important for a teacher to keep it lively by using a different tone of voice during the entire workout.

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


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Marco Dingemans is a qualified Classical Pilates instructor


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