What Does A Typical Pilates Session Consist Of? Everything You Need To Know

Pilates has become a very popular form of exercise in recent years. It’s a very versatile and low-impact type of exercise which means that people of all ages and fitness levels can benefit from pilates.

Although you can practice pilates at home, many people prefer to take a pilates class at a gym or in a specialized pilates class.

However, if you’ve never attended a pilates class before, you might be wondering what to expect.

Doing something new for the first time is always daunting so knowing what will happen can help calm anxiety and make you feel more comfortable.

That’s why we’ve created this article to explain what a typical pilates session consists of. We will explain all you need to know about a pilates class.

Mat Pilates Vs. Reformer Pilates

Before we explain what to expect from a typical Pilates class, we should explain that there are two main different kinds of Pilates classes and these will be handled differently.

In most cases, any Pilates classes that are advertised just as “Pilates” are likely to be mat Pilates.

This is the most common form of Pilates and is the type of Pilates that immediately comes to mind when most people think of Pilates.

As the name suggests, this is Pilates performed on a mat. The mats are a little thicker than a yoga mat and they act to protect participants from the harsh floor underneath.

They cushion your body and prevent your feet from slipping as you move through the poses.

The other form of Pilates is called Reformer Pilates. These classes use a piece of equipment called a Reformer.

This looks like a weird bed and participants lie down on it and are able to perform exercises by changing weights and tension on wires and pulleys.

In the case of this article, we will mostly be talking about mat Pilates.

The Format Of A Pilates Class

Now let’s look at what you can expect from a Pilates class. This section is mainly relevant for mat Pilates, although some reformer Pilates classes may follow a similar format as well.

The Beginning

It’s best to arrive a few minutes early for the class, especially if it is either your first Pilates class ever or your first at a specific gym. 

When you attend your first class, most gyms and studios will ask you to sign a participation waiver.

You may also be asked to provide your personal details and contact information if you haven’t provided it already.

You can then get ready for the session by removing your shoes and finding a space. Pilates is performed with either bare feet or special socks that have grips on the soles.

Most studios will have a place for shoes, whether it’s just leaving them beside a wall or on a shoe rack.

By arriving early, you will also have the opportunity to speak to the Pilates instructor.

We recommend doing this if it is your first session so you can tell the instructor about your experience levels and any problem areas you may have.

With this information, the instructor will be able to help you more effectively during the class.

During The Class

During The Class

Every instructor takes a Pilates class in their own style but the movements and exercises included tend to target the same goals and muscle groups. Most classes last 45 to 60 minutes.

A key feature of any Pilates class is being able to maintain a neutral posture and alignment.

You will need to keep your spine and cervix in a neutral alignment and relaxed so that you stay loose and don’t injure yourself as you move through the Pilates exercises.

You will continually come back to a neutral posture so it is essential that you are able to achieve this.

As well as keeping your body neutral and relaxed, a Pilates class will focus on the following core groups and essentials;

  • How to breathe
  • Cervical alignment
  • Pelvic flexibility and mobility
  • Rib and back stabilization
  • Engaging the abdominal muscles

Your instructor will talk you through the movements, providing demonstrations and corrections when required.

Many instructors, especially in beginner classes, will also help you with your breathing as getting your breathing right and timing it to your movements is essential in Pilates. 

Many movements require you to, for example, breathe in as you move in one direction and then breathe out as you move in another.

This will help you get the most out of each movement and ensure that your body is getting the oxygen it needs.

Try your best to follow your instructor’s guidance and instructions.

However, you shouldn’t try to push yourself too much as you will find that your movements will become more flexible and stronger with practice.

Nobody is an expert during their first Pilates session and although progress can seem slow, you will soon notice that your body is becoming more flexible.

At the End Of The Class

At the end of a Pilates class, the instructor will usually take some time to lead the participants in a few minutes of cool-down and relaxation. 

Participants lie down on their mats while the instructor leads a guided breathing session.

This helps your body relax after the Pilates exercises and works to keep you grounded and connected.

Some other instructors may not have such a formal breathing session and will instead ask participants to simply follow their own breathing.

Final Thoughts

In this article, we explained what a typical Pilates session consists of. We explained the difference between mat and reformer Pilates and then went into detail on a mat Pilates class.

We advise arriving for the class early and speaking to the instructor if it is your first time.

The bulk of the class is concerned with Pilates practice and the session usually finishes with some breathing exercises.

We hope that this article was informative and has helped you understand how a Pilates session progresses.