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Monthly Focus: The Powerhouse (Jan, 2013)

By on June 14, 2013

Side Pull Up One LegTraditionally, the Powerhouse has been described as a 4 inch band that wraps around from the ribs to the hips, supported by the inner thighs and seat muscles.  We can think of it as the core but more! For a Pilates student, learning about the Powerhouse never ends. The Powerhouse muscles include not only the abdominals, but the spinal erectors and stabilizers, pelvic floor, diaphragm with other respiratory muscles, as well as the adductors and gluteals.  These muscles work to maintain posture, move and control the pelvis and the spine.  The role of the Powerhouse is to initiate and control movement, articulate and decompress the spine, move the spine in all directions, and promote proper breathing.

As a new student you are reminded every exercise by your instructor to scoop, pull your abs in and up, deepen your abdominals, tighten your seat, pull your inner thighs together- and so many other cues to help you work from the center out. As you advance in your practice the cues become more specific and detailed to both your body and the exercise being performed, but the focus on powerhouse never changes.

In life we need a powerhouse to hold us physically, emotionally and mentally when our world turns unexpectedly. Developing a strong Pilates powerhouse can help you not just move better but feel better, more confident, more able to cope with the unexpected. Pilates helps you to discover your personal power- your powerhouse!

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March Monthly Theme

By on February 27, 2013

The Box


“Think outside the box” is a saying that encourages us to go beyond the expected parameters and to challenge ourselves with something new – to take risks. But working with the box is an important first step to understanding what you are trying to go beyond. Within structure creativity and progress can be realized.


In Pilates the box is a concept used to aide in aligning the body; it is an imaginary line from shoulder to shoulder and hip to hip creating a level horizontal carriage as well as creating a stacked relationship of the hips over the shoulders, thus creating a ‘box’. There is also a box within the box, the inner box created by the relationship of the low ribs and the top of the pelvis which helps to inform us as to whether or not we are lifting up through the powerhouse and encouraging space in the waist and spinal elongation. We work strongly from our center (in Pilates the Powerhouse) and work with an awareness of maintaining the box, stretching out into our periphery while holding strong in the center. Next workout, think about the corners of your box and pulling them in to find greater stability, and stretching them out to provide more flexibility.


The box is not only useful in Pilates but in all movement systems including yoga. When we work in yoga with asana we are not just trying to work more strongly and flexibly, but to create a greater alignment so that energy can flow more freely through the chakra system. For example, in Virabhadrasa I (Warrior 1) the body is aligned with the shoulders and hips pointing in the same direction (facing the front of the mat) and squarely aligned, as through arising out of the earth. Contrast that to Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II) where the box alignment is parallel to the long edges of the mat, the hips are opening in opposition, and the arms and legs are reaching forward and back energized from the center. Often students confuse the positions especially in Virabhadrasana II where the torso  is often turned toward the front arm.  Next class,  set your feet for this asana, the your hips and shoulders, and finally stretch your arms away from your heart and turn your gaze!


Working with awareness of the box is a great addition to your alignment as you may discover asymmetries in your hips, shoulders, ribs… and over time working with patience you can guide your body back into better balance.

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Pilates Blog

Pilates Focus of the Month

By on December 30, 2012

Pilates Monthly Focus: The Powerhouse

by Zoey Trap

Learning Classical Pilates has been compared to being given an owner manual for your body. Your body is an instrument, and you need to learn to take care of it and how to use it well in order for it to make beautiful music. This begins with reclaiming the mind and body connection and mastering the basics. Regardless of fitness level, all new Pilates students begin with the introductory work. This is the time when the body learns a new movement vocabulary, it is a time of learning by doing. Read more

All of the exercises found in the advanced and super advanced work are underpinned with the lessons learned in the mat and reformer introductory order. One of the great things about Pilates is that the more advanced you become, the more deeply you can work, and often the intro exercises seem to become more intense.

Now that you understand how important is these exercises are, you might be asking yourself, just what is the most important concept to learn? The most foundational concept found in Pilates is the powerhouse. This band in and around the center, supported by the inner thighs and seat, is the core but more! It is the place where all movement begins and is stabilized from. Joseph Pilates devised a series of exercises on different apparatus in which the periphery is used to challenge the powerhouse. For example, in the intro mat order, the Side Kick Series isn’t about the legs. We let the legs go walking only if the powerhouse is not rocking! The leg movements challenge the powerhouse to maintain stability and hold the torso steady. When you begin Pilates, one of your first challenges is to learn to use your Powerhouse to stabilize, so that you can build strength and stamina.

Fundamental exercises like breathing, ISO-abs, and neck curls, help to develop and build our powerhouse awareness and strength. These simple exercises can be done every day by just about anyone. If you do not know how to perform these exercises ask your instructor for a handout.

During private sessions and group classes put your concentration on maintaining the powerhouse and working in a range of motion that can be controlled without sacrificing alignment or form. Session by session, class by class, you will find yourself improving. This will translate into your life by helping you enjoy recreational activities, improving sports performance, and you will find yourself looking and feeling better. Joseph Pilates said, “Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is your body.”


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