Pilates for Beginners

Pilates for Beginners: What You Should Know Before Your First Class

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Practicing Pilates will strengthen your core, realign your body and restore your balance. When practiced consistently, you’ll notice your body becoming well-toned without much bulk. Others will notice your improved posture and positive attitude. A healthier body will always lead to a happier you!

Signing up for a beginners Pilates class is certainly the first step towards your journey to health and happiness. However, starting something new can be intimidating and it’s natural to feel anxious before your first class. This is totally normal and we’ve all been there! We want to help you feel more prepared, so here’s what you should know before your first class:

What to bring

 Most Pilates studios will provide you with the equipment needed for classes, but you may want to bring your own mat. A Yoga mat should do, but keep in mind that Pilates mats are typically a little thicker. You should also bring a water bottle, a small towel in case you break into a sweat and a positive attitude!

What to wear

 While you should dress comfortably, it’s important to avoid baggy clothes. During a Pilates workout, the instructor will want to see your body’s alignment so they can give proper instructions for correcting your form. Like Yoga, Pilates is done barefoot, so there’s no need for socks. Like any other workout, accessories should be kept to a minimum and it’s best to not wear any at all. Sure, that tennis bracelet looks awesome, but it could get in the way of your practice. Please be considerate of your fellow classmates and avoid strongly-scented deodorants and perfumes as well. The goal is to create a comfortable space without distractions.


For most Pilates exercises, you’ll just need yourself and a mat but occasionally other equipment will be used such as a Pilates fitness ball or a Pilates Magic Circle, which is a ring that provides resistance. You may also encounter a larger piece of equipment called a reformer. A reformer is typically the size of a bench and is made of wood or metal. It includes various straps and pulls for resistance exercises.

 Pilates etiquette

It should go without saying, but it’s important to arrive on time for your Pilates class to avoid interrupting other students. If it’s your first class, please arrive 10-15 minutes before the start time as the instructor may need to ask you a few questions. Please disclose any injuries or special needs so the instructor can suggest alternative exercises that will give you the same benefit as others in the class. If you use the studio’s equipment during the class, please be sure to clean it before you leave. If you have non-urgent questions that do not pertain to a specific exercise during class, please wait until afterwards to ask the instructor so that everyone gets the most of their instruction time.

Language of Pilates

Here are a few terms that you may hear in your first Pilates class:

  • Abductor Muscles – Refers to muscles that take a body part further away from the mid-section, such as kicking your leg up.
  • Adductor Muscles – Refers to muscles that bring a body part closer to the mid-section, such as pulling in your inner thigh.
  • Core – Refers to the “trunk” of the body, particularly your abdominal and back muscles.
  • Counter Stretch – Stretching your body in the opposite direction that you did before. For example, if you brought your leg in, bringing your leg out would be a Counter Stretch.
  • Lateral Breathing – Refers to taking a deep breath while your abdominal muscles are contracted.
  • Midline – Imagine an invisible line running down the middle of your body.
  • Oppositional Stretch – A stretch that extends the body in opposite directions, such as stretching your arms out from both sides of your body.
  • Powerhouse – Refers to the center of your body and includes your abdominals and lower back.
  • Zip it Up – If a Pilates instructor tells you to “Zip it Up”, this means you should drop in your chest and pull in all of your abdominal muscles.


Remember that you are just getting started, so don’t expect perfection from yourself. Even the most fit individuals find Pilates to be a unique challenge. Try your best with each exercise. If you are having difficulty, ask your instructor for an adjustment or a modification. You will definitely feel a sense of accomplishment after your making it through first class!

Following these tips will reduce your anxiety before your first class, but trying out some of the exercises on your own could certainly help as well. There are many instructional videos online or you can download the 100’s to Happiness® app, which will walk you through a different Pilates challenge every day for 100 days.

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