Why do you hear a lot of “engage with your core, your centre” in Pilates classes? What does this mean?
Okay... I know whoever attends a Pilates class, especially for the first time will often notice the instructor commenting that you should be “engaging with your centre” this may be one the most confusing and technical term you hear in the class.
I remember when I first heard this, I was trying do the exercise “Hundred”. (I hope you are familiar with that). My spine was out of control as soon as I lengthened my legs forward (!) and when my instructor told me to engage with my abdominal muscles to keep my spine still, I held my breath and my abs so tight. That’s what this means right?
Unfortunately , this was such a typical bad exercise case: I started to hold my breathe in a breathing exercise (!) and it was a painful first meeting with the Hundred!
So, please don’t worry if you don’t know what the centering means, you are not the only person...
Centering is one the fundamentals of Pilates and is needed in every exercise for a controlled and flowing movement. That’s why you hear of it very often.
What is it then?
It means more than just our abdominals, it is actually the correct level of use of abdominals, mid & lower back, pelvic floor, inner thigh and buttock muscles.
Breathing is the key part of “centrering”. Because breathing in gives rise to our thoracic cavity and the rise of the cavity pressure results a stable surrounding structures. But during exhalation, the effect of diaphragm relaxing diminishes our stability, and that’s when we need to activate our centre to control and support our stability and our movement.
The Hundred is a challenging exercise but is a great one that focuses on your breathing and your spinal control. That’s why you need to understand the correct level of use of your centre for this exercise. When you deep breathe out (for a count of five), you may lose your alignment and that’s when your Pilates instructors ask you to engage with your centre to maintain your flexed spine in exhalation.
Centrering is essential for alignment, flow of movement and the control over the movement and it lowers the risk of injuries. It also improves our range of movement. It may take time to understand how much centre you need in different exercises but it’s well worth to focus on it and understand it well.
I hope this helps you for your next Pilates class and feel free to comment and ask any questions about centering or anything else Pilates! Thanks.