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Unless you are a fairytale princess who has been asleep for the past 100 years, you would have heard a few things about Pilates by now. But hearing and trying are two different things.
If you are still gathering the courage to try a Pilates class, relax – there are a few things you need to know. We’ll run you through them so you know what to expect.
Pilates in a Nutshell
Pilates was started by Joseph Pilates to overcome his own physical shortcomings dating back from childhood ailments. It’s a set of controlled exercises that combines both body and mind to strengthen specific muscles. Almost every move involves the core. Other body parts also get a great workout. Pilates is best for toning and muscle strength while building long, lean muscles.
When you are a complete beginner, the best to start is a beginners class and don’t forget to tell the teacher that you are new to Pilates. You’ll be assisted whenever needed – technique and form are important for benefiting from these exercises and she’ll help you getting it just right.
Pilates is something you do for the long haul – don’t expect to get it all right in the first class. Learning the technique does take time and don’t expect to see results overnight. Also, consider adding extra cardio to your exercise regime as Pilates does not offer enough cardiovascular activity to benefit your heart and lung fitness enough. Though one class per week will prove beneficial, aiming to attend two to three classes weekly is ideal.
The controlled and low impact nature of these exercises is ideal for individuals that suffer from injury or conditions that may make other forms of exercise difficult. Some classes are designed to benefit specific ailments – such as back pain. Another great option is finding a small or one-on-one class and discuss your injuries with your teacher. She’ll assist you to both protect and strengthen these specific areas.
Find Classes and Choose a Great Teacher
We’ve mentioned that specific need classes are available and that one-to-one classes can proof to be highly beneficial. Because Pilates are not widely governed, most teachers develop their own style with time. If you find someone with a teaching style that works with your personality, and a teaching style that you enjoy, you’ll love going back again and again. The best Pilates exercises is a matter of personal choice and a teacher will influence yours.
Pilates workout videos are also available for home use. You can try these if you first want to try without anyone watching. Though it is recommended that you attend some classes for the benefit of correcting your form, home Pilates workouts are an easy, cheap and convenient substitute for classes.
Different Types of Pilates
With time, different styles have evolved and few Pilates teachers are still purists. Pilates can be either classical or contemporary. Some classes offer other exercise forms that are based on Pilates such as barre Pilates and Piloxing. Clinical Pilates is also available – it is taught by physiotherapists and used for rehabilitation.
What you want to gain from Pilates will greatly influence the type of class you choose. Pilates mat work classes are a great way to begin your Pilates journey. If you’ve always loved ballet as a little girl, barre-Pilates will probably steal your heart and build you dancer body. The closest you’ll get to cardio Pilates is Piloxing – a mix of Pilates exercises and boxing.
Mats: Pilates mats are used in all classes. Pilates matwork classes use the mat as a base for all exercises. Gravity and body weight are used as resistance in these classes. Any yoga or exercise mat will do but special Pilates mats are a little thicker. Propped classes also use mats for exercises.
Photo above: Pilates mat is recommended so that your pilates session is as comfortable as possible.
Small props: Magic circles, foam rollers, swiss balls, chi balls, and therabands are some of the best Pilates equipment. These are cheap enough to buy for home use and can be used for stability exercises, self-massaging, and stretching.
Photo above: Exercise balls can help with your pilates practice.
Photo above: Circular apparatus that can be helpful with your pilates practice. Used mostly for leg exercises.
Photo above: Pilates Foam Roller that can be helpful if you are doing a pilates exercise that requires movement.
Photo above: Exercise bands great for resistance exercise training while you do your pilates practice!
Studio work: Specialty classes can be equipped with a reformer, trapeze table, chair, spine corrector and ladder barrel. These machines can be used for rehabilitation exercises and a good teacher will be able to tell you which is the best Pilates machine to use for your specific needs. Classes offering these types of Pilates are usually small and more expensive.
Pilates for Pregnancy
Exercising during pregnancy can be a challenge. While not all exercises are safe, you are probably also tired, hot and aching all over, and not in the mood for doing your regular workout in the gym. Pilates for pregnancy classes is a safe and enjoyable alternative to other strenuous exercises.
Pilates will build and maintain muscle strength and help support joints and ligaments, which often weaken during pregnancy. Strenuous exercise is not a good idea during pregnancy, that’s why classes are designed to be calm, relaxing and effective but low impact. And of course you can choose to participate at your own pace – do what you feel you can and leave the rest
Pilates is a low impact solution to strengthening and toning all the muscle groups in your body. Your core will be involved in every move. Classes are calm, relaxed and beneficial for both body and mind. You’ll walk out of a class relaxed, refreshed and feeling like a million bucks.
Your first Pilates class needn’t cause you any stress at all. It’s an enjoyable form of exercise. Don’t worry about not knowing what to do. You’ll be assisted in learning the right form and techniques and soon you’ll also be a Pilates pro.
Just relax, put on something comfortable you can move in, and off you go.