Is There Any Pilates in Your Pilates?


Is there any Pilates in your Pilates?

Pilates classes and hybrids are everywhere. If you are new to Pilates and wondering what should or shouldn't be in a Pilates workout, here's a simple outline to help you assess how much Pilates is actually in your workout. Exercises aside (that's another article) these guidelines are fundamental to the very structure and nature of Pilates. The inclusion of every one of these elements is what separates Pilates from the pack.

Here are 5 ways to tell if you’re really getting Pilates – or something else.

  1. Equipment.
  2. Order
  3. Transitions
  4. Breathing
  5. Specificity

Let me break it down and if you don’t have time to read further please skip to number five where I will rant and rave in an effort to drive home the point. 

Equipment. This is simple. If you have a Pilates-Mat practice only, there is no equipment sanctioned by Pilates people other than a Mat, light weights, and a Magic Circle. Additional props like balls, bands and foam rollers are not Pilates, and never have been.  The Mat is a body-weight routine. You don’t need anything else to make it effective.

If you have a studio practice, you should be working out on a variety of spring-driven equipment. The Reformer does not define Pilates. Reformer, Mat, Cadillac, Wunda and High Chairs and three types of Barrels are really the minimum stock a Pilates studio should have.  Pilates is a system. One apparatus is a piece of the system but to get the full effects you need all the moving parts.

Order. Let me be very very clear. There IS an order to Pilates.  This is critical because the focus and concentration part requires that you know what’s coming next. That in itself is an exercise. Memory is key to Pilates. Knowing your order on any routine frees you up to focus on form.  Guess work is not effective. If you are not working out with an order of exercises you are missing a key to Pilates.

Transitions. In Pilates every piece of the workout is an exercise. How you transition between moves is part of your workout. Using a list of ordered moves means you can work your links between those moves. If you know what comes next weaving it together with transitional exercises increases your workout time, your calorie burn and your quality of movement. Transitions count.

Breathing.  Pilates said "above all  - learn to breathe correctly". If you aren’t getting some simple instruction on how to breathe and when to inhale and exhale on each move, your Pilates is falling short. Breath is key to the practice and will transform each move when executed correctly. 

Specificity. The mac daddy of Pilates. Specificity is the root of Pilates. Each move is executed at a specific dynamic, a specific form, and for specific purposes. The quality of each exercise in Pilates is specific. Never haphazard. And above all, the moves are specific to Pilates. They may look like other familiar moves but something in their form or instruction makes them specifically Pilates. The exercises you do in a Pilates class should always be precise and detailed with a focus on form. 

Assess the next workout you do or take for the five elements above. If your Pilates practice isn't getting any better, you might be missing one or more of these key ingredients. Check in with an instructor to refine your workout and fill in the missing pieces. 

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