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Beginners Guide to Choosing a Pilates Studio

8 Steps to Ensure a Great Experience

You want to try out Pilates but you’re in OVERWHELM.

Pilates is offered at your gym and your yoga studio. You might have noticed that Pilates-based exercises are part of your spinning class, your core fusion class, your pole class and aerial arts class.

There are so many different schools of Pilates. The marketplace is saturated with Pilates studios and classes. In fact, it’s everywhere and you don’t know if you should join your BFF at the studio of his choice with 12 machines or try a smaller outlet with no looky-loos at the window. I’m here to help!

First, a few fun facts:

1. Pilates is pronounced “Pi-lah-tees” and not “Pie-lates.”

2. Pilates was actually a real person named Joseph Pilates, a German athlete and movement visionary who trained athletes, dancers and the lay person mainly in NY in the late 1920s to 1960s.

3. All sessions were privates. Yep, NO classes. Sessions were often self-directed, but under the watchful eye of Pilates or his advanced students or protégés.

4. Joseph Pilates was very creative and built unique equipment for specific purposes and sometimes even for a specific client. But his original work was all on the floor! Yep, NO equipment. This is now referred to as “Mat work.”

5. Pilates developed a system—a ‘method’ of unique exercises to be done in a specific order for a specific purpose. That purpose, very fundamentally, was to promote spinal flexibility. As well, core strength, so you have a powerful center from which to move. “If your spine is stiff at 30,” Pilates said, “you are old. If it is flexible at 60, you are young.”

6. A Pilates session can be a vigorous work out, BUT it is also a corrective exercise! Joe called his own work Contrology and said, “Contrology develops the body uniformly, corrects wrong postures, restores physical vitality, invigorates the mind, and elevates the spirit

7. Pilates is exercise that can be customized for everyone. It is NOT one size fits all.

8. You are not required to be lean or fit to start a Pilates practice. That’s some BS!

Recommendations for choosing a teacher, class and studio:

1. Start with ‘classical’ or ‘traditional’ Pilates! This is the original work/method from which all the other Pilates schools and fusion classes borrow and transmute. The studio and/or teacher bios will reflect ‘Classical’ in description. You will be more educated as you experiment with other teachers and studios.

2. Pay attention to the intake process. Did you complete an intake form where you notated both your possible injuries, condition and personal goals? Did your teacher talk to you about your “stuff.” Do you think he/she listened?

3. Do privates lessons first! Gift yourself a few. You will understand and enjoy your first group class by leaps and bounds or stick to privates, they’re the best!

4. Next, take a small group class, one where you feel that you are under the watchful eye of your teacher. I know you may be a back of the room kind of student, but you don’t want to get hurt, right?!

5. Notice if your teacher is paying attention. Is he/she able to make modifications for you or other students less agile and still keep your class moving?

6. Do you like the vibe in the studio? Do you like your teacher? Experiment with different teachers and don’t be precious. Different teachers will language things differently or use touch or imagery or make a new adjustment to help you. All worthwhile!

7. Be a beginner! We all have egos and we all like to be good at things but as with everything, there is a learning curve in Pilates. So, wherever you are is perfect. Could you surf or snowboard on day one? I doubt it very much!

8. Lastly, be proud of yourself for trying something new. Perhaps it’s scary or intimidating, but you are not going to let that inner critic best you. Heck NO!

I hope you move forward with Pilates. Personally I am a fan of Classical Pilates. In all it’s shapes and forms, Pilates is so very good for you. A teacher once said to me, “Even bad Pilates is better than no Pilates.”

I leave you with a favorite quote by Joseph Pilates:

“Change happens through movement and movement heals.” Joseph Pilates

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