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Pilates is full body workout that aims to improve the body’s muscular system by increasing flexibility and strength
A fully equipped Pilates studio will be lined with a range of fitness contraptions: Reformers, trapeziums, Wunda chairs, perhaps an assortment of balls, bands, and barrels. And then there’s the mat, a simple foam rectangle about twice as thick as a yoga mat. Like all Pilates equipment, the mat is designed to work the abdomen, lower back, hips, and buttocks (the powerhouse, in Pilates lingo)—or rather, to provide a surface for you to work these muscles, relying on your own bodyweight for resistance. During mat classes, instructors guide students through a flowing choreography of exercises aimed at strengthening muscles, increasing spine and hip flexibility, and improving balance. The end goal is not only long, lean muscles, but an improved awareness of one’s own body and its proper alignment.
Requiring no complex equipment, mat classes tend to be more prevalent and more affordable than Reformer classes; once you learn the moves, it’s easy to practice at home or on top of a cleared desk at work. Some Pilates instructors require new students to perfect their form on the mat before moving on, whereas others find that certain Reformer exercises may provide a better start for those with limited mobility. Wherever you start, many studios recommend at least one private session before joining a group class so you can build a foundation as strong as your powerhouse is going to become.