Pilates at Home: Exercises for Beginners

Pilates is a great form of exercise that is versatile and for everybody. It’s even sometimes used for rehabilitation. Let’s look at some research on the benefits of Pilates at home, how to apply the core principles to your home practice, and five tips for getting started.

Key takeaways:
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    Research has shown that you can get the benefits of Pilates when exercising at home via online workouts.
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    Apply the six principles of Pilates in every class at home.
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    Avoid injury by applying the principles and focusing on form.
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    Tips for practicing at home include becoming familiar with each exercise, trying a few classes in the studio first, and using props to support your practice.

Originally calling it Contrology, founder Joseph Pilates said, “Contrology exercises build a sturdy body and sound mind fitted to perform every daily task with ease and perfection as well as to provide tremendous reserve energy for sports, recreation, emergencies.”

What are the benefits of Pilates at home?

In general, Pilates has many benefits such as weight loss, stronger core endurance, and flexibility. So what happens when you take Pilates out of the studio and into your home?

When comparing online to face-to-face Pilates, H.I. Bulguroglu and M. Bulguroglu found that participants in both forms gained endurance in their core muscles, suffered less from depression, and had a higher quality of life. They determined that online classes were as practical as in-person training.

In another study by S. Suner-Keklik et. al., after a six-week online Pilates course, participants had better trunk proprioception (awareness of body movement) and core muscle endurance. Proprioception plays a large part in your body’s stability and control.

Applying the core principles of Pilates at home

While you can still get in a great Pilates session from home, either alone or via online video, there are a few things that you should keep in mind.

Pilates has six core principles: breathing, centering, concentration, control, flow, and precision. These principles are intertwined in every Pilates session.

Breathing

In your at-home practice, focus on full bellow breaths. Joseph Pilates outlined every inhale and exhale done during each of the exercises. By breathing properly, you will get the most out of every movement.

Centering

The area between your ribs and hips, including your upper and lower back muscles, is called your “powerhouse.” While moving through the exercises, center your attention around your midsection.

Concentration

This means staying aware and focused on every movement in the exercise with your full attention.

Control

Pilates was originally called Contrology for a reason. The concept of control means your mind controls and manages every movement of muscle. J. Pilates said, “Good posture can be successfully acquired only when the entire mechanism of the body is under perfect control.”

Flow

Each movement through the exercises should flow into the next. The energy that you are using should connect smoothly through your body.

Precision

In the book “Pilates’ Return to Life Through Contrology”, Joseph Pilates described precisely how to move through each exercise. Everything from your breath to the number of reps per exercise should be done in the specified order he recommended.

When you are working out at home, keep these principles in mind and apply them all as you move through the exercises.

Your at-home practice

Pilates is a great exercise to do at home! You can gain all of the benefits of this form of exercise with only a few sessions a week.

So where do you begin?

First, make sure you are using a Pilates mat. This is traditionally thicker than a standard yoga mat. The extra cushion will protect your spine in the moves that include rolling on your spine such as the exercises called Rolling Back, and Rocker With Open Legs.

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Depending on the type of Pilates you are doing – contemporary vs. classical – you may need a Magic Circle, resistance bands, or a small blue ball. In the original classical series, props are not used. In more contemporary flows, these props can add an added challenge and even support your body in the more challenging exercises.

How to avoid injury

As with any exercise, form is imperative. Using the proper form in each exercise can assist in avoiding injury. If you have any previous injuries, be mindful of the movement and your current physical capabilities. As always, consult with a medical professional before starting any new exercise program.

Helpful tips

  • As you are moving through the exercises, particularly through the abdominal series or any exercise where you are in a “c-curl” (where you lift your head, neck, and shoulders off of the mat), place the blue ball at your upper back for added support.
  • If practicing Pilates for the first time, avoid exercises in the series that involves rolling back or on your neck. Safety is always more important than performing any exercise. Get comfortable with your limits first. Consider plow pose and shoulder stand from yoga to understand where you should be stopping while rolling.
  • If feasible, take a few in-person classes first. Having an instructor to correct your form will set you up for success in your at-home practice. This will also get you familiar with each of the exercises before trying them on your own.
  • Take a live class vs. a recorded class where the instructor can see and correct your movement. This way, you can get real-time verbal adjustments.
  • Research! Read “Pilates’ Return to Life Through Contrology.” Not only will this book give you an extensive explanation of each exercise, but you’ll also better understand the six key principles and philosophies of the practice. You can also watch videos on the Internet, which show exercise breakdowns.

You can easily get the benefits of Pilates in an at-home practice by applying the six principles of Pilates to your workout and heeding the tips listed above. Stay mindful of your body to avoid injury and most importantly, have fun! While yoga is a great form of exercise for your body, it is also great for your mind-body connection.

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