Remember the Center

by Risa Sheppard

Before the core (a term Joe Pilates never used), there was the center. With all due respect to the term core, the core is an overused and misunderstood Pilates concept. As a movement specialist, I take offense when others forget the concept of the center. The center is as ancient as life itself. Our Eastern colleagues used the chi to refer to that point within the body from which all movement emanates from. This can be found in tai chi and other Eastern philosophies of fitness. What I love about Pilates is that it combines both Eastern and Western philosophies of movement. That was the brilliance of Joe Pilates, and that is what I ascribe to to this day. I think that mindful living, both physically and mentally, incorporates the best of Eastern and Western thought. One cannot escape the brilliance of both ways of thinking.

What is the Center?
It is one of the basic principles of Pilates, along with coordination, precision, flowing movement and breath. I take each new client—whether he or she has had Pilates experience or not—through the following basic “how to find your center” exercise:

  1. Face a mirror and take a look at the way you are standing. Are your hips in alignment? Are your shoulders square?
  2. Imagine that a laser beam is running through your hips from each direction, keeping your hips stable and aligned. Imagine that your hipbones are like the headlights of a car, each facing forward directly and evenly.
  3. Now, place one of your hands on your lower abdominals, and the other on your lower back. Imagine a laser beam from one end to the other. Then, at the center of your body—where those two points meet—imagine a sphere the size of a ping-pong ball with the energy of the sun. That is the center from which all movement comes from. Instead of lifting your arm from the shoulder blade, or deltoid, imagine you are lifting from the center.

This allows for a more fluid, energetic and aligned movement that will lengthen and strengthen your muscles in a way that is proficient and graceful. Your whole body is activated as each muscle group comes alive. When you are walking down the street, imagine you are walking from your center. Most people move from their heads, pelvis, knees or other extremities. By moving from your center, you stay in correct body alignment. Your posture becomes erect, and you look and feel more confident. Most important, grace, power and beauty exude from your inner spirit and flows into everything you do and feel.

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