10 things to know about Pilates

7 Sep 2021

"Looking to get started with Pilates? Here is a beginner’s guide to help you understand everything about Pilates."

Expertise shared by My SportSession’s Pilates instructor Marzia Troiano

What is Pilates?

Pilates is a form of exercise and body conditioning which concentrates on building strength in the core muscles. The movements in Pilates are controlled and interconnected integrating the mind and body, resulting in better posture, balance and flexibility. Pilates is not restricted to specific body parts, but it trains the body as an integrated whole. It can dramatically transform the way your body looks, feels and performs.

Who invented Pilates?

Originally called Contrology, the method of Pilates is named after its founder, Joseph Herbertus Pilates. He was a carpenter and a gymnast.  He created the complete exercise of Pilates in the 1920s as a rehabilitation program for soldiers. In 1926, he moved to the United States and opened the first Pilates studio in New York.

What are the different forms of Pilates?

There are two main types of Pilates: mat Pilates and reformer Pilates.

Mat Pilates refers to a floor-based Pilates performed on a mat. Your body weight provides resistance against gravity. It is all about learning to control your own muscles to improve strength and tone muscles. As mat Pilates is practiced without other equipment, it is generally regarded as the best option for beginners. However, keep in mind that advanced mat Pilates classes are conceived more challenging than reformer Pilates!

Reformer is a traditional Pilates apparatus originally used by Joseph Pilates. The modern reformer is a bed-like structure with a sliding carriage, resistance springs, a foot bar and straps to regulate tension and resistance. Reformer Pilates may seem to be scary and complex at first, but it is believed to be much more effective and fun compared to mat Pilates. There are also hybrid Pilates classes that combine the two of them.

Can beginners do Pilates?

With many modifications, Pilates is suitable for most people of any age and fitness level. Be sure to check with a healthcare professional and let your Pilates instructor know if you have any medical conditions or previous injuries.

What are the benefits of Pilates?

By practicing Pilates regularly and incorporating it into your workout routine, you will experience a handful of health benefits. Here are some of the typical examples:

• Developing core strength

The core muscles of the body are deep muscles of the back, abdomen and pelvic floor. We rely on these muscles to support a strong, supple back, good posture and efficient movement patterns. A nice side benefit is that strengthening your core promotes flat abdominals.

• Improving posture

Pilates will teach you to gain and maintain a good posture. The exercises require that your body is always in alignment, keeping you aware of your posture. It trains your body to express itself with strength and harmony.

• Flexibility

It increases the range of motions related to your joints, strengthening and stretching your muscles. Your body will become more flexible - this is important to avoid injuries from falls. Regular practice not only relieves aches and pains but will make every movement feel easier.

• Balance

Through the mind connection taught in Pilates you will become more aware of how your body moves. Therefore, you will have a better physical balance through a good posture and restoring a body-mind balance.

• Reducing stress

Pilates helps calm your mind and focus more inward, on the breathing and on the movement of your body. This is an excellent way to relieve stress!

Book your Pilates sessions with Marzia!

What is the difference between Pilates and yoga?

It is a frequently asked question by Pilates and yoga beginners. Pilates and yoga are often considered similar, as they are both low-impact body-mind disciplines focusing on balance and stability. However, Pilates and yoga are different in many ways. Pilates was invented by Joseph Pilates mainly for physical rehabilitation. Yoga has a very long history in India, with the purpose of bringing peace to the mind and body. The main goal of Pilates practice is to strengthen the core, and that of yoga is to improve the overall wellbeing together with postures, breath control and meditation. This is where the biggest difference comes in. Yoga has a focus on spiritual connection, which is something more mental, while Pilates is more about body alignment to control the body precisely. As for body movement, Pilates is generally more on relaxing and strengthening muscles, while yoga focuses on improving the flexibility of the body and joints.

What to bring to a Pilates class?

Most Pilates instructors provide all the equipment you need, Pilates mats for example. You can always prepare your own mat if you like. What to wear then? Flexibility is the key. Wear comfortable yet body-hugging clothing so that your instructor can observe your form clearly. Form-fitting shorts and yoga pants can be great options. Make sure you bring your water bottle and towel; you will sweat a lot!

What are the rules of Pilates etiquette?

Each studio or instructor might have different guidelines, but here are some of the general rules. Arrive early. Put your phone away during the class. Avoid embellishments and makeup, as you might leave scratches or residues on the equipment. Lastly, clean up your equipment and return all props properly after use.

Book your Pilates sessions with Marzia!

How long do classes normally last?

Pilates classes are usually 45 to 60 minutes long. It depends on whether you have one-to-one sessions, virtual zoom lessons, or group classes. Joining a private session, digital or in-person, is an ideal way for beginners to learn the fundamentals, let your instructor observe your body and movement, and customize an exercise plan for your goals. Group classes may involve both mat and reformer Pilates, with the use of small equipment, such as overball, theraband, foam roller and weights.

How to choose a Pilates class best for me?

There are many qualified and experienced Pilates professionals out there, but who is the one? It is more about choosing the right Pilates instructor best suited for you than the best instructor. You should first ask yourself, why do you want to learn Pilates in the first place? Do you want to lose weight or simply want to stay active with your friends? It is very important to get an instructor that understands your goals and helps you achieve them. Your instructor should be engaging and patient to keep you comfortable and motivated throughout your Pilates journey. 

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