Pilates for Beginners and What to Expect
So you're looking for Pilates for beginners and you've been encouraged to get started, but this is totally new to you. Maybe by your doctor, physio, chiropractor, friend or partner. Usually if it is your partner, in my experience you’ve probably been voluntold (you’ve been told but you have volunteered to give it a try for a quiet life). Whatever your reason, you are probably wondering what is this Pilates thing or Pilots as it’s sometimes called and is Pilates for beginners for me?
Pilates is often recommended if you have back pain, poor posture or generally stressed, which with the way the world is at the moment, that’s most of us. In my honest opinion, I believe that everyone should do Pilates, but then I’m biased.
Pilates for beginners can be overwhelming when you start, all this talk of neutral alignment, core engagement, pelvic floor, deep tummy muscles. It sounds like another language.
So how do we make it less confusing? For any new client that wants to start a Pilates class with me, be it virtually or in person, they must have at least one 1-2-1 with me. It can sometimes be more, depending on their medical history, injuries and how in tune they are with their bodies.
That first session is an opportunity for me to find out more about my new client. I take them through the basics of neutral spinal alignment, breathing and centring (finding the muscles that make up the core). Which can all be very overwhelming.
Firstly, what is neutral spinal alignment? It’s when the skull, rib cage and pelvis are in alignment with each other. This means that any tension in the ligaments and joints of the spine are decreased and there is no added pressure applied. By being in a neutral spine alignment, the spine is at its strongest when sitting or standing.
I always start by doing a postural analysis on my client asking them to stand facing me, sideways and with their back to me. This allows me to see my client’s posture from all positions and it is usually at this point, they tell me about any injuries they have had or where they are currently experiencing pain. Being a Pilates Instructor is sometimes like being Sherlock Holmes as it is often only through conversation that I can start to understand why a client might have a pain in their shoulder or hip. “What do you mean my handbag is heavy, I need to carry all that stuff around with me”. Well carrying a heavy bag on your shoulder day in and day out could eventually cause an injury, but that doesn’t always resonate with them.
Once I’ve looked at their posture, I then help them find neutral spinal alignment. This can be challenging for some clients, especially if they have been standing in a certain way for a long period of time. It can take time to change old habits, but once clients realise how they should be standing and I give them exercises and stretches to help them, it then becomes more natural to them. Pilates is a process and it takes time to change bad habits, but overtime it can be achieved.
Then we discuss breathing. Well that’s easy, isn’t it? We all breathe otherwise we wouldn’t be here. Of course, but in Pilates we ask our clients to use lateral thoracic breath. This type of breathing requires the client to laterally expand the rib cage whilst maintaining a connection with the deep tummy muscles and pelvic floor. In Pilates, we use a lot of imagery to help clients understand the concepts and so I would often ask clients to think of their rib cage as a pair of bellows. It a very different type of breathing and it takes time for beginners to understand the breath pattern, but like everything it comes with practice. The Pilates breath is so important, but I always tell beginners just to breath as eventually they will understand the breath pattern.
Then we move on to understanding what the core muscles are. Some beginners get this concept straight away, others it takes a bit longer. I have had some male clients insist they don’t have a pelvic floor, but once I’ve explained the anatomy, they soon realise they have this very important muscle. As my clients, will testify, I could talk about the pelvic floor for hours. It is such an important muscle in the body and Pilates will help you find your pelvic floor if you feel as though you have lost yours.
Once I’ve done what can feel like a lot of talking, we then go through the same sequence lying down. I’m then ready to teach my beginner some basic Pilates exercises. I truly believe that investing in the time at the beginning is so important because there is nothing more daunting then joining a Pilates class and not having a clue what the Instructor is talking about. You wouldn’t build a house without a good foundation. The same applies to a Pilates class.
I would then take my client through all the different positions we use in Pilates, on our side known as side lying, on the tummy, prone, on all fours and seated. It is important that a beginner understands what neutral alignment feels like in all those different positions.
Once I feel confident that they understand the basics, they are ready to join a class. I always know exactly what each of my clients issues are and will always make sure that once they are in a class environment, they are given alternatives and modifications if needed to make sure they get the most benefit from all the exercises.
I believe that a good Pilates Instructor should understand their clients capabilities and restrictions as this will mean they don’t injure themselves, which is so important, particularly if they came to me because they had an existing injury or issue.
Pilates for beginners does not need to be confusing, you just need to take the time to understand the concept. You don’t stay a beginner for ever and everyone will go at their own pace.
One of my favourite quotes by Joseph Pilates (the founder of Pilates) is “In 10 sessions you will feel the difference, in 20 sessions you will see the difference and in 30 sessions you will have a new body”.
This is absolutely true and I have seen it happen before my eyes as clients progress and become stronger and learn to love the magic of Pilates. If you’d like to find out more or book in for a free 1-2-1 session with me. I would love to hear from you.
You can view some of my introductory videos here.