Discipline Equals Freedom: 7 Pilates Exercises for Balance and Good Form

Conscious training for subconscious performance? “I don’t want to control, I want to let go” is a quote by the artist Pink, who I marveled at in concert a while back. Someone who learned technical aerial dance as an adult can now literally fly over the audience at Madison Square Garden equals the perfect example. Being disciplined takes hard work but, the outcome is freedom. While many of you need to learn how and where to be more disciplined, some of you need to be disciplined enough to actually stop being so disciplined!

Your body is an instrument that plays movement. The tuning of your instrument will reflect the sound you make.

The way you walk, leap up the stairs, the way you simply enter a room…..these are the sounds of your instrument.

This thought is organized and inspired by ballet class with one of my ballet teachers, Christine Wright. She compares a dancer to a musician, whose medium is sound, and she coaches us through the class to think and feel our medium which is movement, and then not think so much.

In Pilates we might train tediously on the setup, posture, or movement pattern of a set exercise, the goal is to layer all of the Pilates principles together for a joyous experience, but the overall reason is so that these healthy movement patterns studied in the Pilates studio are applied to integrated movements in your life.

It is not enough to be disciplined about taking care and training your body, you have applied this specificity to your integrated movements if you want to fully receive the reward for your hard work. The correlation is true in so many examples.

I try to teach my daughter discipline by explaining, not demanding, the reward of practice. To enjoy each step. I praised her when she practice how to snap her fingers for over a month until she finally could do it. I always reiterate that she has to make choices and that I will tell her what’s right from wrong but ultimately if she can make better choices then she will earn freedom. She no longer bulldozes the small shops I take her into around my neighborhood. She has earned the freedom not to be strapped into her stroller when doing errands.

A child doesn’t learn freedom because you yelled at them to do the right thing. You teach them, you teach them as an individual, and teach it well. Your body is no different.

The reason you would work on “good form” at all while training would be so you can trust that form when actually performing. Your performance could be on stage, on the field, in your office, your home….Your brain should communicate with your body, or else give into commonly poor reflexive tendencies, often due to gravity, incorrect training, or predispositions. For example, flat feet will fall in on their arches, tight shoulders will lead to a tight neck, a lumbar lordosis could make it harder to access your hip extensors/ butt muscles and may lead to knee/ back issues but, the good news is that when you create healthy patterns, you can then have fun and trust your body to make better choices on its own. In order to feel ability and efficiency when you jump, run, bike, swim, ski, dance, sit, climb, carry, and yes, even sleep, then you must allocate some time in your training to clarify those specific movements that underlie bigger movements needing either improvement or maintenance. When taking care of 2 precious gifts we hold as humans – movement and stillness. The balancing act begins (literally).

Learn from successful dancers and athletes who don’t mindlessly check the boxes when training. They thoughtfully mold and wire their muscles to play their instrument the way it must for longevity.

Be disciplined:

  • Make time for mindful movement: show up to a class, the gym, a mat at home, or that little space next to your bed.
  • Choose a handful of exercises that help with what you specifically need.
  • Apply specificity to your chosen exercises.
  • Know the time and place for this kind of overthinking. Remember to enjoy the gift of moving in your body.

Do this by:

  • saying yes to yourself
  • saying no to others’ requests of you
  • doing this series

Personally, I feel restriction and asymmetries in my feet, my shoulders, and when balancing on my right side, and since my problems are how I help you avoid having the same ones, I share this fine-tuning series with you.

7 Pilates Exercises for Balance and Good Form

1. Hip Shift

Improve balance, standing leg support, jumps:

  • Inhale and sit or sink into standing hip so the outside of your hip will be past your outside ankle bone.
  • Exhale and pull your hip back to center so the outside of your hip aligns with the outside ankle bone.
  • Repeat 10x.


  • Keep pelvis neutral. Avoid sticking your butt out.
  • Avoid lateral side bending at the waist.
  • Stand your tallest, reaching up and out the crown of your head (always).

2. Standing Balance

Improve balance and accuracy of leg movements in space.

  • Staying pulled up on your standing leg from the previous exercise.
  • Reach your free leg accurately in line with your sits bone.
    • front to back
    • in a circle front, side, and back

In ballet terms this would be similar to a tendu front and side, and a Ron de jambe en lair.


  • Enjoy the burn of the feet muscles. Feel the burn, that is.
  • Feel a crease in the front of your hip as the leg reaches forward.
  • Feel the glutes and hamstrings as the legs goes back.
  • Keep the pelvis and lower back as stable as possible… abdominals help.

3. Jump Prep

Improve jumps and walking up and down stairs.

  • This exercise can be done with one foot on a yoga block/stair or flat on the floor.
  • Inhale. While keeping the torso upright, bend both knees as far as you can keep both heels down.
  • Exhale. Straighten both knees and reach the leg out to the side.
  • Repeat 10x on each leg.


  • Press down deep to stretch the achilles tendon as you bend.
  • Spring off into straight legs as if you were about to jump.
  • Articulate through the right foot as you lift it off the floor. Lift the heel, ball of the foot, then the toes.

Improve squats, sit to stand ability, jumps, build strength in gluten and proper tracking of your gait.

90 Degree Squat

  • Inhale and stand in ideal alignment.
  • Exhale and bend the hips, knees, and ankles to 90 degrees, keeping the knees over your heels.

4. Shoulder Retraction-neutral

Improve shoulder mobility.

  • While inhaling, retract or squeeze the shoulder blades together keeping the elbows straight and the neck in line with the spine.
  • On the exhale, widen the shoulder blades back to neutral without protracting the shoulders forward.


  • Keep the ears over the shoulders allowing the spine to remain in line through the neck.
  • Keep your elbows straight.

5. Thoracic Rotation

Improve functional rotation throughout the entire body.

  • While inhaling, gently press the back of your head into your right hand and lengthen your spine.
  • On the exhale, rotate the upper body to the right, keeping a long waist and neck, without shifting the body side or back.
  • Inhale and return to center
  • Repeat 5-10x on each side.


  • Be satisfied with a smaller isolated rotation than you thought.
  • Do not let the hips sway in the direction of your twist.
  • Press back of head into hands for a guide on neutral alignment.
  • Just do it. It’s good for you.

6. Shoulder Wings (abduction/adduction)

Improve shoulder mobility and release tension in the neck and chest.

  • Inhale and bring the shoulder blades in close to the spine.
  • Exhale and spread the shoulder blades wide like wings without rounding shoulders forward.


  • Press entire palm firm into the block.
  • Try to keep the bicep facing the floor creating slight internal rotation of the arm bones.
  • Keep the abdominals lifted up and supporting the spine.

7. Sacrum Release

Release the lower back and compression in the sacrum.

  • Place a yoga block under your pelvis in a horizontal direction allowing the base of the tailbone to release over the block.


  • This should not be painful at all. You should feel a decompression of the tailbone and weightless in the lower back.
  • You may need to try moving the block up or down to get the right spot.
  • Relax for 1 minute and build up to 10 minutes, over time

Wherever you need your body to perform; the field, the stage, the home, developing good form and movement is imperative to your body performing at its optimal level. If these Pilates exercises for balance and good form were helpful to you and you want to explore more pilates exercises and movement, schedule an appointment with one of our instructors. If you’re looking for Pilates in NYC, you can sign up for in-person Pilates in Brooklyn or Manhattan. We also offer online Pilates classes anywhere around the world. Just give us a call or, you can start by filling out the form below.

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