Pilates FAQ

  1. What is Pilates?
  2. What are the benefits of Pilates?
  3. I heard Pilates is only for dancers and women. I’m not a dancer. I’m not a woman. Can I do Pilates?
  4. How often should I do Pilates?
  5. Do I have to do Private sessions?
  6. When can I schedule a duet or group reformer session?
  7. My friends and I are in good shape with no physical limitations or medical issues. We would like to schedule a duet or trio reformer session, can we begin training without the 3 private sessions?
  8. What do I wear to Pilates?
  9. Will I lose weight doing Pilates?
  10. Is Pilates a cardiovascular workout?
  11. What’s the difference between a Pilates class at a gym or fitness center vs. Pilates at a “studio?”
  12. What is the difference between Pilates & Yoga? Aren’t they the same?
  13. I need Physical Therapy, I’ve read that I can I do Pilates instead of Physical Therapy. Is this true?
  14. How Do I choose a Pilates Teacher and/or Studio?
  15. Classical, Contemporary and Clinical Pilates. What’s the difference?
  16. So which type of Pilates is better?
  17. I’m new to the area and practiced Pilates for years at another studio. Your studio has a different brand of equipment! What do I do?
  18. Pilates seems so expensive! What’s the deal?

What is Pilates?

Pilates is an exercise system developed in the early 20th century by Joseph Hubertus Pilates. This system he called Contrology; the study of the science of control. Specifically, how the mind controls the body. The goal is to address wellness as a whole. Proper breathing with a strong powerhouse (core) creates a stable and efficient center for movement protecting the spine and limbs. The exercises range from basic to advanced; each with a full expression, realized only through dedication of regular practice, properly taught biomechanics and individual physical ability. The system consists of exercises done on a mat, known as Pilates Mat work, and exercises performed on apparatus designed by Mr. Pilates. These apparatus are the Reformer, the Trapeze Table/Cadillac, Wunda or High Chair, Ladder Barrel, Guillotine, Baby Arm Chair, Ped-O-Pull, Spine Corrector and other small apparatus such as the Magic Circle. Contrology has over 500 exercises.

What are the benefits of Pilates?

The benefits of Pilates can include but are not limited to; increased strength & flexibility, better body alignment, increased mental & physical endurance and focus, improved coordination & balance, stress relief, increased body awareness & connection, muscle toning, increased spine, hip, and shoulder mobility/stability, better posture, breath efficiency, movement efficiency, weight management and so much more. The list could go on!

I heard Pilates is only for dancers and women. I’m not a dancer. I’m not a woman. Can I do Pilates?

YES! Of course you can do Pilates! Joseph Pilates was a man, he was a boxer and a gymnast. He was not a dancer. He designed his system so that it could be used by anyone who had the discipline to follow it, especially men. Pilates is a workout, not a dance. There is a misconception that it was developed for dancers.

How often should I do Pilates?

The general recommendation is 2-3 times per week, but many people practice 4-5x/week with a mix of mat classes, privates sessions and personal practice. Each Pilates session builds upon the previous session. The more often you do the work, the quicker the progress. Like anything else in life, practice = progress. Participants may take only Mat work classes, some take Mat work and 1 private session per week. Some take 2-3 private sessions and the occasional mat class. Depends on your schedule, lifestyle, goals and budget.

Do I have to do Private sessions?

Private one-on-one training is recommended for all students, but may be required if you have any medical issues, health concerns, or are recovering from an injury or accident. One on one training is an efficient, effective way to customize your workouts and get the personalized attention you need to reach your fitness and wellness goals. Mat classes are a wonderful way to begin Pilates if you are concerned about budget or prefer a group atmosphere. Mat classes at Citrus Pilates & More Inc. are small with 6-8 individuals. Group sessions are generally geared towards those who are without acute medical issues.

When can I schedule a duet or group reformer session?

Before any student can schedule a duet, trio or group session on apparatus, one must have a minimum of three private lessons so you and your teacher can determine your personal goals, solidify your familiarity of the equipment and it’s safety protocols, and determine who to pair you with for the shared session. The goal will be to place you with other students/clients at a similar fitness level so that you all get the most out of the session. This is a standard industry practice. Pairings are at the discretion of the teacher and subject to availability. Reformer classes are limited to a maximum of 3 participants.

My friends and I are in good shape with no physical limitations or medical issues. We would like to schedule a duet or trio reformer session, can we begin training without the 3 private sessions?

Possibly. You will need to speak with the studio owner and teacher to determine if this is advisable and if they are comfortable beginning your Pilates training as a group on apparatus. Your first few session will still focus on prep work, some mat work and other basics your teacher deems appropriate before working you on the apparatus. Please note that advanced work routinely requires spotting and may not be achievable in a group apparatus session, this can limit your progress to some extent, so you may want to schedule private sessions to further your personal goals in addition to your group session.

What do I wear to Pilates?

For modesty and comfort concerns, avoid wearing shorts with baggy legs. Clothing that will allow you to move easily and breath comfortably is appropriate. Clothing doesn’t need to be skin tight, but form fitting enough so that your teacher can see your body move. You will need to remove your shoes upon entering the studio unless it is determined that wearing shoes is required for you. Please remove jewelry as it may interfere with the exercises and damage upholstery. Long hair should be tied back and avoidance of heavy perfumes, colognes, oils, lotions etc is advised for allergy avoidance and safety.

Will I lose weight doing Pilates?

It’s not uncommon for clients to drop a dress size, but stay at the same weight. If you want to lose a significant amount of weight you must also address the most important aspect of weight loss, your diet. Weight loss is a multifaceted approach. Working with a nutritionist is recommended and addressing other aspects of your life such as (but not limited to) high stress or inadequate sleep is advised. Can Pilates help you reach your weight loss goals? Yes it can, but you must make additional positive changes outside of the studio.

Is Pilates a cardiovascular workout?

There is a myth that Pilates is not cardiovascular. Pilates is not a cardiovascular exercise in the same way running or swimming is, but it is a whole body workout. When you first begin Pilates the focus is on developing efficient form and proper biomechanics. Once your teacher knows you can perform the exercises with proper control, the work will begin to quicken to a pace you may consider as “cardio.” Each exercise will flow into the next one with the transitions becoming exercises themselves. The goal is to keep moving without stopping and complete the exercises in order, omitting or modifying where needed. There are 34 original Mat work exercises to learn, initially it may take 45-55 minutes to complete 10-20 of them. As the work progresses, is not uncommon for an intermediate/advanced individual or class to complete the entire 34 exercises (with the recommended repetitions) in 20-25 minutes, maybe less. You will break a sweat and your heart rate will be elevated! This also applies to work on the apparatus.

What’s the difference between a Pilates class at a gym or fitness center vs. Pilates at a “studio?”

  • A Pilates studio is usually focused on Pilates and not much else. On occasion they may offer separate complimentary methods such as Gyrotonic, Yoga and Feldenkrais.
  • Class size is generally smaller at a studio with 10 participants or less, the teacher to student ratio is ideal. This allows for more individualized instruction. Classes at your gym may be included in your membership, but that may also mean there is no cap on the number of participants, classes can have as many as 30+ participants to 1 teacher.
  • Most of the teachers at a studio will have comprehensive system training on all Pilates apparatus and have the apparatus available. Most gyms will offer mat classes, but not offer or invest in apparatus training.
  • Some gyms may teach Yogalates, Piyo or other hybrid classes, these are not Pilates. They are not bad or ineffective classes, often they are very challenging, rewarding and fun, but hybrid classes are not the Pilates method as it was intended. Often times there is nothing Pilates about them, other than the name.
  • Occasionally, fully equipped studios are located within higher end fitness centers, they will offer comprehensive sessions and classes with comprehensively trained teachers.
  • Most Pilates studios are independently owned and operated.

What is the difference between Pilates & Yoga? Aren’t they the same?

Pilates and Yoga are certainly complementary, but they are two distinct disciplines. Yoga has been around for 5,000 years and is a Hindu spiritual tradition. Pilates is relatively young at 100 years and primarily a system of body conditioning. Pilates does not utilize meditation while Yoga traditionally does. Yoga tends to be static in nature; holding a pose for a determined time and breath. Pilates is very dynamic with the focus on proper biomechanics during movements that flow from one to another in a brisk fashion with anywhere between 3-10 repetition. If you’ve seen a photograph of a Yoga pose and of a Pilates exercise they may have looked identical, what’s missing is the ability to see the movement in the Pilates photograph. Pilates also utilizes specialized apparatus such as the Reformer, Trapeze Table (Cadillac), Wunda chair and Barrels. Yoga may use small props such as a block or strap, but no large apparatus. There are over 500 exercises in the Pilates method with Yoga having 900 or more. This is but a small list of the differences in the two disciplines.

I need Physical Therapy, I’ve read that I can I do Pilates instead of Physical Therapy. Is this true?

Pilates is NOT Physical Therapy. They are complimentary, but not the same and should not be treated as such.

Physical Therapy (PT) is the evaluation and treatment of a physical problem and/or the assessment of dysfunction and is a form of medical treatment which requires state medical licensure of it’s practitioners and clinic. PT is focused on healing specific physical injuries with direct treatment of the injury. A Licensed PT may have comprehensive Pilates training and therefore may use the Pilates system in their clinic, but the use of the method will generally (but not always) be limited to the area requiring rehabilitative focus.

Even though Pilates is rehabilitative in nature, a certified Pilates teacher is a personal fitness trainer specializing in the Pilates method. Pilates IS a workout, Pilates IS an exercise program. A Pilates teacher will work AROUND an injury, not directly with it. Only when an individual is discharged and cleared from PT can a Pilates teacher focus on POST-rehabilitative exercises and work with the area of injury. A Pilates teacher may deem that you require advanced treatment that they are not licensed to provide and therefore refer you to your physician or PT clinic. Additionally, a Pilates teacher that is trained to work with special populations is not the same as a licensed PT. This training is simply an endorsement that they know how to work around an injury as to not exacerbate it or that they have training to address an injury post-rehab for continued care.

A Pilates teacher can work with your PT to provide and design an exercise program for you while you are in rehabilitation. This will be a program that does not interfere with your PT treatments and timeline, but will likely enhance your rehabilitation. This can help keep you physically active and engaged, even if it is somewhat limited. In some instances a Pilates teacher may work under the direct supervision of a PT in a clinic setting.

How Do I choose a Pilates Teacher and/or Studio?

  1. If your prospective teacher is only certified in the Pilates Mat work, then you should only take Pilates Mat work classes from them, not equipment classes or private equipment lessons. Comprehensive system training includes; Mat, Reformer, Cadillac, Ladder Barrel, Small Barrels, Chairs and other small equipment. Your potential teacher should carry liability insurance.
  2. Ideally, a teacher will challenge you, but encourage you and listen to you when you are listening to your own body. Ultimately, you are in control of your body and must listen to it if pain occurs and stop the exercise if needed and tell your teacher, but proper cueing and instruction from your teacher is key. Do they communicate with you effectively and answer your questions and provide proper modifications when needed? Pilates teachers can be a tough bunch, but no pain no gain is not a motto they like. There’s a saying in Pilates, “When in doubt, leave it out!”
  3. If they spend most of the session talking about their personal life, engaging in gossip or negative speak towards other instructors, clients, competing studios, and/or various exercise methods this is not a good sign.
  4. A good instructor/teacher speaks positive words and focuses on you, the client/student. The time you are with your teacher is for you. Your session or class time is not their time to exercise. Their job is to watch you and provide modification, corrections and proper progressions.
  5. There are numerous quality training programs throughout the US and Internationally. Some are classically based, some are contemporary based and there are those that are clinically based. The training and education of your prospective teacher will largely depend on what was available in their area. For a description of each see the next FAQ.
  6. You should look forward to your sessions and/or classes and the overall experience of the studio and teacher. The studio should be clean and organized, equipment should be maintained and serviced regularly. Proper state health studio licensure and certifications should be displayed and up to date. Friendly staff and a good vibe are a must!!

Classical, Contemporary and Clinical Pilates. What’s the difference?

The difference is philosophy and curriculum.

Classical Pilates training programs teach only the exercises that Joseph Pilates documented through photographs and published reading material as well as exercises known to be taught in his gym/studio to 1st generation teachers. Classical based programs also adhere to the use of apparatus that is unchanged from the measurements of the apparatus Mr. Pilates designed, built and/or patented.

Contemporary Pilates training programs are often called evolved or expanded Pilates. These programs may or may not use classically specified apparatus and often have modified the classical apparatus with multiple adjustments, settings and options that differ from Mr. Pilates original designs. Contemporary Pilates may also modify the order or add exercises or variations to the Pilates repertoire that are not documented as taught by Mr. Pilates, but considered Pilates based.

Clinical Pilates is a form of rehabilitation and Physical Therapy. A clinical or rehabilitation focused training program will be offered and only available to those with advanced degrees in PT, OT, Chiropractic, DO, MD or anyone with a license to practice medical rehabilitative services. These programs will focus on the medically rehabilitative aspect of Pilates.

As a whole, the goals of each approach are the same. Core strength, spinal stability and safe mobility, injury prevention, mental focus and more. As research on fitness and wellness progresses, there will be changes in curriculums and approaches. Any of the three approaches are wonderful and ultimately beneficial as long as they are approached with sound biomechanics. The approach you choose to practice will largely depend on what’s available in your area. Classical Pilates is where it all began so it is worth studying. Contemporary can be a fun addition to the Classical work and is still classically based. Clinical Pilates will be specific to the rehabilitation of injuries.

For a list of reputable training programs visit any of the following websites. Your certified teacher should be listed on their respective training program website. Please note that many wonderful and capable teachers have completed apprenticeships and teacher training through smaller programs that may not have a large corporate structure or an online teacher database. It’s best to ask them directly about their program and contact their program director for training verification.

So which type of Pilates is better?

The Pilates you are taught is only as good as your teacher no matter what program they trained with. Like any other profession, continuing education is key. Clinical Pilates will mainly focus on injuries so it’s safe to say that you will want to graduate to focusing on the full body aspect of Pilates once you are done with PT. You may stay with your physical therapist as a private client to achieve that. All Pilates comes from Classical Pilates so it is worth studying and Contemporary Pilates has wonderful aspects of variety to it and is still classically based. The most important thing is that you are developing a connection to your body through proper movement and you are moving and working efficiently. It is now common for teachers to have both Classical and Contemporary training and a variety of equipment brands in their studio.

I’m new to the area and practiced Pilates for years at another studio. Your studio has a different brand of equipment! What do I do?

The short answer is: you do Pilates! Along with different training curriculums comes differently designed apparatus by various companies. Whether it’s the simplicity of classical equipment or the various adjustments of contemporary equipment; if you are doing Pilates efficiently and you know your body, you should be able to work on the equipment no matter the brand. Some brands may be more challenging to workout on than others and you may have your favorite based on your initial experiences, but if you find that it’s too easy you’re not working the brain to work the body. The set up is always most important, get that right and you are good to go.

Wait, doesn’t the equipment matter? Yes it does, but ultimately from the standpoint of; is it maintained, serviced and cleaned regularly? Is it in an area that has easy access and clearance? Has your instructor taught you the safety concerns for each apparatus that you train on? A classical reformer that is not serviced and cleaned regularly with questionable springs will be less safe than a contemporary reformer that’s been well cared for, and vice versa. Which would you rather workout on? The various apparatus and styles are like cars. Some drive easy, some drive hard. In the end it’s the ability of the driver to get the most out of the car design. You are the driver of your Pilates journey.

I encourage you to stay open minded. An open mind is one that grows! Remember that this is Contrology. A different design just might give you a challenge you didn’t know you needed or allow for a fun variation on an old favorite.

Pilates seems so expensive! What’s the deal?

Pilates is a specialized profession like any other. Pilates professional have spent hundreds if not thousands of hours on their education and tuition can run several thousands of dollars. Many teachers have college degrees in Dance, Exercise Science, Kinesiology, Sports Medicine or additional training and/or advanced degrees requiring licensure in Physical, Occupation or Massage Therapy. Despite it’s growth in the last 20+ years Pilates is still a small community; rest assured your instructor has likely traveled far and wide to learn their craft because the education is not always easily accessible geographically. The various Pilates apparatus needed for a full studio is a large investment. Like any other business there are costs involved in running the business. The price you pay for your classes and/or private session will generally depend on your geographical location and the skill of your teacher. You will pay more to work with a Master Instructor than you will for working with an Apprentice instructor. You will pay more in metropolitan areas than you will in rural areas simply due to the cost of living and rent pricing. Cost is relative to what you are receiving, keep that in mind. If you are in a mat class with 6-10 people paying $15-18, the ratio of teacher to student is better than a mat class of 20-30 people paying $5-$10. The smaller the class, the more the teacher can give you her/his eye for guidance. It’s not uncommon to pay $75-$150/hr for private instruction in metropolitan areas and $50-$70 in other locations.