There are so many excellent benefits to practising Pilates - these can include attaining a strong core, increasing your flexibility and range of motion, improving your posture, body awareness and coordination, reducing stress and accessing mindfulness through breathing techniques and increasing your overall stamina. Pilates is great for the health of your entire body, and you'll start to feel the effects after only a few sessions.
If you're ready to start incorporating all the wonderful health benefits into your life, you may be wondering where to start. Where are the Pilates classes near you? How much do they cost? Should I book into a studio that offers yoga, or Pilates, or both?
If you're interested in Pilates, but want more information on how much you can expect to spend on classes, look no further.
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Before your first pilates class for beginners...
Before you commit to a regular exercise class and all the associated membership cost, first you should understand what kind of bang you're getting for your buck. So what exactly is Pilates?
Pilates is a kind of exercise designed to condition the whole body. It does this by improving body stability through various strengthening exercises. So, what's the history behind this discipline and how did modern Pilates come to be?
The History Behind Pilates
Pilates is a physical activity whose principles were developed over time by mixing certain movements for improved mind and body health.
Pilates was invented by a German boxer, circus performer and self-defence trainer named Joseph Pilates. Pilates moved to England in 1912 and was later interned there when the First World War broke out. He used this period of confinement to intensively study and develop his methods and began to train his fellow inmates and seriously injured veterans returning from the front. Whilst interned, he had very few tools at his disposal beyond an exercise mat, and he used this to develop simple, yet effective strengthening exercises with a strong focus on the body-mind connection.
A few key principles of Pilates are:
- Control: This is one of the main pillars of thoughts behind Pilates - the idea being that by controlling your muscle movements you can attain a better quality workout. In Pilates, you are encouraged to direct your inner energy efficiently through controlled movement to get the maximum benefits from the practice.
- Breath: there is also a strong focus on the breath, which provides the rhyhtm for your practice and allows anyone to follow along with the movements in time with their own breathing. On the in breath, the body fills with oxygen and energy, preparing for the next pose.
- Concentration: Pilates requires your full focus, so you may feel quite mentally drained after a session, along with any physical tiredness. It is important to practice Pilates without distraction to get the full benefits!
- Flow: the movements in Pilates should be graceful and fluid, as you glide gently from pose to pose. The body moves in unity and the poses flow seamlessly into one another. This allows you to save energy whilst simultaneously getting the most out of every movement.
- Centering: The energy you generate during your Pilates practice should come from the centre of your body - also known as your core. In Pilates, this is often referred to as the 'powerhouse' - an area between your bellybutton and pubic bone. This is the central point of focus and you should sense all movement flowing from here. You can encourage this by breathing deeply into your belly.
- Precision: It is vitally important to align your movements precisely when practicing pilates to maintain a good balance of control and flow. You are encouraged to bring your awareness to your limbs and execute each posture very precisely to get the maximum benefits. This helps you to commit the poses to muscle memory and prevent any injuries.
Do I need special equipment for Pilates classes?
One of the great benefits to the Pilates program is that the method is very adaptable. As we mentioned before, Joseph Pilates developed it in an internment camp with very few resources at his disposal! This means it can be done anywhere by almost anyone. Whilst studios will be fitted out with Pilates Reformer machines, you can also practice with only a mat. Pilates is designed so that you can see great results whether you're practising with minimal setup or lots of fancy equipment.
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The minimum equipment needed to practice Pilates...
- A quality, non-slip Yoga or Pilates mat
- Enough space to practice
- Comfortable, breathable fitness wear that allows you lots of freedom of movement
- A big bottle of water for optimum hydration
- Yourself - on the may, ready, focused and willing to try something new!
There are many different kinds of Pilates classes out there, some requiring equipment and some not. Any larger equipment or reformer machines will be provided by the gym or studio, and often you'll even be loaned a mat for the duration of the session. So if you're attending classes, it's unlikely you'll need too much. On the other hand, if you want to continue your practice at home, it could be a wise idea to invest in your own basic setup.
So how much will a minimal setup cost?
- A yoga mat - with yoga mats, you definitely get what you pay for in terms of quality and lifespan. You can pick up a cheap one from your local Kmart or Target for around $10, but investing more will give you so much more benefit. Expensive yoga mats can go up to $100, but anywhere between $25 and $40 will get you something decent.
- Fitness wear - you generally pay for what you get here, too. If you don't already maintain a fitness regime, start with cheaper fitness wear. On the other hand, if you're already exercising a few hours a week, you should invest in good fitness wear as you'll get lots of use from it.
- A bottle of water - no need to go fancy here! Just pick up something plain and BPA-free from the supermarket if you don't own one already. This can set you back as little as $5
Different Pilates Options
Since its invention by Joseph Pilates over 100 years ago, many styles of Pilates have branched off and there are many kinds of Pilates available today. Of these, the most well-known is classical Pilates, which is practised primarily on a mat. However, other styles of pilates are gaining in popularity.
It is ultimately up to the individual studios and instructors to set their prices and your responsibility to find a studio with prices that suit your budget. You'll also need to balance price with finding a style that appeals to you and feels effective, so you may need to shop around. Here is a rough idea of what you can expect to pay for sessions in the various Pilates styles:
- Contemporary and classical Pilates: this is the most well-known style, and the one most commonly offered at the gym and in studios. If you're new to Pilates, this is the style for you. Classical Pilates classes first focus on building up strength in the core (aka the powerhouse), making connections between the mind and body, breathing deeply into the belly and cultivating awareness of the whole body. Classical and contemporary Pilates are quite similar, but as the name suggests, contemporary Pilates has developed new postures over the years. Both styles emphasize holistic wellness and improve strength and alignment through resistance movements. These tend to be the cheapest form of classes and will set you back anything between $15-$30 per session, depending on where you live. Sometimes these classes will be offered at your local gym and are included in your gym membership!
- Clinical Pilates fuses Pilates with physiotherapy and focuses on rehabilitation from injury. This form was developed by physiotherapists who used classical Pilates as inspiration to give their patients effective regular exercises to do at home. Physiotherapy Pilates tends to be more expensive as it is more specialised, and can cost upwards of $100 for 30 minutes with a very experienced practitioner.
- Stott Pilates: this is a branded form of contemporary Pilates where the main point of difference is the extra emphasis on spinal alignment. Stott Pilates grew from classical Pilates and the two forms are very similar - you can expect to pay around $30-$40 per session.
- Polestar Pilates: this kind is also built on the foundation of classical Pilates, with a strong focus on personalising the Pilates program to suit each practitioner. This means you'll be consulted on your fitness level, body type, any injuries and desired fitness goals, and be given a different set of exercises depending on your individual fitness profile. Polestar Pilates will set you back around $30 per session.
- Reformer Pilates is the kind that uses the Reformer Machine. These machines were invented by Joseph Pilates himself, and have been improved and refined over the years. This method is practised entirely with the machines, which are provided by the Pilates studio. These give you a gentle, but effective workout without any injuries. Because these machines are large and expensive, Reformer Pilates studios tend to have higher overhead costs, and this is reflected in the price - around $40 per session for group classes, or more if you book in for a one-on-one session with a professional to teach you how to get the most out of the machines.
Minimum Investment in your first class = $15
How Can Pilates Sessions Change Your Body?
We've already discovered the basic principles to Pilates and what you'll need to focus on to get the best outcomes possible, but what are these advantages we keep hearing about - what can Pilates really do for your body and general wellbeing?
The primary benefit will be a dramatic increase in core strength. This, in turn, will encourage good posture, better spinal alignment and strengthen all your joints. This flows onto increased physical wellbeing and mental balance. Pilates is often referred to as a full-body workout - all of your joints and muscles are involved and these improve and develop as one.
Pilates can also help with gaining lean muscle, weight loss, increasing energy levels and improving both mental and physical strength.
Each fundamental Pilates principles acts as a building block towards better health, good posture, self-awareness, steady breathing, a stronger core and establishing the connection between mind and body. To unlock all these benefits, regular training is recommended.
Pilates is a holistic practice that can improve all aspects of your health.
Pilates isn't necessarily about getting a lean, toned body (although this could be a positive side effect to your practice), the ultimate goal is to get your mind in touch with your body for overall wellbeing. This alone is worth the challenge of Pilates.
How Pilates Can Subtly Change Your Body
As maintaining the correct posture is a core focus to Pilates, you will notice steadily improving posture over time.
If your goal is weight loss, this can be a positive side effect to Pilates, when it is complemented by a balanced diet. Over time, the improvements in posture and toning effects on your muscles can make you seem taller and slimmer.
Your overall flexibility will also benefit from Pilates as the exercises gently encourage your joints and muscles to release stress and stretch into their full potential. This can be a long-term benefit if you train regularly.
A strong core is a key element of Pilates training as the core of the body is considered the "power station" that supports and energizes the rest of the body. A stronger core means better posture, more energy and possibly a smaller waistline or toned torso.
Stress is an unfortunate and ever-present symptom of our busy lives - so it's important to find a form of healthy stress release that works for you. Pilates is a natural stress release and is particularly calming thanks to its mindful, gentle approach that can be fitted into your busy life by practising in your spare time. The intentional focusing on the mind on the repetitive, precise movements is central to successful Pilates practice, and this can help you build healthy mental habits and stress resilience.
Pilates can be for anyone, regardless of your age or health goals. You'll see some benefits from practising pilates on its own, or use it to complement your existing fitness regime. Remember that Joseph Pilates developed the program to heal veterans after WWI, so no matter if you're injured, inflexible, pregnant, a child or a senior citizen, the Pilates method can adapt and work for you!
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Will Pilates Help You Grow Taller?
In short - no. Pilates, like any exercise, cannot magically help you grow taller. However, the stretches involved may help add the appearance of height as your posture improves.
If you're between the ages of 18 and 20, you may have some final growing to do, and Pilates is great for the wellbeing of growing teens and young adults, but it won't add any more height.
Beware - some fitness "gurus" capitalise on the idea of using exercises such as Pilates to grow. This is a very controversial and unsubstantiated claim, especially if they are profiting from people desperate for a few extra centimetres of height.
On this subject, the Daily Mail reported on a fitness guru named Pierre, who developed a kind of workout he called "A-Grow-Bics" supposedly designed to help shorter people train their bodies to appear taller. Pierre claims that he gained inches from the workout, attributing the success of the workout to the elasticity of the human body when manipulated and trained over time.
As the Daily Mail reports:
"Pierre, an Italian, is 5ft 9in now, but he proudly tells me he used to be two inches shorter. After spending most of his life longing to be taller, he developed A-Grow-Bics.
This revolutionary exercise system blends elements of Pilates, Yoga, cardio exercises and stretching moves; it involves hanging upside down like a bat . . . oh, and being strapped on to a rack. Yes, a rack — those devices that were all the rage in 15th-century torture chambers."
On the other hand, gaining height won't make you any healthier and the extreme measures Pierre recommends to his clients are discouraged by doctors as they are putting the body under an unhealthy and unnatural amount of force.
The verdict - if you're seeking extra height, try Pilates for improved posture and the illusion of height, but avoid any fitness workouts that screw you to a rack!
Some Different Ways To Learn Pilates
- In The Gym or Studio
If you want to start practising Pilates in person with a qualified instructor you may want to visit a Pilates studio or gym offering Pilates classes. These places will offer many different styles of Pilates, from more minimal classes using simply a yoga mat, to Reformer Pilates on the machines. If you have a gym membership with unlimited access to classes, you may find Pilates is one of the classes available to you. This means you could keep costs low by attending your first Pilates class free with your gym membership, or buy a day pass.
- Cost: $15-$20 for a gym day pass
- Pilates Workshops Or Retreats
If a more intensive experience appeals you, a Pilates retreat could be the way to go. These are held around the world, often in beautiful locations to help you connect body and mind and fully enjoy your daily Pilates immersion. You'll get a solid grounding in all the Pilates principles which guide the practice, and you'll get to eat, sleep and breathe pilates for the duration of the retreat!
- Cost: as accommodation and food is usually provided, prices can vary between $100-$500 per day
- A Pilates DVD
If you still have a DVD player at home and adequate space to layout your yoga mat, a Pilates DVD could be a cheap and private way to get started with Pilates.
You'll follow a Pilates Instructor through the workout, working the whole body along the way. This style of learning is best suited to beginners, as it allows you to try out a class before attending the live version.
- Cost: anywhere between $5 and $25 for a DVD
- One-on-one private classes - in person or online
This can be a great way to connect with Pilates instructors anywhere in the world. These are good for people preferring a more private approach, but still wanting individualised attention and feedback from a real person. One-on-one classes allow you to get assessed from head to toe, as the instructor partners with you and adapts their program to target your individual fitness goals.
These goals could involve increasing overall strength, developing core muscles, improving posture... you name it, a private Pilates instructor can help you with it. One-on-one attention from a professional is the best way to deepen your practice and really ensure you're on track to meet your fitness goals.
Many Pilates instructors will also offer online classes via Skype or Zoom, so you'll be able to attend classes even if you live remotely or are travelling out of town. On the other hand, if you live in a town or city, there will certainly be a Pilates instructor near you to work face-to-face.
- Cost: depending on their experience and qualifications, an hour with a Pilates instructor can cost anywhere between $40 and $150
- Pre-recorded Pilates fitness videos
Free workouts? Sign me up! You'll be pleased to hear there are hundreds of websites offering workouts that are 100% free of charge. The most popular and well-known is YouTube, which has lots of different Pilates instructors making and uploading new videos all the time. These videos can be of very high-quality and are great for beginners to dip their toe into the world of Pilates from the comfort of home. If you're an advanced Pilates fanatic, these videos might help you fit extra Pilates into your week between face-to-face classes. The best part? You can practice whenever and wherever you like!
Whilst these videos are convenient, you'll need to have the motivation to practice regularly without the accountability of an in-person instructor.
So how much will you need to invest in Pilates training? This will depend on where and how you choose to practise. As we've shown, many online classes and videos are free, or if you want to truly refine your practice and kick your fitness goals you can employ a highly-qualified professional with a price to match.
So what are you waiting for? Get started with Pilates today!