The principles developed by Joseph Pilates are integral to your work on the Ball. They impart a sense of mindfulness to every movement, an awareness of being inside your body instead of acting as an observer. There is a strong focus on the quality of each movement, rather than on the number of repetitions or the speed with which they are performed. This keeps your energy in the present and gives you a sense of your body moving as a whole instead of in separate, disconnected parts.
The following six concepts are basic principles in all Pilates-based training. You will find that, although each one has its own identifiable quality, they are all intrinsically intertwined. Keep these principles in mind as you practice the exercises in Balance on the Ball, but also learn to be aware of them as you move throughout your daily life.
Before even beginning a workout, take the time to be still and find your breath. Feel your chest rise and fall, and listen to the sound the air makes as it escapes from your lungs. This will clear your mind and bring your focus into the present moment. You are reminded that your body is alive and your energy level will increase. Be sure to breathe deeply so that your ribcage expands to its fullest as you inhale; then force all the air out as you exhale. As you begin to feel comfortable performing the exercises, allow your breath to coordinate with your movements. Breathing in this manner will provide you with power and momentum, so that your movement can flow more naturally.
Stay completely focused on each movement, and try not to let your mind wander. Whenever you notice stray thoughts entering your mind, just let them dissolve, returning your focus to your body and your breathing.
Once you have found your concentration, center it on a place deep inside the core of your body. This is the place from which all movement grows. Imagine your limbs branching off from your trunk, expanding out into space. Feel a sense of balance in your body between all opposing parts – head and feet, right and left sides, front and back.
Be precise in the placement of your body, maintaining constant awareness of your alignment and form. There should be no extraneous movements. If you begin to lose this feeling of precision, slow down and bring your focus back to your center.
This is one of the greatest challenges in working on an unstable surface. The Ball sometimes seems to have a mind of its own, but it is inevitable with consistent practice that your movements will become smoother and more controlled. It takes time to build this neuromuscular control, so if you are unable to keep the Ball steady, try an easier variation of the exercise or just continue to practice.
Every exercise has its own intrinsic rhythm, and this may be different for each individual. Learn to find a comfortable pace that works for your body. You should move carefully so that you can maintain proper form and alignment, but try to give each movement a sense of fluidity and grace.