Clinical Pilates
Fitness Wellness September 17, 2021

Your First Pilates Session: The Benefits, What to Expect & What to Bring

By Club Health

Reading Time: 7 minutes

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We’ve all been there – looking at the clock counting down the minutes to our first Pilates class, stressing about the level of difficulty, the class vibe, the instructor and all the things that could go wrong. At Club Health, we are not fans of guesswork and have an open war on stress which is exactly why we will tell you every single detail about your first pilates session. 

Shall we? 

Benefits: How Can Pilates Help Me? 

You’ve heard the old saying “any exercise is better than no exercise”? While that is a very nice motivational trick to get you started in any kind of physical activity, it’s much better to know exactly what each school of exercise has to offer. 

Knowing what you will gain from Pilates will give you the right kind of incentive to pursue it. Not only that, but it will also educate you on where to look for when measuring progress. More often than not, people that get into Pilates will say things like “I feel better” which while it’s true, it’s also general and vague. Knowing exactly what Pilates does to your body and mind will allow you to see it when it happens. 

Physical Benefits 

  • Improves posture and alignment
  • Longer, leaner muscles
  • Better posture
  • Increases flexibility, balance and coordination
  • Improves muscular balance and strength
  • Increases muscular endurance and tone
  • Prevents injury and heightens body awareness
  • Enhances athletic performance
  • Relieves back pain
Pilates at Club Health, Chelsea
Private Clinical Pilates sessions at Club Health, Chelsea

Mental and Other Health Benefits 

Much like an iceberg, most of what Pilates does to us happens below the surface and is not visible to the naked eye. The mental impact is as, if not more, important than the physical one. Pilates is complementary to many traditional fitness routines and the mind-body connection can be useful in preventing stress related illnesses like heart disease.

It’s great for sharpening your mental faculties, as well as improving our productivity both at work and at home. The emphasis given on breathing techniques and mindful thinking are integral components of reducing stress and anxiety, enhancing concentration, and even improving sleeping habits. 

Now let’s move on to the actual workout. What will follow is a set of exercises you will go through with our instructor during your first visits. It goes without saying that these are exercises you can perform in the comfort of your own home. 

Workout 

Breathing Supine (lying on your back)

Inhale: Breathe in through the nose, expanding the rib cage three-dimensionally. (4 secs)

Exhale: Focus first on the gentle engagement of the pelvic floor (sensation of pulling in and up) and transversus engagement. (The deepest layer of abdominal wall – natural corset around waist) as you exhale more deeply, the obliques will be engaged to help press the air out. (6 to 8 secs) 

Inhale: Breathe in through the nose, maintaining engagement, and feel three-dimensional expansion of the rib cage and abdomen. (4 secs) 

Exhale: Same as before. (This time, longer exhalation than inhalation) 

Do this for 5 to 10 reps.

Neutral to Imprint

Inhale: Maintain a neutral alignment of the spine. Tailbone down; hip bones parallel to the mat under you, allowing a small gap between your lower-back and the mat. The back of your ribs are still down.

Exhale: Contract abdominals and imprint (lie on your back, knees bent, feet flat). Pull the pelvic bones close to your lower ribs. Gently lift the tail bone, so that the gap between your lower-back and the mat diminishes. 

Inhale: Maintain an imprinted position.

Exhale: Return to neutral.

Do this for 5 to 8 reps. 

Arm Raises

Inhale: Lay on your back with knees bent, maintaining a neutral alignment and extend your arms to reach the ceiling, palms facing one another. 

Exhale: Reach arms over your head, only as far as abdominal connection so that contact between the rib cage and mat can be maintained.

Inhale: Reach arms to the ceiling again.  

Exhale: Lower arms down by your side.

Do this for 5 reps.

Scapula Isolations (Retraction and Protraction – seated comfortable position)

Inhale: Raise your arms shoulder height. Retract scapulae, bringing shoulder blades closer together.

Exhale: Return scapulae to neutral.

Do this for 5 reps and then start with protraction of the scapulae. During the inhalation, gently push the shoulder blades away from each other.

Modified Abdominal Preparation

Inhale: Lengthen the back of the neck. Arms can be long by the side of your body or behind your head (supporting head and not pulling).

Exhale: While maintaining length through back of neck, stabilise scapulae, then flex thoracic spine allowing lower ribs to get closer to the pelvic bones. 

Maintain neutral pelvis throughout the exercise, ensuring engagement of transversus abdominis.

Inhale: Hold flexion by maintaining abdominal contraction while the back and sides of the rib cage expand. Maintain length in the back of the neck.

Exhale: Return the upper body to the Mat, allowing the cervical spine to return to neutral once the head is on the Mat.

Do this for 10 reps. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can Pilates help me lose weight?

Pilates can be a positive addition to your overall weight-loss program. Weight loss occurs when the number of calories consumed is less than the number of calories expended. The most successful and healthy way to achieve weight loss is an exercise plan that includes an aerobic component coupled with a strength training element, such as Pilates exercise, followed by a balanced diet.

Can I fix my posture through Pilates?

With a focus on core stability, including pelvic and shoulder girdle stabilisation, neutral alignment and breathing, the Pilates method of exercise helps restore the natural curves of the spine. The result: a balanced and aligned body that looks fit, feels revitalised and moves with ease. 

Teaching you the basis of the exercises, the technique, the principles and how they are related to body awareness and proper alignment will improve your posture. Pilates incorporates modern exercise science and rehabilitation principles, eliminates contraindicated movements and emphasizes neutral alignment.

Is Pilates a challenging activity?

As you get familiar with the technique, our pilates instructor can build on it, offering progressions to continue challenging your muscles. Adding more spring tension, or less (many times less tension increases the challenge) adding small equipment or challenging coordination with a combination of different exercises. 

Does Pilates put any strain on my body?

No, when done properly. A Pilates workout is gentle and controlled with a focus on core strength and stability. It is also important, however, that you work with a qualified instructor to ensure you are doing the exercises correctly and avoiding unnecessary tension.

Do I need any prior experience to begin?

An experienced Instructor is able to modify the exercises to accommodate any level or  limitations, continually challenging you within your ability, and monitor your improvement. Progress may be slow, but a consistent workout schedule with appropriately chosen exercises, attention and focus will ensure results. 

What should I wear/bring on my first pilates session?

We recommend choosing workout clothing that’s stretchy but not baggy – it will facilitate the instructor to see the alignment of your bones and how your muscles are engaging. Form-fitting and free of metal or plastic adornments such as zippers, buckles, clasps, buttons, or other trimmings. They can damage the upholstered Pilates. 

Also tie-back tops can be uncomfortable when you’re lying on your back. Ties, belts, drawstrings, and tassels can get caught in the springs of the equipment. We also advise you to remove accessories or jewellery – long necklaces, belts, and dangling bracelets can be distracting as well as dangerous if they get caught up in the equipment.

No shoes needed as Pilates is usually done barefoot. We also recommend you to wear Pilates no slip socks. You may buy a pair with grippy bottoms at Club Health.

What are the differences between Mat and Reformer Pilates? 

The main difference between mat and reformer is that on the matwork, you only use your body weight as resistance, there’s no footbar, springs, or straps to push or pull against. The surfaces of the Reformer also provide an “táctil cue” or “feedback,” information that helps your brain orient your body in space. Both include unique Preparatory, Essential, Intermediate, and Advanced level workouts, as well as balanced exercise sequences and modifications to address special populations.

Book your Pilates class today by phone or email. Click on the tab below to contact us!