"Pilates is all about core strength, isn’t it?"
This is the answer I sometimes get when I ask beginners what they know about Pilates. My response is usually a hesitant ‘sort of…’.
Like many Pilates teachers, I have mixed feelings about the link between Pilates and this mythical thing called ‘core strength/stability’. On the one hand, it’s a good thing as it brings people to Pilates in the first place to build their core strength. Often after a Doctor, Osteopath, Physiotherapist or similar has told them that they need to do so. On the other hand, there’s so much more to Pilates. It moves us, relaxes us, tones us, improves our balance, strengthens our whole bodies, builds our self-awareness and challenges us to do things we never thought possible.
But, I now think that part of the reason I’ve been reluctant to give a clear answer like “yes, Pilates certainly can help build core strength (and do other things!)”, is because I didn’t have a clear and crisp enough definition of what core strength is or isn’t.
I’m currently reading Katy Bowman’s excellent ‘Alignment Matters’ in which she brilliantly describes core strength like this:
“Core strength does not mean abdominal exercises! It is the ability to stabilize the bones in the upper body, rotate the torso with proper spinal curvature, and maintain pelvic position while sitting, standing, and exercising! It's the ability to control the bladder, stabilize the ligaments of the knees with the lower abdominal wall, and breath correctly while doing all of these!”
I like Katy’s definition so much, I may just put it on the wall in the studio.