Frequently Asked Questions - FAQ

So, what can you expect from your Pilates class?
Have a look at the questions I get asked most often. Should you have further queries please don't hesitate to contact me.

What should I bring or wear?

  •  A bottle of water and a small towel will come in handy
  • All other equipment including mats are provided for you
  • Shoes: we usually work with bare feet in Pilates but a wearing a pair of fresh socks is fine too, especially in the colder months of the year
  • Clothing: Keep it simple and wear comfortable but snug clothing. If what you wear is too baggy, I won’t be able to see if you’re in proper alignment or are engaging the correct muscles groups during exercise. Choose fabric that is light and breathable, cotton with a bit of stretch is a good idea.
  • It is also a good idea to start the class wearing an additional layer of clothing e.g. a sweatshirt or jumper that you can take off easily as your body warms up during the class.
  • Leggings are a popular choice for women and many men like wearing their tracksuit bottoms for Pilates. If you choose to wear loose-fitting shorts, please make sure you are also wearing cycling shorts underneath as otherwise you might reveal more than you bargained for.
  • During your Pilates class you’ll be lying on your back on the floor, rolling onto your front and side, get into four-point kneeling position, reach your arms above your head and your legs will be up in the air too now and then. So, consider all these movements and you’ll get an idea what kind of clothing will be suitable and what not so much.
  • Please keep jewellery to a minimum and refrain from wearing strong perfumes or scented body lotions to your Pilates class
  • If you have long hair please tie it back so I am able to check your correct neck and shoulder alignment.

 

In a nutshell – what is Pilates all about exactly?

Pilates is a series of progressive exercises focusing on abdominal muscles, building strength and improving flexibility.
It can be done on the floor (Matwork) or using specially designed equipment like the Reformer, Cadillac and Barrel to name but a few.

No matter whether you do Matwork or use equipment, these essential principles always apply:

The ABC of Pilates

A – for ALIGNMENT

Maintaining correct alignment at all times is vital. This means keeping some parts of your body still and stable (e.g. pelvis or rib cage) while moving others with control (e.g. legs or arms).

B – for BREATHING

In Pilates we use lateral breathing (i.e. breathing in to the back of the lower rib cage) which helps us to breathe while keeping the abdominals engaged. The breath is always coordinated with the movement.

C – for CENTRING

This means keeping the pelvic floor muscles, transversus abdominis and the obliques engaged in order to create a stable basis from which to move and to protect the lower back.

We use the ABCs in each and every exercise.

Is Pilates only for women?

The answer is an emphatic ‘no’.

First of all, let’s remind ourselves that this exercise regime was developed by a man who also was a boxer, a body-builder and a self-defence instructor. (see: A short History of Pilates)

It can’t be denied that women seem to have taken to Pilates in greater numbers than men initially but this is slowly changing.

More and more top athletes include Pilates sessions into their training programme as a matter of course (think Andy Murray, Tiger Woods) because they have realised that is gives them a competitive edge. Increased core strength, more efficient movement patterns and increased range of motion in the joints improves performance in all categories of sport.

Is there much of difference between Yoga and Pilates?

At first glance, these two regimes seem to have a lot in common.
Both are seen as ‘Mind-Body’ exercises (see below) enhancing strength, flexibility and posture. Lots has been written about the differences (just google Yoga vs Pilates). Having experienced both and not wanting to go into too much detail, I would define the main differences as follows:

Yoga originated in India and is thousands of years old. It is part of a whole way of life and has a spiritual dimension. Yoga classes often include special breathing exercises (Pranayama) and meditation. Yoga uses a series of postures (Asanas) which are held for a certain amount of time.

Pilates was developed in the first half of the 20th century with a view to physical conditioning of the body but without a spiritual aspect. Exercises always involve movement and postures are not held for any length of time. There is a strong emphasis on precision of movement.

I’m in my sixties/seventies/eighties. Surely, I’m too old for Pilates?

As we get older we tend to be less active which, to be honest, is exactly the opposite of what we should be doing. Also, our sense of balance can be diminished and every decade we lose a few percent of our muscle mass resulting in a loss of strength.

Bending down to pick something off the floor, opening a jar of jam, walking, turning around (think reversing down your drive in a car or putting on a coat) seems to become more difficult and cumbersome down the years.

Therefore, Pilates is ideal to counteract some of the effects of ageing (it won’t get rid of wrinkles) helping us to stay mobile and independent for longer.

Please do not buy into that old cliché of ‘you’ve worked hard all your life, now it’s time to put your feet up.’

Pilates looks really easy. Will it be challenging enough for me?

There is a common perception that doing Pilates means lying on your back a lot and lifting the legs or arms now and then.*

To the casual observer it might look like there is not much going on in, let’s say an exercise called ‘Pelvic Tilt’. Tilting the pelvis towards you does not seem much of a challenge - until you apply the ABCs of Pilates (see above).
At first, your legs will want to move too, your rib cage lifts of the floor and your arms and neck might tense up. And as to keeping your deep abdominals engaged throughout (centring), well that’s taking it to a whole different level of difficulty.

Once you have mastered the basic exercises your teacher will keep you advancing with progressively more challenging exercises, so you’ll never go home thinking ‘that was easy today’.

* Yes, we do a lot of exercises lying on our backs, a starting position known as Relaxation position, but there’s also side-lying, standing, four-point kneeling, lying on your front and sitting and most are used during any one session.

Why is Pilates sometimes referred to as a ‘Mind-Body exercise’?

A Mind-Body exercise like Pilates (other examples are Tai Chi and Yoga) is the type of exercise that is carried out with an intense inner focus. Great attention is given to form and correct alignment.

We concentrate on muscular movements and synchronise the movements with specific breathing patterns.

When we fully focus on an action of the body, the ‘eternal chatter’ in our mind goes quiet resulting in a feeling of being balanced and calm.

Will Pilates help me to lose weight?

No. Sorry to disappoint you there but in my experience the only way to lose that belly is to eat less.

In the run up to my final Pilates exam I did two Pilates workouts a day for weeks and did not lose an ounce.
Still, my friends thought I had lost weight because I carried myself better and had toned up. I also felt a lot better in my body, my mood improved which prompted me to seek out healthier food.
Without a doubt, Pilates tightens your midriff but the layer of fat above it will remain unless you cut down on portion size.

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