The 6 Principles of Pilates

By concentrating on these principles during the Pilates session, whether beginner or advanced, you are guaranteed to strengthen the deep abdominals, lengthen the muscles, and tone the body for an overall enlivening effect for body, mind, and soul.

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Breathing

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Concentration

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Centering

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Precision

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Control

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Flowing Movement

A Brief History
"Pilates is nearly 100 years old. Joseph Pilates (b. 1880) was born in Germany and his heritage was based on exercise and well being. Joseph suffered a good deal of ill health as a child and used physical activity to build his strength. He was in the UK when the first World War broke out in 1914 and was sent to a German internment camp as a prisoner of war on the Isle of Man. Joseph continued to maintain his own fitness and developed fitness programs for the other inmates to maintain their physical well-being. This was the beginning of the Pilates mat-work system. During the flu epidemic of 1918 the followers of his fitness technique remained free from flu, and Joseph expanded his technique to those inmates who were too unwell to leave their beds, adapting his program and using springs and anything else that he could improvise with. These were later incorporated into his development of Pilates equipment..." 
From The Pilates Bible by Jo Ferris