How to Use Your Centre Properly

When it comes to performing Pilates exercises, sometimes we need reminding of the basic principals in order to get the most our of our practice. Here our trainer Karmen explains the importance of 'centering'; get this right and you will definitely start to notice an improvement in the strength of your core.

There are 6 basic Pilates Principles but today I will talk about Centering which is activating the Power House muscles and Lateral Breathing. They’re both fundamental for a good and effective Pilates workout. The other 4 principles are of the same importance, but I will use another blog to describe them better.

Centering: The powerhouse is one of the most important concepts in Pilates training. So be ready whenever you are a beginner or advanced student to practice the concept of core strength and stabilization in a Pilates class. As well you’ll learn how to use your “powerhouse” throughout life’s daily activities. Your “powerhouse” is the centre of your body and it provides a solid foundation for any movement. The Power house includes the abdominal muscles, lower back muscles, pelvic floor, muscles around the hips and gluts. The Transverses Abdominals (TVA) is the deepest layer of abdominal muscles and runs between the ribs and the pelvis, horizontally from front to back. When activated, the TVA creates a deep natural “corset” around the internal organs and lumbar spine.

In practice there are two ways to activate the TVA muscle and in this way to engage your Power house. These are:

Bracing: Imagine that you are getting ready for a punch to your belly, or preparing to lift a heavy object. The goal is to tighten the muscles without sucking in, or expanding your abdomen. To activate the TVA with bracing, maintain an isometric hold in this position for 6 to 10 seconds. Release and repeat 10 times. Make sure you don’t confuse brazing with pushing the stomach out . It needs some time and practise to get used to it, once you understand the bracing idea, you can do it almost anywhere; walking, doing house work, even running.

Hollowing: The abdominal hollowing exercise is meant to hollow your stomach by pulling your abs in. To perform this technique, contract your abdomen and pull your belly button back towards your spine to make your abdomen as small as possible. Once you've completed this movement, maintain an isometric hold of this position for 6 to 10 seconds. Release and repeat for about 10 times.

Lateral Breathing: From my experience lateral breathing in Pilates is probably the most difficult to learn, and I've come across many students who have difficulty breathing and performing exercises at the same time. Once it becomes logical to breathe in when you want to extend the spine, and to breathe out when the body wants to flex, mastering the exercises becomes very easy. In lateral breathing we basically breathe deeply with the back and sides of the ribcage, all the way down the spine and into the pelvic bowl.

The way I've taught myself and helped my students to get it right and it's very simple. Just follow these easy steps:
Place your both hands over your ribs, so that your two middle fingers come together on the sternum (breast bone)
Breathe in through the nose and feel those fingers separating.
Breath out through the mouth. Your ribs will close down and the fingertips should meet gently again.

Opening up the ribs is essential for full and healthy breathing. Do this in front of the mirror and watch your shoulders. When you breathe in don’t allow the shoulders to raise up. Try to keep them relaxed as much as you can. As seen on the picture bellow you can practice your breathing by placing an exercise band or scarf around your ribcage.

See which method suits you best, then relax yourself and spend at least 5 mins per day improving breathing technique. The best time to do it, is in the morning or late in the evening, just before bedtime.

Centering is the key to getting strong core which helps to prevent injuries, reduces risk of lower back pain and injury, improves posture and nevertheless flattens your stomach. Not only will correct breathing help you to to inhale as much fresh air as possible oxygenating the blood, and rid your lungs of stale air on the exhale, but it also keeps the abdominal muscles engaged throughout exercising.

For more of my blogs please visit

Karmen xx