What Not to Say to a Pilates Beginner

5 Ways to Mislead Your Friends About Pilates

The last thing a Pilates beginner needs is to have their fitness plans derailed by misinformation or half-truths about Pilates, even if it is well-intended.

Here are 5 things some might say about Pilates that could give a beginner the wrong idea. Of course, I know you, dear reader, might be a beginner. In that case, take these cautions as my secret way of cluing you in on how special Pilates really is.

Pilates is Easy

One woman exercising on a Pilates machine.
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There is a big difference between exercise being easy in general and being easy to get started in. Pilates falls firmly in the second category. One of the best things about Pilates is that Pilates meets you where you are and goes on to provide a lifetime of new learning, body/mind integration, and fitness challenges. People who are completely new to exercise can start Pilates and be comfortable. People who are very advanced in Pilates continue to be challenged by it throughout their lives. To say less of it is to undermine the full sophistication of the Pilates method.

Beginners will find that there are plenty of seemingly easy beginner exercises and plenty of ways to learn Pilates, but no matter how basic the class or simple the move, you have to bring yourself one hundred percent to every Pilates exercise. That is never easy. It is, however, part of what makes Pilates so effective and continually interesting. Let's face it, a uniformly developed body that moves with strength, flexibility, grace and efficiency doesn't come from "easy" exercise. It comes from a well designed program of exercise that works for beginners and keeps on working.

Pilates is Just Like Yoga

Women practicing downward facing dog in yoga class
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Don't go to a Pilates class expecting it to be like yoga. True, some Pilates exercises, in stop-motion, look like yoga poses. However, Pilates exercises are not yoga asanas and there are many significant differences in form and technique. Pilates and yoga may also look similar because they are both performed on a mat, but Pilates is also practiced extensively on a variety of Pilates equipment. The links below go into those issues in some detail.

One of the big similarities between Pilates and yoga is that they are body/mind integrative disciplines and both aspire to use that integration to elevate the spirit. Pilates, however, has none of the religious background that yoga does, nor are you likely to encounter overt spiritual teaching in a Pilates class.

By the way, you might hear that Joseph Pilates, the founder of the Pilates Method, studied yoga. However, there is considerable evidence that this is not true.

Just Learn Pilates at Home

Pilates class
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You can definitely learn and practice Pilates at home and there are many benefits to a home workout.

However, Pilates is a sophisticated system of fitness. It is not just a bunch of exercises that are easy to learn from the outside in. The best way to get started is to build on a strong foundation of movement fundamentals and principles with the help of a qualified Pilates instructor who can watch you, give you feedback, and make sure you are working with effective technique. Then practice at home.

I Didn't Think You Were the Pilates Type

Teaching supporting student lying on back in pilates class
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Many of us first heard of Pilates because celebrities favor it. Famous sports figures like U.S. Olympians use Pilates, and Hollywood stars are constantly reported going to and leaving Pilates classes. Unfortunately, talk show hosts and fun-makers take to that in a way that has made Pilates sound elitist. And, to be fair, it is true that Pilates classes cost a little more than regular exercise classes but not that much more considering the benefits. Plus, there are many ways to make Pilates affordable.

The truth is, there is no particular "type" who does Pilates. Over 8 million people do Pilates world-wide and most of them are not rich or celebrities. They are ordinary people from all walks of life and all levels of fitness who want to take advantage of the many benefits of Pilates.

Athletes do it. Seniors do it. Pregnant women do it. Men do it. They do it to get in shape, they do it for rehab and relief of back pain, and they use Pilates to cross train for other fitness activities.

But You Have a Great Looking Body Already

Pilates Studio
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It is true that flat abs, a better butt, and toned thighs are often results of Pilates training, and the look of a Pilates body is one of the things that motivates people to do Pilates. However, looks are deceptive and far from the point of Pilates.

Looks don't tell you how well a body moves -- whether it is efficient, graceful, balanced, or flexible. Looks don't tell you if there are movement patterns causing back pain or getting in the way of enjoying daily life activities. Looks also won't tell you how fully a person actually lives in their body. Pilates training works from the inside out and offers benefits far beyond how a body looks.

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