What to Expect in Your First Pilates Class

After my private instruction with the owner of Pilates Plus, Melissa, I had some basic moves under my belt with the most common equipment in Pilates and was ready to graduate to a small class of three with another instructor. Woohoo!

One of my classmates was a man with a back injury who was using Pilates as part of his therapy. Certain moves were modified by the instructor to make sure the exercises were safe. The other participant was a woman who appeared to be in pretty good health and was maintaining her strength and tone. I felt right at home since we were all middle-aged and familiar with exercise activity in general.

We started on the reformer, lying on our backs with our knees bent at right angles and resting our feet in different positions on the bar at the bottom of the machine. Then we straightened our legs and moved the carriage backward, forward, and back again. Next, we took a strap from the top of the carriage and looped it around our feet, put our legs straight into the air, and made circular movements with our legs. The carriage made small movements beneath us as both of these moves use resistance from the springs underneath.

Taking the strap off our feet, we raised our headrests, laid down and extended our legs out past the footrest. With our legs on a 45-degree angle, we lifted our back up off the carriage to form a V shape with our body; a move called the Pilates Hundred that can also be done on a mat. Hands are in the straps as you reach forward and pulse them up and down at your sides. This move starts out with your legs bent at the knee in a “table-top” 90-degree angle first. You can work your way into the V position using as much support for your back from the carriage as you need until you can raise can yourself higher with more core strength.

We did some side exercises while managing a good stretch by putting a large padded block on the carriage. Sitting on top, and positioned on one hip, we grabbed the strap from the top of the carriage and pulled our arm over our head and down, repeating the process on the other side. Mirrors on the wall allow you to check your form which is critical if you want to get the most out of your class and avoid any possible injury. Then, we sat on the same block, placed our feet on the bottom bar again and twisted our torso side to side holding a booyah stick (hands placed on both ends of the stick held straight out from our chest) as we strengthened and stretched our core.

With another molded foam S-shaped stability block on the carriage to support the curve of your body, you can do a version of a side plank by laying the side of your hip in the S-curve and bending sideways with your hands behind your head. If you’ve tried a side plank, without this support, it takes much more balance and strength to engage these muscles. This block gives you a good start on your form as you become stronger.

I enjoyed being able to watch the posture of other people around me as well as using the mirror to see how my movements measured up to theirs. The instructor helped to correct my attempt at a new exercise so I could understand what it felt like when I achieved the right position for maximum benefits.

In a Pilates class, you can:

  • chat a little with the other participants, find out how long they’ve been doing Pilates, and why they like it
  • ask others for help finding the right block, wedge, or stick for the next move and receive encouragement
  • gauge how well you are doing or what needs improvement

The instructor has lots of ideas and suggestions to get the best exercise form and intensity level!




Photo Credits: WebMD.com website: https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/ss/slideshow-15-pilates-moves


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