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Pilates uses resistance training and a rotation of 500 exercises to work the body's midsection, improve muscle tone, balance, coordination, posture, and mental focus.

I've heard that mat Pilates is useful for beginners. Can I start on the Reformer, or should I begin on a mat?

Halle Clarke (New York, NY) on May 8, 2012
Contrary to popular belief, Pilates can be done by virtually anyone and does not require experience in yoga, dance or any other movement technique. So yes, Pilates is great for beginners. Although this option can be less expensive I do NOT recommend starting in a group class, whether it be on the reformer or the mat. The best way to learn the technique is to start with one to three private sessions. An introductory private session will include work on both the mat and the reformer. Then if finances permit, move to a small group class, preferably on the reformer. Once you feel proficient on the reformer, a group mat class would be appropriate. When students jump into a mat class without any previous Pilates experience, they often miss the nuance of the method, and don't get the same benefits. The initial investment is worth it. At Mongoose Bodyworks we offer a 40% discount for expert private sessions for Zeel members, in order to encourage them to start their Pilates experience in the best way possible.
Maytal Rozensher (Sant Monica, CA) on May 8, 2012
Pilates is useful for people from all sorts of backgrounds. Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to be a dancer, do yoga, be flexible or even have good coordination to do Pilates well. Pilates helps you work on all of those things. In the purest form of Pilates, you should not have to choose between reformer and mat work. During private sessions (which is the quickest way to get results) your instructor should be working you on those apparatuses as well as the others (such as the Cadillac, Electric Chair, and so on) depending on what your body needs. It is true that Joseph Pilates started out by creating the mat work, but he quickly realized that the mat is the most difficult apparatus to use. He then created the other apparatuses (such as the reformer) to help students work towards a more effective mat result. Not all Pilates is the same, and doing your research is extremely important, especially when it comes to your body and the quality of work being put forward by "experts." I have found that instructors with a direct Romanas Pilates certification are the most effective and efficient. Romana Kryzanowska is Joseph and Clara Pilates's protege and was entrusted with continuing their hard work with the utmost purity for future generations of instructors.