July 20, 2013

The Pilates Mat: A Love Affair. ~ Mary Stowell

Full disclosure: I didn’t enjoy my first Pilates mat class.

My first experience with Pilates was in a mat-style class at a local gym. I’ve always loved trying new workout classes (I still do!) so I was excited to finally see what the Pilates buzz was all about.

I left feeling confused, frustrated, and sore in all the wrong places. The room was packed from wall to wall with bodies and flailing limbs. I could barely see the teacher to know if what I was attempting was even close to correct. And I couldn’t figure out why my neck was so darn tired!

It was all too much, and I think it took me awhile before I ever gave Pilates another try. Thank goodness I did!

My second Pilates mat experience was (drum roll please) magical! This was long before the thought of becoming a teacher had ever entered my mind… I just wanted a good core workout. The mat class at this other studio was perfect for me. It was a small group, and the teacher, Maggie, took the time to get to know me, and that made me feel comfortable in asking all of the millions of questions that I had.

When the exercises were explained, I started to see how there was actually a rhyme and reason to it all. We weren’t just flailing around our legs and arms just because, but there was a purpose.

The exercises began to flow almost like a dance.

I started to learn the sequences. And that sore neck? Maggie showed me how to modify each move, until lo and behold; I became strong enough to keep my head curled up.

As I saw my body become stronger each week, my confidence also began to grow. I was officially in love with mat Pilates.

The cherry on top?

Before I started Pilates, I thought push-ups were for body builders, and something you did for your physical fitness test in high school. I remember offering to clap for the others as Maggie led the class in Pilates push-ups. I could be a great cheerleader.

I was gently encouraged to get down and give her 20 (just kidding), but seriously, I do push-ups now like nobody’s business. I’m seriously proud of that. And I never would have thought my little noodle arms would have been able to do that, a few years back. Pilates rocks. I could go on and on.

My love affair with mat Pilates is far from over.

There is always more to learn and new ways to challenge the body. In effort to save you some time, if you’re in fact still reading, here is my Top Five List of Reasons to Love Mat Pilates:

1. You can take it anywhere! Take the exercises you learn in class to the hotel room on a trip, in your living room during commercial breaks, and in your office when nobody is looking.

2. Progress is measurable! Especially in a more classical style Pilates mat class, the sequence of the moves will most likely be similar week to week. This is an easy way to see how strong you’re getting. Did anyone say Teaser?

3. Flow. Okay, this one might just be me. But I love the flow that happens in a Pilates mat class. Sometimes, in an equipment class you spend time moving boxes, changing springs (however, I still love these too). In a mat class, there aren’t too many pauses. You can start to get into a sort of zone, and when you start to link breath to movement, watch out people!

4. Sense of community. Often times, the same group will continue to come to class week after week. Different from other classes, when you’re all on the floor together with your mats, you just can’t help but notice when someone masters a beautiful Open Leg Rocker, or sticks their very first Teaser with legs out straight. You begin to encourage one another, and that just adds to the fun of it all.

5. Mat class is the perfect way to understand your own body better. Learn your strengths and your weaknesses. There is no hiding in a mat class; it’s you and your mat. Joseph Pilates created all of the amazing Pilates equipment in hopes to help bodies better perform the Pilates Mat exercises.

Joseph Pilates once said “Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness.” And Pilates mat class always leaves me smiling.


Like elephant journal on Facebook.


Assistant Ed: Moira Madden/Ed: Bryonie Wise

{Photo: Joseph Pilates instructing a ballerina on the mat. [NY, 1961 by I.C. ‘Chuck’ Rapoport] via Pinterest}

Leave a Thoughtful Comment

Read 0 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Mary Stowell