5 Reasons Why You Should Take a Pilates Mat Class

If you're just getting started with Pilates, you might be having trouble deciding whether you want to take Pilates mat classes or Pilates equipment classes. The equipment is practically symbolic of Pilates, but that doesn't mean a good old fashioned mat class isn't worth your time. If you have the opportunity to use equipment, that's great, but don't knock the mat.

And for those of you who are in love with equipment and are neglecting your mat classes, it's time to rediscover the undeniable benefits of mat work.


Mat Classes Give You the Benefits of Pilates

Pilates class

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Toning, flexibility, better posture, more efficient movement, the body/mind connection—just about every benefit the Pilates method has to offer can be achieved through mat work. Pilates equipment adds an element of moderate resistance training, which is important in your overall fitness plan.

A Pilates mat workout that incorporates the classic Pilates sequence is an exceptionally good workout that will provide the foundation for a lifetime of healthy habits, not to mention, of course, that Pilates mat work is the ultimate in core workouts.


Mat Classes Cover the Basics

Group of athletic people exercising on Pilates training class.

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You'll learn all of the fundamental Pilates movement techniques in Pilates mat classes.

Neutral spine, a properly engaged core, c-curve, shoulder and pelvic stability, spinal articulation, full breathing, working with oppositional energy — all are key to Pilates mat work.

Learning these basics on the mat where there are fewer things to keep up with makes it that much easier to use them on the equipment.


Mat Skills Are Equipment Skills

Beautiful adult woman exercising pilates

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Some people think that Pilates mat exercises were intended by Joseph Pilates to be the foundation for Pilates equipment exercises. We don't know exactly how Joseph Pilates developed the work with regard to the mat and equipment exercises. However, most Pilates instructors and longtime practitioners will tell you that consistent mat work is profoundly beneficial to equipment performance.

Doing the mat exercises are great for transitioning to equipment, as most mat exercises translate directly onto the equipment.

The teaser and swan are two examples of exercises that are consistent from mat to reformer, and they keep their names as you move through reformer, chair, and tower. All mat exercises teach skills that relate to the equipment exercises.


Mat Work Improves Body, Mind & Spirit

And legs up! in Pilates class

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Pilates has nothing to do with religion, but it was definitely developed with the intention of helping to integrate and elevate the body, mind, and spirit.

Pilates exercises are always practiced with the Pilates principles of centering, concentration, control, precision, breath, and flow.

When a Pilates workout is infused with this kind of attention and quality it becomes more than a physical experience, and the effects are felt throughout one's life. The mat is the perfect place to embody the Pilates principles.


Learn How to Do Your Own Mat Workouts

Above view of athletic woman practicing with fitness circle.
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You can learn Pilates mat exercises and routines on your own with written instructions, DVDs, and videos, but the best way to learn is through a Pilates class with a good instructor, at least at first.

A mat class will give you the support to stick with it and the feedback you need to make sure you are doing everything right.

Once you know the mat exercises and can put them together in a routine for home, you make Pilates your own, which is what Joseph Pilates intended for all when he wrote Return to Life Through Contrology. All you will need is a mat or a firm, padded surface.

5 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Roh SY. The effects of body image, commitment, and attitude on behavior after purchase of Pilates consumers. J Exerc Rehabil. 2018;14(6):944–953. doi:10.12965/jer.1836436.218

  2. Lewitt MS, Mcpherson L, Stevenson M. Development of a Pilates Teaching Framework from an international survey of teacher practice. J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2019;23(4):943-949. doi:10.1016/j.jbmt.2019.02.005

  3. Cruz-díaz D, Bergamin M, Gobbo S, Martínez-amat A, Hita-contreras F. Comparative effects of 12 weeks of equipment based and mat Pilates in patients with Chronic Low Back Pain on pain, function and transversus abdominis activation. A randomized controlled trial. Complement Ther Med. 2017;33:72-77. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2017.06.004

  4. Wells C, Kolt GS, Bialocerkowski A. Defining Pilates exercise: a systematic review. Complement Ther Med. 2012;20(4):253-262. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2012.02.005

  5. Joseph Hubertus Pilates, William John Miller, Judd Robbins, Lin Van Heuit-Robbins. Pilates' Return to Life through Contrology (original publication with expanded edition). Presentation Dynamics, 2012

By Marguerite Ogle MS, RYT
Marguerite Ogle is a freelance writer and experienced natural wellness and life coach, who has been teaching Pilates for more than 35 years.