Pilates is an excellent way for anyone at any age or fitness level to start a healthy lifestyle. The most important thing is that you keep moving forward and do whatever works best for you. By personalizing your Pilates routine, it will be easier to make sure you’re doing things right.
You’ll know you’re doing Pilates right if you feel a balance between your left and right side, you can engage your core, and you’re sweating but smiling. You may notice more mobility and strength, as well as fewer aches and pains. Additionally, the exercises should get easier.
In the rest of this article, I’ll go over the top eleven ways you can know you’re doing Pilates right. Some of them may surprise you, but more likely than not, you’re likely already feeling the benefits of this incredible exercise.
1. You Feel Balanced Between Your Left and Right Side
One of the key principles in Pilates is symmetry. If you don’t feel balanced between your left and right sides, it is important to seek a professional for advice on how to correct this. Your Pilates instructor should know what to do—it may be as easy as wearing different footwear, or it could be that you need to strengthen a side of your body differently.
When you’re on the mat and feel like you can hit just about any pose without falling over, you’re engaging the correct muscles in your body. Balance is a skill, that’s true, but knowing how to control your muscles just right to keep yourself safe during Pilates is a sign that you understand the poses, know how to direct your movements, and are building strength.
For those of you who feel like you’re missing the mark on this one, don’t worry. Balance changes as you age. Some will tell you they’ve never been able to balance properly—and they may be telling the truth! Balancing is a skill, but it can be built.
Before your Pilates class, you can practice a few Pilates moves to ensure you’re balanced.
The single leg stretch from side lying can strengthen the inner thigh muscles and improve balance. It also reduces lower back pain caused by weak abdominal muscles and tight hip flexors, as both muscles are stretched when doing this exercise.
I also recommend practising the plank position and a few side planks. To perform a side plank, start in the regular plank position and lower one knee. Swivel your body to the opposite side as you extend your outer arm upwards.
If you’re looking for a full workout to help you improve try this out.
If you just can’t seem to find your balance, then you may want to talk to your doctor. Some conditions, such as the developmental coordination disorder or even an ear infection, can impair coordination.
2. You Feel More Mobility in Daily Life
If you feel like you can move more easily in your daily life since you started doing Pilates, then you are probably doing Pilates correctly.
Mobility is a huge benefit of practising Pilates consistently for a while, and you’ll notice it in all facets of your life. Pilates also builds strength and flexibility, making it easier for you to be active in your daily life. Mundane activities will be much easier on your body.
This can mean fewer aches and pains when walking downstairs, getting out of bed in the morning, and reaching for things on high shelves—or simply being able to play with your children without getting tired too soon.
Pilates can also help with sports performance. Many athletes use Pilates as part of their training because it helps them improve balance, core strength, and stability—three things that improve athletic performance. If you do some kind of athletic activity and notice that Pilates has increased some aspect of your performance, you’ll know you’re doing it right.
If you feel like you aren’t getting the mobility you need out of Pilates, you might need support from an expert. Implement more mobility practices into your routine and ask your Pilates instructor how you can work to improve your mobility.
It’s common to lose mobility as we age. We start to naturally lose muscle as early as at 30 years old, but you can retain your mobility and strength with adequate diet and exercise.
3. You’re Feeling Stronger
Pilates strengthens your core and improves your posture, making you more stable and better able to move around with agility and poise.
It also increases your flexibility and balance, making it easier to catch yourself when you fall or lift heavy objects without putting strain on any part of your body—particularly the lower back.
In addition, Pilates improves coordination by helping us focus on what we’re doing at the moment, making it easier for us to move with intention rather than react automatically to stimuli from our environment.
In a nutshell, you’re going to feel stronger if you’re doing Pilates right. It may be hard to pinpoint it, but the flexibility, balance, and coordination that comes with Pilates should make you feel like you’re free to do anything you want with your body.
4. The Exercises Are Getting Easier
Think back to your first Pilates class. How did it feel to warm up your body? Were some exercises too difficult? Did you break a sweat, tap out of a few moves, or feel extremely sore the next day?
Now… how did you feel the last time you finished a Pilates class?
You can tell you’re doing Pilates correctly if the exercises are getting easier with time. That’s because Pilates aims to build strength both in the muscles and connective tissue, allowing you to make more advanced moves with less effort. If old exercises are getting easier, that means your body is getting stronger.
If you aren’t noticing a difference in difficulty, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing something wrong. It might just mean you need to work a little on your consistency!
5. You’re Engaging Your Core
Core strength is the foundation of all Pilates exercises, and it’s important to ensure you’re engaging your core before beginning a sequence.
Your core is composed of muscles connecting your upper body with your lower body. These are vital for daily activities like walking, sitting, or standing. When performing Pilates exercises, strong core muscles can help prevent injury while increasing efficiency in movement.
At first, you may only be able to focus on the flexibility aspect of a Pilates move or even just the cardio aspect. Understandably, many newbies to Pilates don’t engage their core at all—instead, they focus on just surviving the moves.
But as you become more experienced, you should be able to consciously engage your core during every exercise. This is an ability that comes after you’ve been practising Pilates correctly for a while, so if you’ve begun engaging your core in recent classes, congratulations! You’re doing it right.
As you improve, you can add small hand weights to your workout. They might not look like much, but trust me, they’re very challenging!
6. Your Body Is Relaxed
Pilates isn’t designed to fatigue the body. Even while you’re pushing your body, Pilates integrates deep breathing and should bring you a sense of calmness.
If you’re feeling stressed and your muscles are constantly strained during a Pilates workout, then you should probably give some time and effort to relaxing.
You may be thinking that the point of any workout is to not relax your body, but the fact is that relaxation is one of the core principles of Pilates. It’s what allows you to be aware of your muscles and perform movements correctly.
An easy way to see if your body is relaxing is by paying attention to your facial muscles. Understandably, your mind might be too focused on an exercise to do that constantly, but you can take a moment between movements to check if you’re showing any visible signs of strain in your face.
This is why many instructors incorporate fascial release into their programs. Fascial release is a technique that helps to release tension in the fascia. The fascia is a connective tissue surrounding muscle and other structures, including joints, bones, and nerves. It supports the body’s structure but also acts as an insulating layer between different tissues of muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
The benefits of fascial release include improved posture, relief from pain, and increased flexibility. You may have heard it referred to by other names such as myofascial release or soft tissue therapy. Whatever you call it, it’s important for anyone practising Pilates!
If you can smile and relax your face during your class, that means you’re doing something right. If not, you may want to look into fascial release techniques.
7. You Feel a Connection Between Breath and Movement
While it’s important to know how you’re using your body, paying attention to how you’re thinking about the workout just as important.
Many Pilates exercises require that you use your mind in conjunction with the muscles of your body. Your mind is a powerful muscle in its own right. Combined with the strength of all your other muscles, it can have an even greater effect on what happens during a workout session.
The key component of this mind-body connection is your breathing. Breathing is an essential part of Pilates—it allows you to perform exercises correctly and safely. Each movement in a Pilates class corresponds with an inhalation or an exhalation.
To achieve this, you need to understand what the Pilates breathing technique is. You breathe in through the nose and breathe out through the mouth, trying to activate the diaphragm. You should try to direct eh air to the sides of the ribs and make them expand laterally. This facilitates activation of the core muscles.
To truly master Pilates any technique, you should be able to feel this connection between mind and body become more in sync with each workout session. If you’re not quite there yet, no worries—you just need a little more practice!
8. Your Posture Is Improving
Do you feel like your posture is improving? Are you more aware of how you stand and sit, or notice that your shoulders are more relaxed? If so, then chances are you’re doing Pilates right. You’ll often feel a little taller after finishing a class.
As with any exercise routine, these changes come from consistent practice. If you’re not noticing any difference in your posture, there’s no need to worry: Pilates can take time to work its magic. Just keep on doing it!
9. You’re Feeling More Mindful
In addition to your regular Pilates classes, are you giving yourself time throughout the day to connect with your breath and practice mindful movement? While not specific to Pilates, this is an integral part of healthy living, no matter which type of exercise you do.
Pilates requires a lot of concentration. Your mind are body are focused in performing movements correctly and keeping a steady breathing. This not only trains your body to work beyond what we think our limits may be—it also trains your brain to be more mindful.
The gentle breathing and movement of Pilates activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which calms you down and reduces blood pressure. Pilates can also help you attain a state of flow. Even after you’re done with your Pilates class, you’ll be more aware of your body and be better able to handle stressful situations.
10. You Experience Fewer Aches and Pains
Many of us lead sedentary lifestyles, or maybe we have to do a lot of repetitive movements around the house. These things, especially when combined with age, can cause random pains and aches to spring up in different parts of the body.
One of the many benefits of Pilates is reducing body pain, especially when it’s related to an injury. After a while of correctly practising Pilates, you should feel some relief in your lower back, neck, and joints. Pilates exercises strengthen the muscles around the joints, stabilizing them and relieving them of stress.
You may even notice an improvement in other parts of your life: higher energy levels, better eating habits, healthier sleep patterns, and lower stress levels.
11. You’re Losing Weight
One way to know you’re doing Pilates right is if your weight loss goals are being met. Pilates is a low-impact exercise that focuses on strengthening your core, but the best part is that it’s also excellent at helping you shed pounds. If you’ve been doing Pilates for more than a few weeks and haven’t noticed a difference in your body size or shape, it’s time to start looking at other factors.
Remember that while Pilates can help change your body, it’s better to have a goal of improving your lifestyle than just reducing weight. The difference is that by aiming to improve all aspects of your life, diet as well as exercise, you will naturally see a positive change to your body.
Aiming to just reduce weight can lead to short-term, temporary, lifestyle changes that are quickly forgotten once the magic weight number has been reached.
- National Institute on Aging: Older Adults and Balance Problems
- Understood: Understanding developmental coordination disorder (DCD)
- PMC: Pilates: how does it work and who needs it?
- NASM: Core Stability Exercises: Targeting Progressive Core Training
- Nestlé Health Science: Maintaining mobility as part of healthy aging
- Mayo Clinic: Myofascial release therapy: Can it relieve back pain?
- PMC: Application of Pilates-based exercises in the treatment of chronic non-specific low back pain: state of the art
- Pilates Moves You: What Should I Pair With Pilates To Lose Weight