In Pilates we move from the centre bringing our focus to the connection between our breathing and powerhouse (areas including the core, back muscles and hip flexors). It provides better balance and assists movement. How does it do this?
Physically when you breathe the diaphragm, a muscle beneath your lungs, moves up and down the body sucking in air to the lungs and helping expel it. The movement also includes your intercostals, the muscles that move your ribs. These primarily help you breath but to move while breathing, they need to maintain a relationship between the stomach muscles otherwise the diaphragm cannot move completely.
Centring begins with this relationship between the stomach muscles, diaphragm and intercostals by bringing mental focus to it. You concentrate on the muscle motion releasing your stomach as you breath in and engaging your stomach when you breath out.
Try it now, sit at home upright and as you breath in to your ribcage, expand your lungs laterally - to the side - and release your stomach and back muscles. You should feel the diaphragm fall into the stomach. It replaces the need for so much engagement in the stomach and back but does not completely replace it. Then breath out fully engaging the stomach and back muscles to push the breath out feeling the diaphragm lift. You need more stomach engagement to replace the weight of the air and the diaphragm to stay upright.
If you release everything completely as you breathe in then your stomach and back will collapse . If you over engage stomach muscles when you breathe out you will find it harder to expel air or move. The relationship is about maintaining a balance based on the feedback your body gives you. This is the start of your Mind-Body connection.
Scientifically, Mind-Body connection is consciously being aware of and understanding the feedback from your peripheral nervous system to your central nervous system to help it adjust. Breathing is the start, but conscious movement is how we train it using Pilates.
Over time, Pilates increases mind-body connections from the diaphragm-stomach area through to the skull and pelvis. Centring grows through the body. Improved mind-body connection to the skull helps improve posture by consciously knowing and controlling where you head is and pulling your spine straighter. Improved mind-body connection to the the pelvis engages the pelvic floor muscles to fully support your spine and helps reduce back pain by supporting the pelvis to stay straight.
A neutral spine from good posture supported by a stable pelvis improves balance and helps you move from a stable position. It allows you to concentrate on other things because your consciously control your centre. This has great benefits in reducing stress as well as improving precision of movement.