Pilates for Beginners: The Basics

So you have never taken a Pilates class in your life, but you’re intrigued and you have decided to take the plunge. This blog post is for you! We’ll cover two pillars of Pilates and what to expect during your first class. Overall, there is nothing to worry or be nervous about. Practicing Pilates has many benefits and is meant for everyone. Joseph Pilates was a circus performer, self-defense instructor, yogi, and gymnast. He loved to move. He used his exercises and breathing technique with injured men in internment camps during World War I before he ever worked with dancers. None of the men who practiced his exercises came down with influenza during the influenza pandemic of 1901. Pilates has helped countless people with neck, back, and knee pain. The exercises have shown benefits for pre-natal and post-natal women, athletes, dancers, the young and old, and the list goes on. Joseph Pilates believed his exercises were for everyone and would help you live a healthy and long life.

What to Expect

It's your first class. You're nervous. You're unsure. Fear no more! Here are some easy tips for your first day of Pilates.

1. Let the instructor know that you are new. The instructor will walk you through what equipment you need and how/where to set up.

2. If you have any injuries notify the instructor. He/she will be able to give you modifications you may need for certain exercises.

3. The two most common areas of discomfort are in your hips and neck. Your body is not used to working in this way and your abdominals may be relatively weak. Your neck and hip flexors will naturally try to take over and do the work. This will get better over time. As you take class and your abdominals get stronger your hips and neck will not have to do the work. Whenever your neck feels uncomfortable or painful put your hands behind your head or put your head on the mat. If your hips start to feel uncomfortable or painful put your feet back on the ground and focus on your HAA breath.

4. Have fun. No pressure. This is your first time in a new class. Be easy on yourself. Give yourself 3-5 classes. With every class you understand the movement more and the exercise set-ups become second nature.

5. Go at your own pace. Green Bird Fitness classes are set to fun, fast-paced music, but you can go at your own pace. If you need a break, take a break. This is your work out and no one else's. You made the time for yourself, so make this Pilates class what you need!

Two Basics About Pilates

If you want a headstart before you go to a Pilates class here are two of the most important concepts to be familiar with when starting out with Pilates: the breathing technique and a posture called “neutral spine”. If you don’t totally understand the breathing technique or neutral spine after reading this, no worries! This post is just meant to familiarize you before stepping into a class. Your instructor will be able to answer all of your questions before, during, and after your first class. Also, perfecting the breathing technique and neutral spine takes time.

You are building your breathing capacity with this new breath.

You are building strength and muscle endurance by practicing neutral spine.

If you are not perfect at it right away, that’s normal. Be patient with yourself and understand you’re learning a new way of moving your body.


Pilates is based on moving with your breath. In your first class you’ll learn how to breathe. If you are a yogi this is a little different than the breathing techniques used in a typical yoga class. Essentially, you are taking deep breaths in through your nose and a big HAA breath through your mouth. This “HAA Breath” is similar to what you do when you fog up a mirror with your breath. Below is a quick video on what the breath like.

Neutral Spine

Neutral spine is all about preserving the natural curvature in your back. You want to avoid pressing or pushing your entire spine into the floor. Essentially, neutral spine is where you have tiny lift in your low back and there is a space between your low back and the mat.

By using this HAA breath you engage your deep core muscles. This is where the good work happens! Your deep core muscles are supporting your internal organs, spine, and overall posture. With every deep breath you engage those deep muscles! The short video below walks you through (step-by-step) how to find neutral spine.