CENTERING by Kerry De Vivo


by Kerry De Vivo

This month's Excel in Your Pilates Practice (brought to you from the Excel Pilates Trifecta, Excel Pilates DC, Excel Pilates Annapolis, and Excel Pilates Northern Virginia) is focused on the Pilates principle CENTERING.

Centering is viewed a few ways. A very straight forward, and highly valuable, aspect of centering is to physically be centered on your Mat or Pilates apparatus. Both give consistent reference for centering which can be challenging to discern on your own. How many times has your teacher said "Shift to the right" or "Your right shoulder is higher"? These details matter as they contribute to the ultimate goal of the Pilates Method which is uniform development of the body.  

Another aspect of centering is spelled out in the definition of Pilates. A method of physical, mental, and spiritual conditioning. In Pilates, we need to be centered in our minds, focused and ready to embark on a physical journey that requires intense concentration and results in a spirituality that is not religious, but rather allows us to live our lives with "spontaneous zest and pleasure" as Joseph Pilates said.

And the third way to view centering is considering our Pilates center. The epicenter, the powerhouse, the core. This is where all of our movement stems from and relates to. For this focus, I am called to draw from a prior blog article I wrote in August 2015 titled, "The Secret Weapon." Read on and enjoy.

“My doctor told me to strengthen my core.” I have heard this countless times from newcomers to Pilates. Many of us realize it is important to have a strong core, but do we understand why this matters? What does this mean in terms of a Pilates workout? Do we understand what goes in to developing a strong core or what the end results can be? Do we really know what the core is? Let’s start with this...

The spinal column has no attachments to other bones/skeletal support between the ribs and the pelvis. This leaves support for the spine dependent on muscular strength.  

Enter...the abdominal wall.  

The abdominal wall comprises multiple layers of muscles that allow the spine to move, to flex (round forward), side bend, twist, and extend (arch). 

An example of the spine twisting with
Alexandra Adams, owner of Excel Pilates Northern Virginia,
on the Arm Chair

While most of these muscles are in the front of our bodies, some abdominal muscles are posterior, in the back. Check out the diagrams on this link.  


The abdominal muscles can also assist in combating gravitational pull. In Pilates, we learn how to elongate our spine and create space for mobility and support. This is important as the lower region of the spine is the most load bearing. Also, the lower region of the spine naturally arches and if not properly supported, the other curves of the spinal column will be imbalanced. The curves of the spinal column function as our shock absorption system, when they are well balanced.

The Pilates core incorporates more than the abdominal wall. It incorporates the inner thigh muscles, the low gluteal muscles, and the muscles of the lower back. Joe Pilates referred to it as the 


And it really is.  

Lesa McLaughlin, owner of Excel Pilates DC,
and Kerry De Vivo, owner of Excel Pilates Annapolis,

applying their GIRDLES OF STRENGTH
in Long Back Stretch on the Reformer

With muscles both above and below the pelvis, we truly develop our core in a deep and powerful way. One of the definitions for the word core, found on is,

"The central, innermost, or most essential part of anything."

I love this definition. Our core IS our body’s most essential source for support and strength of all movement. If this does not sound obvious to you, get going with Pilates and it will.

This summer I’ve been reading the book Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell. Luttrell shares his life experiences leading up to Navy SEAL training, the training process, and his involvement as a Navy SEAL. One passage that I really appreciated in relationship to my work talks about his training,

“The instructors were consumed with abdominal strength, the reasons for which are now obvious: 


for climbing rocks and ropes, rowing, lifting, swimming, fighting, and running.” - Marcus Luttrell.

The abdomen IS the bedrock of strength. And having a strong Pilates core, having every movement you make motivated by the core and channel through its strength, is very powerful. And the mental focus that is required to achieve such strength is equally powerful. I have semi-jokingly referred to Pilates as 

the "secret weapon” 

to someone who is an athlete and is currently going through Navy SEAL training. Pilates does more than aid in physical fitness and a strong core. It educates us on how to optimally use our bodies. It calls us to have a level of mental focus and commitment that few other activities require. It’s hard to articulate actually, but the longer you practice Pilates and the more 


the more this concept becomes very clear and very powerful. We need to be armed to get through the many stresses of our day. We need to be able to physically respond to the unexpected. We need to have mental focus. I’m talking true concentration when called to the task. We need to be able to share in Joe Pilates’ ideals.  

The acquirement and enjoyment of physical well-being, mental calm and spiritual peace are priceless to their possessors if there be any such so fortunate living among us today. However, it is the ideal to strive for, and in our opinion, it is only through Contrology that this unique trinity of a balanced body, mind, and spirit can ever be attained.” - Joseph Pilates

(Remember, Joe Pilates referred to his work as Contrology.)

Recently, my co-worker shared a conversation she heard on a podcast about power. The word power was explained as one’s ability to get something done - to achieve something, such as run a household, manage a business, complete an aspiration to do a 5K. Or as another Pilates colleague Peter Fiasca says, 

“Make it Happen!" 

(Perhaps you have seen us wearing our “Make it Happen” shirts at the studio.)  
I really appreciated this articulation of the word power as it lends to our studio slogan, 


At Excel Pilates Annapolis, we believe in sharing the original Pilates Method so that our clients can be empowered to get something done - to achieve something - to make it happen. This applies both to physical and mental achievements.  

Bring all you have to your session. You are responsible for contributing to your sessions. What you "bring" will directly affect the results of your session. Focus on what motivates you to arrive to your session. Bring an open, positive mind and check everything else at the door. Do not allow daily distractions to keep you from reaching your physical and mental fitness potential. Develop a strong Pilates core, an EMPOWERED BODY, and an EMPOWERED MIND.

Allow yourself to develop your “secret weapon.”  

You never know when or how you may need it, but I can tell you,