Insights and tips for starting a Pilates practice.
Pilates was developed by Joseph Pilates and has since evolved into many different styles referred to as modern or contemporary Pilates. Given the variety of styles being taught, it’s difficult to say exactly what you might experience.
The basic principles of the practice can provide some insight into how closely the workout follows the Pilates method. Classes that follow the principles and include exercises from other disciplines are considered to be a contemporary form of the practice.
Five key principles of Pilates
1/ Breathing: If you’re new to the practice, an instructor will probably start by reviewing the breathing. Your breath should expand your ribs latterly as it fills the back portion of your lugs and is “rung out” with your exhale and contraction.
2/ Control: All movements are generally done without momentum. However, the speed of the class will vary from instructor to instructor as will the focus of the class or session.
3/ Precision: Most exercises are done with less than 10 repetitions so that you maintain good form. It takes practice to do the full expression of the exercises. However, there are modifications for each exercise to help build the needed strength and flexibility.
4/ Rhythm and Flow: The movements from exercise to exercise can make the practice feel almost like a performance. The transitions are part of the practice because they help build strength and stamina.
5/ Concentration: Pilates is a mind body practice. It requires focus to connect your breath and movement so that you can do the exercises with precision and ease.
Keep in mind while you practice
1/ Breath: If you don’t get the Pilates breathing right away, just remember to breath.
2/ Modify: Doing a modified version of exercises right is better than doing the full expression of the exercise wrong.
3/ Enjoy: Even when the class is challenging you in new ways, try to keep your attitude light. One of my instructors used to tell the class we were auditioning for Cirque de Soleil so you can only imagine what we were doing at the time and the giggles that ensued.
What to expect
1/ 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.
2/ Mat Classes: Many mat classes use props including foam rollers, magic circles, balls and exercise bands to help strengthen and lengthen your muscles. Props also keep the workouts interesting and challenging.
3/ Instruction: Some instructors offer more instruction than others. The size of the class and the varying levels of health and fitness of the participants can influence the level of instruction provided. Private lessons and small group sessions are a good way to incorporate personalized instruction in your practice to address specific issues and needs.
To get started, try a few free mini mat classes and sign up for Shannon Smith Living to get the latest video workout, tips and community notifications delivered to your inbox each Monday.
My general rule is to try something at least 10 times before you decide whether you like it or not. It takes time to learn the exercises, props, equipment and incorporate the principles into your practice.
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