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5 Key Elements To Modified Pilates

Learn to use all of these key elements during your Pilates exercise.

Rest Position

This is the starting position for the 5 principles – see this page for more information.

1) Breathing

Pilates aims to correct the pattern of breathing.  This enhances oxygen transport to the working muscles and removes waste products produced from exercise.  Using the wrong muscles for breathing can cause fatigue and pain.

Lateral Breathing

Teaches you to expand your lungs and rib cage as you breathe.  Focus on your breathing: it helps to relax and connect your mind with your body.  Place your hands across the lower part of your ribcage to feel its movement; keep upper arms and shoulder blades relaxed into the mat.  As we breathe in, our ribcage moves upwards and outwards.  Breathe in wide to the sides and back of your rib cage.  Breathe out: your rib cage relaxes down and inwards towards the waist.  Imagine your ribcage gently sliding downwards and inwards to meet your waist as you breathe out.  Maintain this breathing as you learn the next key elements.

2) Centering “Finding your Core”

Pilates aims to develop a strong “centre” using your abdominals, lower back and pelvic floor muscles – your POWERHOUSE.  A natural body corset is made by the Transversus Abdominus (TrA), multifidus and pelvic floor muscles.  These are postural muscles and are designed to work at a low level all day to provide this natural spinal support.  It is important to find your “neutral lower back posture”.


Place your thumbs in your belly button, then your fingertips on your pubic bones and the heels of your hands wide onto the pelvic bones: this forms your pelvic diamond.

Tilt the diamond backwards to flatten your lower back then tilt the diamond forwards to create an arch in your lower back. Tilt your pelvis in either direction and position your pelvis midway between these two movements.  Your pelvic diamond should feel like it is resting flat like a tabletop.

Setting your core

Focus on engaging the deep abdominal muscle – transversus abdominus (TrA).  To feel this muscle working, place your fingertips on the front bony parts of your pelvis, then slide your fingertips in and down an inch.  Press firmly to feel your deep transversus abdominus muscle. Imagine this deep abdominal muscle forming a natural body corset. Focus on the portion of this corset lying below your belly button. Breathe in to prepare, breathe out, then slowly and gently draw this corset in towards the spine. Maintain your neutral spine position.  You should feel this muscle under your fingers slowly tighten and draw away.  Hold your gentle contraction and keep breathing. Then relax.

3) Rib Cage Placement
In the rest position your rib cage should be aligned with your pelvis.  You should be able to feel the back of your rib cage resting on the mat.  Place your thumbs at the bony edge of your ribcage, finger tips on your pelvic bones – imagine two springs running down your sides from the ribs to the pelvis – the springs act to keep the same distance between the rib cage and your pelvis during movement.

4) Shoulder Blade Placement

Glide your shoulder blades up towards your ears then down towards your waist, repeat a few times.  Keep your shoulders relaxed and lift your arms to shoulder height with your palms facing in.  Breathe in and reach up through your finger tips towards the ceiling then draw your shoulder blades back to the mat – then relax your arms to your sides then draw your shoulder blades down and in, in the shape of a "V" down your spine. 

5) Head and Neck Alignment

Place a small folded towel under your head so your face rests across a horizontal line.  Keep the back of your neck long to keep the deep stabilising muscles engaged.  Keep your neck rested on the towel, roll your head upwards and back gently to shorten your neck then nod your chin forwards to lengthen the back of your neck. Repeat the movements shortening and lengthening and then rest with the neck in a lengthened comfortable position – your muscles should feel soft and your jaw relaxed.

These are the 5 key elements to Modified Pilates. 
Aim: Incorporate these key elements into your daily life to improve your posture and body alignment awareness.

Introduction to Modified Pilates

The Pilates History

The Pilates Technique

The Pilates Rest Position


To enrol for East Devon Physio Modified Pilates Rehabilitation Programme please telephone 01395 578656 or email: info@eastdevonphysio.co.uk

For frequently asked questions, please click here.