Pilates is another form of exercise that helps build core strength and condition the entire body. Learn how to start a Pilates practice and what to expect.

The original method was developed by Joseph Pilates and has since evolved into many different styles referred to as Modern Pilates. Given the variety of styles being taught, it’s difficult to say exactly what you might experience from studio to studio, gym to gym, community center to community center but the basic principles of the practice can provide some insight into how closely the workout follows the Pilates method.  Classes that follow the principles but include exercises from other disciplines are considered to be modern forms of the practice.

Pilates Principles 

Breathing: If you’re new to the practice, an instructor will probably start by reviewing the breathing. Your breath is supposed to expand your ribs latterly as it fills the back portion of your lugs and then is “rung out” with the exertion of the movement. The exertion is the contraction or shortening of the core muscle even though exhaling with the lengthening of the muscle might feel more natural.

Control: All movements are done to work against gravity and are to be done without momentum. The speed of the class varies from instructor to instructor, but the range of a classic practice is slow to very slow.

Low Repetition: Most exercises are done with less than 10 repetitions and focus on precise alignment and form.  It takes some work and practice to get the form but there are modifications for each exercise.   

Transitions: The movements from exercise to exercise can be rather graceful and make the practice feel almost like a performance.  However, the transitions reportedly are an important part of the practice because they help build strength and stamina.  

Concentration: It probably comes as no surprise by now that Pilates is a mind body practice.  It requires focus to make the connections between your breath and movement as well as the connections in your body needed to do the exercises without the help of gravity or momentum.  

Getting Started

Breath: If you don’t get the Pilates breathing right away, just remember to breath rather than holding your breath.

Modify: Doing a modified version of exercises right is better than doing the full expression of the exercise wrong. If you can’t maintain the form – modify.

Enjoy it: Even when the class is challenging you in new ways, try to keep your attitude light. One of our instructors used to tell the class we were auditioning for Cirque de Soleil so you can only imagine what we might have been doing at the time and the giggles that ensued.

What to Expect

Class Size: Most classes at studios are limited to 4-8 people especially if the class is being taught on Pilates equipment. Mat classes at gyms and community centers are generally larger if well attended.

Mat Classes: Most mat classes use props including foam rollers, magic circles, balls and exercise bands to do many of the same exercises done on specialized Pilates equipment. Mat classes are an affordable way to get a great Pilates workout especially when you get the breathing and form.

Instruction: Pilates takes some time to learn because there is a lot to learn about the breathing, exercises and equipment. Fortunately, Pilates is a discipline that you can practice over the course of your life and one that will keep the spring in your step or get the spring back in your step.