Walking into a Reformer Pilates studio wasn’t as intimidating as it may look, even for a longtime yogi. The anticipation was mounting, and I had been wanting to try it for a pretty long time. If yoga was going to be my baseline, Pilates was going to be my ante up! I’d seen other people practice and remember noting some of the similarities between the two types of movements. Still, since yoga doesn’t include the same contraption (yes, the one with pulleys, springs, and ropes!), I wasn’t initially sure what to expect. When I thought about actually interacting with this machine — with curiosity — I was equally excited to try it out! I am always up for trying a new workout. I showed up prepared — with water and comfortable workout clothes (leggings, sports bra, tank, zip-front jacket, and socks with grip on the bottoms) — and jumped in with both feet.
The first time I tried Reformer Pilates, we warmed up by doing what felt like rhythmic “jumps”, basically lying down. What we really were doing, was sliding back and forth, using our feet against a jumpboard platform to push against the springs, so that we “jump” and slide back to the first position. I mean… jumping, while lying down? When I’d seen other people doing it, I wondered how it was working the body out? Why does it look like they were playing around? It was a fun way to get started, and even though it wasn’t highly exertive, I could definitely start to feel my abs working (to keep me stable), and some heat starting to show up. I get it now! Woo — it’s definitely not a game! More recently, when I tried the class again (my first experience was a great one — thanks to my teacher, Cynthia, so I had to go back!), our warm-up was a little different. Lying down on a half foam roller, we got right into our core work, balance being the main vehicle. Mind over matter, keeping our legs in tabletop position, we went through a series of balancing poses — moving our arms up and down — in order to isolate and work the muscles in our cores. I definitely felt the burn!
After going through a series of movements — and working up a sweat (the type that radiates from the depths of your soul!), believe it or not — I actually felt that this type of workout would probably yield quick and effective results. After my first time, I felt great — after the second, wonderful! There was a feeling that I had done a significant workout, broke a sweat, and worked muscles I didn’t even know existed! We worked our entire bodies, including the abs, arms, glutes, hamstrings, quads, feet, and even eyes (which made for an interesting cool-down experience — where else can you roll your eyes and get away with it?)!
Here are a few of the movements we covered in class:
Movement #1 Swan on long box
A great spine stretch (once you’ve warmed up, of course), the Pilates Swan — also done in the mat class — is designed to open and strengthen. You can feel it in your abs, hip flexors, and quads. Known as a satisfying counter stretch, it’s a great option for improving flexibility (and may even have you feeling — and looking — like Superwoman)!
Movement #2 Bicep curl teaser on Bosu
In a demonstration of control, balance, flexibility, and strength, the teaser is one of the more challenging poses I encountered. While this one can be felt in your abs, hips, legs, shoulders, glutes, hamstrings, and other supporting muscles, I am pretty sure I even felt this one in my eyelashes! Taking care to be in the proper form (as with all Pilates poses), and to avoid injury, reclining into a V-shape while sitting on the Bosu ball took some concentration and balance. My teacher, Cynthia, is wonderfully encouraging and was patient while I gained my bearings. Once I had focus, the pose was easier to get into.
Movement #3 Chest expansion with 9” Pilates ball
This movement looks pretty simple, but it works your shoulder girdle, upper back, chest, abs, hamstrings, and inner thighs. An added plus? It’s another way to work on perfecting your posture. Hunching over my computer every day, I can see where making this pose a habit will help me avoid the stress and strain (and knots!) that come with it.
Movement #4 Round back up stretch on chair
Another great stretch for the spine and its mobility is the round back up stretch on the chair of the reformer. It took a little getting used to — getting my feet in the proper position on the pedal (standing on my tiptoes, knees together), keeping a curved back, booty down, abs in, balance on point, and mind focused — but I did it! The beauty of the practice, in addition to the fitness results and progress, is that it allows you to zero in on your form and workout, forgetting all else, and staying in the moment.
If someone were to ask me if I recommend that they *try a Pilates class, my reply would be, “Yes!” — no hesitation. After getting to know the mechanism better — as you go — you will quickly fall in love with the practice, craving yet another class. At least, that has been my experience. I think there is something motivating about feeling seemingly immediate results, even after one class! As Pilates creator Joseph Pilates is quoted as saying, “In 10 sessions you’ll feel the difference, in 20 sessions you’ll see a difference, and in 30 sessions you’ll have a whole new body.”
Here’s to feeling a difference!
This firsthand account was prepared exclusively for Ellie by our Copywriter, Kendra Kabasele. Kendra participated in a Reformer Pilates class at the Phitosophy studio with teacher Cynthia Fonseca. You can find Cynthia on Instagram @pilateswithcyn
*Of course, before trying any new form of exercise, it is recommended that you consult with your doctor.
Teacher: Cynthia @pilateswithcyn