SOMETIMES, SIMPLE is better.
I am no expert on the Pilates Reformer or other apparatus used in the Pilates system. I’ve used Reformer’s system of springs and pulleys only a couple of times. It felt like a lot of work for simple exercises. Most Pilates studios also require training to use the machines, and I can be a little impatient.
So for my second go-round at Pilates, a mat class felt more accessible.
I headed to Kinesia Pilates in Pioneer Square for a mat class. For those of you interested in the Reformer or other apparatus, most studios have entry-level apparatus classes to help you learn.
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But the mat was the way Joseph Pilates worked at home as well, Kinesia owner Christl Marcontell said. It is a great way to learn a Pilates routine for home.
Teacher Ian Wrede started us with some light arm weights while standing, focusing on spinning our inner thighs in and shifting our weight to the balls of our feet while moving the weights slowly up and down and to the sides. Even with the light weights, I could feel my shoulders and upper back muscles working hard to sustain the movements.
He then moved us to the floor for some classic Pilates sequences and got into some intense core work. We started with our legs at 45 degrees and pulsed our arms for “The Hundred.” It’s a classic because it’s effective.
We moved on to our backs and circled one leg at a time in the air before moving into “The Five,” another classic of Pilates. We started by bringing both knees in, then extended one leg at 45 degrees, switching back and forth, shoulders lifted off the floor. We then held both legs at 45 degrees, arms stretched forward with our shoulders lifted. Next, we pointed our legs up to the ceiling, lowering one leg at a time, then did both, moving slowly to keep our core engaged. The Five closed with the crisscross, crossing elbows to the opposite leg, one at a time. My core was engaged, no question.
Ian moved us to spinal stretches and twists, which felt great, before adding the Open Leg Rocker, when we held our ankles, rolled back and rolled up and tried to keep our balance. It wasn’t easy to balance with my legs straight — Ian told us to use our core. Trying, Ian, I’m trying.
We also laid on our bellies to work our backs, lifting up to strengthen before rolling on our sides and doing kicks back and forth with our upper leg to strengthen our glutes.
My favorite: On our backs, we bent one leg, then squeezed our straight leg against the bent one at different angles, and rolled up and down to work our core, knee stability and inner thighs, which don’t often get a lot of love.
We closed with some pushups, some side bends and torso circles.
Ian referred to our core as the “powerhouse,” and I liked thinking of my center that way. The exercises also worked, though The Five required us to hold our necks up for extended periods, which wasn’t comfortable. I did some research, and apparently I need to use my core more to hold up my neck. Go figure.
I didn’t leave Pilates sweaty and spent; it’s also not the reason to go. Through Pilates, you’ll get good body awareness, intense core work and greater flexibility. All good reasons to perhaps give the Reformer another whirl, or even take on the Pilates Tower. My core will appreciate the attention.
Nicole Tsong teaches yoga at studios around Seattle. Read her blog at papercraneyoga.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Benjamin Benschneider is the Pacific NW staff photographer.