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Pilates Advice

How to Find a Good Pilates Teacher

The effectiveness of Pilates depends on the quality of the teaching and therefore the instructor.

When you look for a Pilates teacher, the options are dizzying because the trademark has expired and anyone can say they teach Pilates. So, for starters, look for a teacher with a lot of experience. Also look for one who really starts slowly so you can learn the proper way to do the exercises – this can’t be done quickly, and requires a lot of attention from the teacher as well as from you. If you don’t feel like you’re getting that, look elsewhere, and if the teacher says, “go for the burn,” head for the hills.

Some Pilates teachers emphasize holding your torso and hips very still – they call it “the Box,” and believe it shouldn’t move. That’s not core support, that’s rigidity. Find a teacher who can help you feel very deep muscle action without stiffening up your whole body, so you feel supported yet free to move.

Other teachers emphasize working with your lower back flattened to the floor – something Joseph Pilates himself taught but current scientific understanding of the spine tells us is unhealthy. Find a teacher who helps you find and use a “neutral spine,” preserving the natural curve of your lower back.
And, most important of all, find a teacher who can truly take your needs into account, whose sessions make you feel great both during and afterwards, and whom you really like to work with.


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Choosing the Correct Pilates Mat

Sabrina uses Pilates mats and accessories from Pilates-Mad, here is an article reproduced from their blog, with some alterations and updates.
Pilates Mat

If you haven’t heard already, Pilates is fantastic for your overall health and well being as well as helping to look after your spine! Pilates requires little equipment so it’s perfect at home, but one of the key pieces of equipment is the Pilates mat!

When it comes to Pilates mats, there are a lot out there. It’s so hard choosing the right one. Everyone has their own requirements, whether you’re a beginner at home to advanced Pilates instructor in a studio, having the right mat can really help!

Pilates mats are generally thicker than the standard exercise or yoga mat as the most important part of their function is to cushion the spine, knees, wrists – basically any boney bits (check out The Crab and you’ll see what we mean). Plus, as the majority of matwork Pilates is performed on the floor it means you don’t need a thinner mat (like they are for yoga for standing postures for easier balance).

What to Consider

There are a few main points you’ll want to consider when choosing a Pilates mat:

Thick or Thin?

Most Pilates mats are over 6mm in thickness, if you’re looking for a dual mat to use for both Pilates and Yoga, then a 6mm mat is the sweet spot, something like the Evolution or Deluxe Warrior Mats. That being said, the best thickness for Pilates is between 8mm – 15mm. If you want to get the best of both worlds and can afford to do so, you can always consider layering mats, e.g. a 6mm mat with a 4mm mat, or if you attend a Pilates class but want the hygiene of your own, you could purchase a thinner mat to go over the top of the class mat.

Material Type

Material doesn’t play a huge roll but something to consider is if it’s too stretchy. A mat that is too stretchy when performing Pilates exercises can make life very uncomfortable because it means you’ll be slipping and sliding all over the place and possibly risking good alignment. Ensuring the mat is made from a dense but soft and comfortable material is best.

Lightweight or Heavyweight?

If you’re working out at home and space isn’t an issue, then having a heavy mat of nice material is perfect as you won’t need to worry about having to carry it to and from class or rolling it up. However, if you do need to carry your mat with you, then you’ll want to make sure the mat is lightweight enough to carry without discomfort, and if it’s got a carry strap with it even better, such as our Core Fitness Mat. Pilates mats because of their thickness can be very bulky, so you definitely don’t want to add to that with extra weight!

Size Does Matter

Size is something not to be overlooked. There are a lot of short aerobic and exercise mats out there that are far too short to use comfortably during Pilates. Nobody wants to be in the middle of The Roll-Over and suddenly find you have no mat beneath your head, neck and shoulders! Or worse, when you’re on your front with no mat to rest for forehead on, such as Swimming move!

Smooth or Grip?

Texture depends on if you’re looking for a dual-purpose mat, e.g. for use in yoga and Pilates. Pilates doesn’t really require a grippy surface mat, but choosing a surface you like the feel of is also important (plus keeping in mind if it’s stretchy!). Go for grippy if you’re looking for a yoga mat which can double up as a Pilates mat, the more grip the better for yoga!

The Comfort Factor

Last but not least, comfort. Comfort is what it is all about and this is definitely the one that’s the most personal. What one person thinks is comfortable, another may not. It really is trial and error but if you consider the rest of the previous points then we’re pretty certain you’ll get the comfort factor right.

Another thing to consider is to go for a Pro mat. At Pilates-Mad we supply both Pilates Studios, Instructors, and home users. Meaning when you buy a mat from us, you know you’ll be getting the very best quality you can.

Still confused? Don’t worry, speak to one of our experts to help ensure you pick the perfect Pilates mat!


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Celebrities who do Pilates

The list of celebrities who do Pilates is almost endless, from Liz Hurley, Gwyneth Paltrow and Madonna to Martin Amis, John Cleese and Ian McKellen. It may be easier to compile a list of celebrities who don’t do Pilates.


“I have been going for 13 years… How do I measure the success of Pilates? Certainly, I emerge with a tremendous sense of well-being, and even if I do call at the coffee shop for a croissant afterwards, I still feel my health has been served. I remain active and relatively agile.”

– Joan Bakewell, writer and broadcaster, on the secret of her health and agility at the age of 70 – from an article in The Guardian.


“These [Pilates] exercises are really very necessary when you do a lot of sitting… They keep you flexible enough to pull on your socks as you get older… When I get out of the car now, I don’t go arrggghhh…”

– Martin Amis, novelist and twice-a-week Pilates devotee.


“I do Pilates four or five times a week. The benefits are subtle, but it increases your flexibility and really tones you up. It also straightens your spine and improves your posture. In the past eight years, I’ve grown more than two and a half inches (6cm). I am 5ft 7ins (1.70m) and I am very pleased with that.”

– Belinda Carlisle, singer and pop icon.


Pilates for Actors

“I don’t like to waste time. I want to spend it doing the best possible thing for me. Pilates has given me the greatest returns. It sucks your butt up, tones the legs and shoulders. Nothing else gives you definition like it.”

– Lucy Lawless, best-known for portraying Xena, Warrior Princess


“Now I have muscles of steel and could easily deal with giving birth.”

– Hugh Grant, actor and film star


“I have done every diet in the book over the years. What made the big difference was the exercise. Now I do a lot of walking, Pilates and some running and swimming.”

– Lorraine Kelly, TV presenter


“I’m a Pilates person. It’s great. I had a hip problem. I had a chronic back, a pinched nerve and a hip problem and it’s completely solved all of it. I love it. It makes me feel like I’m taller.”

– Jennifer Anniston, TV and movie star


“Pilates is the only exercise programme that has changed my body and made me feel great.”

– Jamie Lee Curtis, movie star


“What do I like most about Pilates? ‘The fact that I can really feel my body working. I might do 250 crunches but my body is so used to them that I don’t really feel them. With Pilates, I can really feel [my abdominals] even if I only do six or 12 repetitions.”

– Joan Collins, actress and writer, who first started doing Pilates over 30 years ago


“You have turned me into a Ferrari; my husband thanks you.”

– Ruby Wax, actress, writer and TV personality, to her Pilates teacher


Athletes who do Pilates

“It helps with a lot of injury prevention. I’d recommend it to anyone.”

– Elena Baltacha, British former tennis player


“Athers suggested I try daily Pilates exercises. He swore by them.”

– Andrew Flintoff, former England fast bowler, on the advice he got from Mike Atherton, former England cricket captain, on how to tackle his back problems. Flintoff took the advice and was soon back to fitness and form.


Recovering from Injuries with Pilates

“Pilates is not just for the fit. It is wonderful for injuries. My damaged shoulder was taken in hand, special exercises prescribed, attentive care always available. A younger member of our group recently had a hip operation and Pilates helped her recovery; another broke a leg and arrived for classes encased in plaster. Already she’s back on her feet. I stop short of making medical claims. I merely report what I have seen.”

– Joan Bakewell, writer and broadcaster, on the secret of her health and agility at the age of 70 – from a recent article in The Guardian.


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What you can get from Pilates

Depending on your needs, Pilates might be an excellent choice of exercise. But it can’t, as people sometimes believe nowadays, do everything – no form of exercise can.

Here are the major things Pilates does:

  • Pilates can help you be more flexible, particularly if you’re out of shape. Part of being flexible is having the strength and coordination to support yourself in larger, looser movements.  A good Pilates teacher who understands how we use flexibility in life can help you lengthen your muscles while developing the strength to support your flexibility.  This is much more effective and useful than just stretching.
  • Pilates allows you to work on strength and flexibility simultaneously. In traditional gym-style fitness
    you usually work on one thing at a time, and sometimes your efforts to develop one will actually hinder the other.  For instance, people who lift a lot of weights without concern for flexibility often become tight and musclebound.  And on the other hand, if you stretch prior to exercise, you actually weaken your muscles.  Pilates helps you develop strength and flexibility in combination, the way you actually need them in your life.
  • Pilates helps you develop a steady internal support in your hips and trunk.  And yes, it makes your tummy flatter. You’ll sustain better posture and learn to use the deep core support key to moving with grace or power.  Once you are able to find and feel this support, you will be able to bring it into athletic activities and other forms of exercise.  So try not to get hung up on just the tummy thing – there’s so much more to it than that.
  • Pilates helps you learn to move with more awareness. The whole point of Pilates is to help you tune into your body for exercise rather than tuning out. This is one of the method’s most challenging and enjoyable facets.  And if you already feel plenty aware of yourself, such that riding a stationary bike while watching TV seems mechanical and boring to you, you’ll probably love Pilates.
  • Pilates will help you relieve stress by moving and breathing mindfully. It has been shown that physical exercise helps reduce primarily the physiological effects of stress, while meditation reduces primarily the psychological experience of stress. Mindful exercise combines the stress-relieving properties of both for a very broad and powerful effect.
  • A good Pilates teacher is a powerful ally in rehabilitation. If you have pain or are recovering from injury, Pilates is a wonderfully flexible system of exercise that can meet you at your current level of function, then help you progress safely.

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What you don’t get from Pilates

Depending on your needs, Pilates might be an excellent choice of exercise. But it can’t, as people sometimes believe nowadays, do everything – no form of exercise can.

Here are the major things Pilates cannot do:

  • Pilates does not challenge your heart and lungs much or burn many calories. A study of the fitness benefits of Pilates mat classes by the American Council on Exercise showed that the cardiovascular benefits and calorie-burning potential of the exercise was equivalent at best to a walk at a moderate pace.  That is enough physical activity to reduce your risk for major diseases of aging, including heart disease and diabetes, since these benefits come when you go from no exercise to very mild regular exercise.  But it’s definitely not enough to make your heart and lungs particularly fit or to help you lose weight.
  • Pilates does not help you get really strong. To build your strength, you need to work against resistance strong enough to challenge you.  At first a Pilates workout may do that, but beyond a certain point you cannot find a continuing challenge.
  • Pilates builds strength for simple movements in the front-to-back plane, and more strength on the front than on the back of your body. So if you are looking for an exercise system that will directly help you improve your ability to do movements that involve turning and twisting, or if you need more back strength, Pilates will not be the best choice.
  • Pilates doesn’t build power (the ability to use strength quickly) or what we can generally call spring. This is because it involves smooth, flowing movements but lacks impact and quick or ballistic movements.  Power and spring are key components of fitness, essential for balance and fall-prevention and especially important for many kinds of sports.  You will need to turn to other forms of exercise to specifically build these things.
    If you are an athlete, Pilates may help you or it may hinder you. The current vogue of “core strengthening” in athletics needs to be applied in sports specific ways, so most Pilates is too generic to be of use.  Strengthening the deep core stabilizers is a help in athletes who have weakness there, but the buzzword “core stability” is too often mistaken to mean “core held still,” which interferes with athletic performance – and with coordination for every kind of person.  And it is important to remember that Pilates was developed by a gymnast in collaboration with dancers.  It cultivates movement patterns that are appropriate to dance but not necessarily to sports.
  • If you have aches and pains it is important to understand that Pilates does not solve all problems. If you have severely compromised movement patterns due to pain, or need to make significant changes in posture, coordination, or athletic form and technique, then exercise of any kind – even Pilates will not do the job.

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