Pilates Mat Class Q&A

Have you ever taken a mat class, and wondered why we teach them the way we do? I’ve been teaching mat classes since 1999, and I hear these same questions over and over. Let’s address them!

Why doesn’t the Pilates Instructor workout with us?
— A Pilates Instructor teaches her class based on what she sees, and she responds to your abilities. Observe the mat class closely and you will notice that a good Pilates mat class is interactive. Are you having trouble with an exercise? She may come over to help you. Is the class moving too slowly? She will give you energy with her voice. If she did her whole workout in front of you, why would you come to class? You could just stay at home and pop in a DVD if you would rather just go through the motions and not be pushed. You are not the “audience”; you are the active participants and are helping to design the class!

Why does the instructor walk around? What is she looking at?
–She is looking at you! She is watching your form and judging your abilities so that she can form the exercises around the needs of the class. When I’m teaching, I notice right away as people walk in whether they are dragging their heels with a lack of energy, or come bouncing in with a lot of energy. If they have a lot of energy, I’ll make the 100 more challenging by adding the criss-cross legs. During the roll-up, I notice if the class is generally flexible or stiff. If no one can touch their toes, I’ll spend more time stretching during single-leg circles.

I like having the dim lights. Why are the brighter lights on?
–The instructor needs to see you! Dim lights are great for a meditative, stretching, breathy class. But Pilates is meant to invigorate, not put you to sleep.

Why is there no music?
–Pilates is very rhythmic. Can you picture the instructor counting the 100 right now? What about open leg rocker? Have you ever done the criss-cross quickly, then slowly? Each exercise has its own rhythm that is unique to that particular exercise. We manipulate the rhythm to make the exercise harder or, occasionally, easier for you. Music would interfere with this technique.

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