Most pilates practitioners would embrace the metaphor of pilates described by pilates elder, Romana Kryzanowska, as “flowing motion outward from a strong center.” In essence, all human movement flows from the center of the body and moves outward toward the periphery through its extremities.  However, when we speak of centering our movements we do so not by simply identifying the central aspect of our bodies but by synchronizing our centered bodies with our centered hearts and minds in correlation to the task at hand.


The body’s physical center is a little more tangible and thus easier to perceive than perhaps the central point of one’s mind or even spirit. Logically, the body’s physical center can be correlated to the large group of muscles in the center of the body. That would include the abdomen, mid to lower back region, hips and buttocks, collectively the anatomical region Joseph referred to as the “powerhouse.”


Centering our physical efforts moving from the “powerhouse” during pilates practice, however, includes centering our very powerful perceptional energies and creative efforts as well.  In other words, synchronizing the physical energies centered in the body to coordinate into rejuvenating movements involves harmonizing proprioceptive sensations with neuromuscular integrations and volitional intentions of the whole person.  Pilates begins with fundamental movements focused on core initiations moving outward from a strong identifiable “powerhouse” to ultimately center, balance and integrate all aspects of one’s vital being.


Today Joseph’s original notion of the “powerhouse” has evolved into colloquial vernacular referenced by the term “core.” If you are at all familiar with pilates you know that it “works the core.” The term core has many meanings all relating to the notion of a central part or innermost significant aspect of something ranging from an apple core to the earth’s core, from a tiny core of magnetic material used in computers to the core of a nuclear reactor, from a cable core to the very core or depth of one’s being.  The term starts from an inner place but reaches out beyond itself to bridge into something greater than its very essence.    So when we say we are “working the core” we are in actuality doing more than just that.


Pilates is a practice that begins with the discovery, exploration and cultivation of a strong center and ventures out beyond from there.  The overall power of the body, whether measured in arm strength or leg agility is only as potent as the core is able to sustain and support. Technically speaking, the physical center is the place in the body where the large muscles of the legs and spine come together to sustain and support basic locomotive action.  As identified earlier it is roughly located in the middle of the torso stretching through the layers of tissue supporting the spine between the navel and lower back.  It relates to what in Tai Chi is referred to as the energy center called the Dan Tian (or Tantien).  The “powerhouse” or integrating center of the core musculature includes the layers of body mass extending from a juncture point below the bottom rib spanning through the midsection to the pelvic floor.  In theory, mastering muscle activation from the “powerhouse” or core center will lead to greater overall integrated control, coordination, strength and ease, leading to optimal efficiency in all the practical movements of body.

Center to Venture and Go Beyond

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