Whether you’re curious to try your first Reformer class, or a seasoned Pilates lover, here’s how to squeeze the most out of your Pilates practice. Jacqui-Maree Bailey, Senior Pilates Teacher at BodyMindLife in Byron Bay gives us her six tips on how to begin your Pilates Journey as well as advance in your current practice.
1. What to know before your first class
Pilates has been around for over a century, holding more popularity and status now than ever. It was intended as a regular practice, borne from the innovation and exploration of Joseph Hubertus Pilates, who created the Pilates Method as a holistic approach to exercise. The Pilates repertoire and apparatus were the pinnacle of Joseph’s long career in ‘physical culture’. Heavily influenced by Yoga, gymnastics and animal movement, he believed physical fitness to be the first requisite of happiness, with a healthy body, mind and spirit being the secret to longevity.
The Pilates Method was designed to achieve full-body strength and mobility, teaching diaphragmatic breath and body awareness. Whether you’re a beginner or advancing your practice, the Pilates repertoire can be cleverly progressed or regressed (made more challenging or less) to feel the benefits. There are so many styles around now, pointing to the versatility, inclusivity and addictive potential that gives Pilates its edge.
2. How to get started
Find a beginner-level Pilates class or book a private one-on-one with an experienced teacher. Body Mind Life Align Pilates classes are designed to familiarise beginners with the Reformer and learn essential exercises while building confidence, strength and body awareness. Movement themes and Pilates Principles are cycled through weekly to learn, revisit and refine. Seeking out deeper insight from the beginning provides solid foundations to progress. You could start with two sessions per week consistently but always check with your doctor first before beginning a new exercise regime.
3. Mind, Body, Breath = Pilates
There are six Pilates Principles, and breathing is queen. We aren’t often taught how to breathe, and Pilates encourages us to learn. Diaphragmatic breathing is essentially the opposite to short, shallow breaths. Breathing deeply into the low waistband helps strengthen primary breathing muscles and encourages the neck, shoulders and jaw to relax tension. By reconnecting to calm diaphragmatic breathing throughout your practice, especially when challenged, you could find extra stamina to progress.
4. Learn to use the Reformer to its fullest potential
The ‘Universal Reformer’ was cleverly designed for both full-body conditioning and injury recovery. It has so much to offer, further enhancing Pilates’ versatility and accessibility through adjustable footbar, strap and spring settings. Understanding these Reformer settings is fundamental in starting and advancing your practice, changing each exercise’s intensity to either support or challenge you further. An experienced teacher will give guidance around this so everyone can feel autonomous in working at their individual level.
5. Make sure your workout feels useful for you
Each Pilates exercise is designed to mobilise and strengthen different body areas or integrate full-body movement. Our brains prefer habitual routes and sometimes we’re unaware of patterns causing reduced range of movement or limiting strength. An experienced teacher could help you find more freedom, strength and endurance in your movement, supporting your everyday activities, work and life.
6. The most essential points to help you progress
Commit to yourself by choosing a Pilates practice that helps you feel balanced and motivated. Seek out a passionate teacher who shares their knowledge and enables you to feel empowered and supported to try new things, ask questions and progress. Keep showing up and enjoy the ride!