Taking your first Pilates lesson can be an intimidating yet rewarding experience. There are numerous benefits of doing Pilates, and with regular practice, you will certainly start to see the results. One thing is certain: you will quickly become addicted to this high-energy, muscle-burning workout.

What Is Pilates?

The Pilates method was invented in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates, who believed that mental and physical health are connected.

Pilates is a low-impact, total body workout that aims to strengthen the human mind and body. A Pilates workout utilises the breath, spine and the core muscles to improve postural alignment and flexibility.

The Benefits of Pilates

The benefits of practising Pilates are extensive, some of which include:

  • Improved body awareness
  • Better posture
  • Improved spinal alignment
  • Increased flexibility
  • Improved strength
  • Weight loss
  • Increased energy
  • Strengthened mind and body connection

You will see these results whether you're a beginner, intermediate or advanced practitioner. It doesn’t matter what your fitness level is, or the style of Pilates you choose, you will soon reap the rewards.

What things do you need to take to a Pilates lesson?
Don’t forget your Pilates mat and a drink to stay hydrated. Photo Source: Unsplash

What You Require To Begin

First, when finding Pilates classes, make sure you book the right level for you. If you're a beginner, book a beginner or introductory class. Before your first Pilates lesson, it is vital to ensure that you are fully prepared and ready to learn. As a beginner, you will require some things to start. Some of these things are obligatory, and some are recommended. Usually you do not need to bring your own Pilates equipment as most studios provide all necessary items.

The Necessities

  • You must be open minded and eager to learn. Leave any preconceptions at the door, open your mind and get ready to learn something new. Don't allow any bad habits like laziness, self-deprecation, and poor posture.
  • Don’t forget to bring money to pay the Pilates instructor for the lesson.
  • A good Pilates or yoga mat is essential to support you during the class. A mat offers resistance and grip so you can keep your balance, and it also cushions your body from the floor. A decent mat is a minimum of 6mm thick (the more padded, the better) and highly non-slip.
  • It is also vital to wear comfortable clothing during your Pilates training. Your activewear should allow you to move freely with a complete range of motion, while being supportive and absorbing sweat. A basic t-shirt with leggings is fine, but if you’re able to invest in some proper activewear, you won’t regret it.
    • Select clothing that is made out of stretchy, breathable materials 
    • Basic form-fitting clothing is preferable to baggy clothes. The Pilates teacher needs to be able to see your body in order to check your alignment and teach you properly. 
    • You don’t require runners, Pilates is done barefoot. If you would like, you can purchase pilates or yoga socks that have grip on the soles. 
    • Avoid zips, buttons, drawstrings or buckles as they may dig into you while lying down, and they could also get caught in equipment.
    • Shorts are also not practical, as there are some positions where your legs are in the air, or you're upside down. Shorts may ride up or expose you.
  • Typically Pilates classes are around an hour to 90 minutes long, so you must keep hydrated. Water is the best choice. Ensure you bring a bottle to the lesson, preferably a litre. Not only does water keep you hydrated, it flushes out the toxins from your body and helps you to see the benefits of Pilates quickly. Consider investing in a refillable and environmentally-friendly water bottle.

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  • If you have limited mobility in any parts of your body, consider purchasing some resistance bands. These are stretchy bands that can improve your flexibility and increase strength training during the workout. 
  • If you have any problems with alignment, you might also want to bring a support pillow. It can be used to support any part of your body while lying down, doing floor work, and when you need to sit during the lesson.

Class Behaviour

A vital part of participating in any group exercise class is knowing how to behave to make sure you are not hindering your own or anyone else’s progress. These basic rules will make sure you get the most out of the lesson and support your fellow classmates:

  • Ensure you arrive on time
  • Warm up prior to the class to prevent any injuries
  • Inform the Pilates teacher about any pre-existing injuries
  • Do not talk in class, stay present and focused
  • Do not push yourself beyond your limits. If something hurts, inform your teacher immediately. 
  • Keep your hair tied back off your face
  • Take a towel to clean any shared surfaces and equipment

Prior To The Class

Prior to the lesson make sure you know what kind of class it is that you have booked. If you have signed up for a Pilates Mat class then you will need to take your Pilates or yoga mat with you. If you are doing a Reformer class, you will use a Pilates reformer machine and you might only need to take yourself and a bottle of water. To make sure you avoid any surprises, check what class you have booked.

Keep in mind that Pilates isn’t going to exhaust your muscles in the same manner as an aerobic workout, cardio workout or high-intensity workout. Pilates is mainly focused on working your muscles and core strength in a precise and controlled manner. Your breath times the movements. You will need to be present and conscious of yourself in order to achieve precision in your poses and mindful practice.

Don’t sign up for daily Pilates lessons until you test out your first class.

Pilates is a low-impact, total body workout.
Be present and focus on your breath and core. Photo Source: Unsplash

During The Class

Ensure you arrive at the Pilates studio on time, as the teacher will probably be there a few minutes early. This is a good opportunity to introduce yourself, tell them that you are a beginner, and of any injuries or limitations that you may have during the class. This is vital so that the Pilates instructor can keep an eye on you and give you additional assistance during the lesson. They can also provide you with any modifications should they be required.

As a beginner, take a place in the second row instead of the first, allowing more experienced students to sit in the front. Sitting behind the first row provides you with additional people to observe during the class. Don’t be too concerned about getting it perfect in your first session, just pay attention and try your best. The Pilates instructor will come to assist you if they notice you have any issues with your alignment.

During the lesson, you will become conscious of your body and muscles. Despite moving with controlled movements in the class, you may often feel your muscles burning. This is a positive. As long as you are not in real pain, resist stopping and try to complete the full set of exercises to achieve the most benefits. 

Following The Class

Straight after the lesson ensure to rehydrate properly. Though you might not have sweat that much, your body would have lost a lot of water and important nutrients during the class. Getting back these lost nutrients and water will assist your body to recover and repair.

In the few days following the Pilates lesson, your body might ache. This is normal and occurs when your muscles have been worked hard in new ways. This is your body responding to the Pilates exercises. Though your body might feel sore, the more you practice Pilates the more you will see a leaner, more toned, balanced body. Even if your body needs a few days to recover, you should sign up for your next lesson immediately to ensure you don’t lose motivation and momentum.

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Can I practice Pilates if I am prenatal or postnatal?
Pilates is a whole body workout that can be practised at almost any life stage (like prenatal or postnatal) and can be adapted to suit any level. Photo Source: Unsplash

Differences You May Notice From Regular Pilates Practice

Practising Pilates regularly is certainly restorative and will make you feel like a whole new person. Here are some improvements that you should begin to see as a Pilates practitioner:

  1. An all-round stronger body 
  2. New muscles that you weren’t aware of
  3. Increased muscle tone
  4. Faster metabolism
  5. Increased fat burning
  6. Weight loss
  7. Improved focus
  8. Better stamina
  9. Increased energy
  10. Reduced stress and anxiety

You can practice Pilates your whole life, there are no limits as to what you can accomplish. You can also practice Pilates alongside other forms of exercise. Pilates is a well-defined fitness program with instructors who undertake a rigorous teacher training program to become qualified to instruct.

Pilates is guaranteed to reward you with maximum results. Keep your personal fitness goals at the forefront of your mind and stay motivated to keep going. Pilates is such a beneficial practice, and when coupled with a healthy diet, your entire body will feel invigorated.

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Ali is an Australian writer, community manager and art curator living in Paris.