What is Pilates?

What is Pilates?

Hey POPsters! With the start of 2012, we are bringing on a new wave of Blogilates fans! How exciting! Welcome to the family guys 🙂 So I thought it’d be appropriate to go back to basics and tell you a bit about the origins of what we do here and why it’s good for you. This is a guest-blog post I actually did back in the fall for my friend Gina over at Fitnessista.com. Enjoy!

I’ve been practicing and teaching Pilates mat for quite a while now – think back to when Mari Winsor first started infiltrating our late weekday mornings with her Winsor Pilates infomercials. I found them to be very entertaining…entertaining enough for me to buy a DVD set and then end up being an instructor years later! I guess it did it’s job.


Naturally, over the years, to keep things fresh and fun, I’ve created my own format called POP Pilates that’s been mentioned in national magazines like COSMOPOLITAN, SHAPE, and Fitness. And just recently I was named one of YouTube’s Next Trainers! Wooooo!!!

POP Pilates is basically Pilates and Pilates-inspired moves set to contemporary Top 40 Hits. Today, I teach classical Pilates, POP Pilates, and Pilates Reformer. We will talk about all 3 today, but let’s start with the basics, shall we?

What is it?

Pilates is a mind body exercise that challenges your core while sculpting longer and leaner muscles, resulting in a toned dancer-like look. Joseph Pilates first developed the method back in the early to mid 1900s originally for rehabilitating POWs. He then later modified his program for injured dancers. The idea is that a stronger core or “powerhouse” enhances your posture and alignment, which ultimately results in optimal physical performance. The core muscles are defined as the deep, internal muscles of the abs and back that help to stabilize your torso.

Lucky for us exercise enthusiasts, the Pilates method was later brought to light, hitting the fitness industry by storm. That’s why in recent years, the practice has become very popular with the celebs. It looks good on camera! Famous Pilates starlets include Reese Witherspoon, Mandy Moore, and Megan Fox just to name a few.

Screen shot 2011-07-12 at 11.26.00 PM.png


What’s the difference between Pilates and Yoga?

I want to dispel the myth that Pilates and Yoga are “the same” or come from the same roots. Simply untrue! Although both stress the importance of breath, control, flexibility, and strength, the origins and ultimate practices are different. The beginnings of yoga are somewhat unclear, but there’s evidence that shows that it may have been practiced as early as 3000 B.C. in areas that are now India and Pakistan. Yoga was developed mainly through the religious practices of Hinduism and Buddhism. Pilates has a much shorter history, being developed by Joseph Pilates after he served as a nurse in World War I. Below is a great chart (Venn diagram style!) that breaks down the similarities and contrasts between the two. You can read more about the differences here in an older blog post I did if you’re curious.

What to expect?

Expect this: soreness in muscles you didn’t even know you had!

When most people refer to Pilates they are usually talking about mat Pilates. But, the practice can be performed on various apparatuses like the Reformer, Chair, Barrel, and Cadillac. The lessons on these machines can be quite costly but they provide a very exquisite experience to working out.



Mat Pilates is the most common and most accessible type of Pilates that can be found at pretty much every gym nowadays. All you need is you, a yoga mat, and some willpower to push through some of the best “burning” sensations you will ever experience. Mat work is usually performed with little to no equipment. For the most part this is a body weight exercise that will tone you up and slim you down. I recommend attending at least 2-3 one hour classes a week to see a difference in just two weeks. The first thing you’ll notice is your taller posture. My coworkers use to always point out my amazingly straight back as I worked in front of my computer. My chiropractor even asked me for the secret to keeping my spine so aligned. People even think I’m taller than I actually am. I owe it to Pilates! Seriously!

You will also notice a flatter belly. Yes. Well what did you expect out of a workout focused around your core?! If you get a chance to attend a Pilates class, I can guarantee that your instructor will say something along the lines of “suck you belly button into your spine.” The reason why we stress this is because we want you to develop nice FLAT abs. Ever see those people that seem ripped but then they turn to the side and their abs are actually protruding? Well, by constantly “sucking in” we train our abs to tighten the way we want them to look. FLAT.

If you’re liking what you’re reading and are going nuts because you can’t get to a class right this instant, no worries! You can try it at home. Right now. Stop reading. Get down on the floor and follow along with me in this POP Pilates for Beginners video. It’s a full length total body Classical or Traditional mat workout. I explain a lot of key principles here so it’s perfect for those of you that are new to the practice:

Too easy? Fine. Then for you advanced Pilates enthusiasts, check out one of my FAVORITE videos, the POP Pilates: New Body Makeover for your legs, abs, and arms.

What to wear?

Pilates people and Yogis sometimes are the luckiest when it comes to fitness fashion because we have uber stylish brands like Lululemon that cater especially to the mind body crowd. In general, you will want to wear anything stretchy, breathable, and form fitting. You’ll see most girls in yoga pants and a cami or tank top like this:


Body Language Sportswear

Make sure your clothing IS NOT SEE-THROUGH. Not that you would ever intentionally try to be that scandalous at the gym…or would you!?

Just kidding.

Anyway! Pilates involves a ton of stretching and posing in sometimes very awkward positions, so you need to be sure that the fabrication of your clothing is of good quality. Trust me, I’ve seen a lot of girls in cute capris that are very unaware that their pants don’t pass the “squat test”. Please tell me you do the squat test before you buy any workout pants. If you don’t already, then do it now: put your pants on, face your booty to the mirror and squat low. Then look back. Does your underwear show? ‘Nough said.



Try to stay away from the plain cotton pants. They always fail. Lycra and supplex fabrics work wonders for me. I especially love my Body Language pants. Lululemon and Lucy are also good.

The pros of Pilates:

  • Noticeably taller posture
  • Stronger core a.k.a. amazing abs!
  • Overall toned dancer-like look
  • You can do it at home with little to no equipment!
  • Cute fitness clothes 😉

The cons of Pilates:

  • Pilates can be very expensive if you go to Pilates-specific studios for training, especially if you begin practicing on the apparatus.

Hope you guys enjoyed that! Last night the gym was a bit more packed but for some reason not AS packed as Boston Sports Club was last year. Either way I had a great time teaching my 2 back to back POP Pilates classes. I also managed to squeeze in quick workout after. Then stuffed my face with broccoli, spaghetti squash, and boiled chicken. I threw tabasco sauce all over my broc along with some soy sauce. SO GOOD.

Do you have any more questions about Pilates? I will actually be doing my first ever radio interview with Kymberly and Alexandra Williams of Funandfit.org very soon. I’ll let you know what the air date is. Umm I don’t know how good I will be on air since sometimes I feel like I need to rely on visuals to be interesting. That’s why YouTube works…haha oh well. We will see. The segment is on Demystifying Pilates, so if you DO have questions, please write them in the comments so that I can address them when I do the interview.

Alrighty! Love ya lots. Start 2012 off with a BAAAAAANNNGGGGG!!!!!

28 thoughts on “What is Pilates?”

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  1. Claudia says:

    Hi!! I´m a fan of you Begginers Calendar. I make it two times but my fats are the same. My body it´s better, but only a little bit. For fats, it´s better make it pilates or cardio? What workouths I can do?
    I´m 13, and I don´t can to make a food plan.

  2. Carmen says:

    Hi! I would just like to ask when you’re doing the blogilates calendar whether we should be doing any other form of exercise? Cause I usually run twice a week, but I just started doing the calendars and it gets me really worn out! Any advice anyone? 🙂

    1. Yamy says:

      You might want to see a dietitian because it could be that you are not adding enough fuel (calories) to your body. Maybe they can advice you to increase a couple of calories rich in carbohydrates to store more glucose into your muscle, thus increasing your energies, to increase your physical activity time. Best of lucks.

  3. Christelle says:

    Hey ! Im christelle and am a 16 years old girl , i have a problem its that i am so skinny and i want to gain weight to have this beautiful body i was thinking of doing pilates but i am scared to get all bulky like man . What do you think i can do ?? Please i need ur help and thank u !!

    1. Emily says:

      Trust me. You will NOT get bulky. Have you seen pictures of Cassey? She’s been doing Pilates since she was 16 and she’s twenty something now and is not the least bit bulky like a man. I’ve been doing Pilates for 6 months now (I am also 16) and I feel great about myself. I’m skinny and I’ve noticed muscle gain and I feel so amazing about myself. I’ve also noticed some stares from guys as I walk down the halls at school 😉 but anyway, TRY IT. It’s super fun and I feel amazing about myself. You won’t get bulky though 🙂 you’d have to be on steroids or something for that to happen 🙂

  4. yin says:

    Do we have to be like above an age to be a pilates / work out? Or is it totally ok? Im 16 btw and I want to start not only for my physical figure but for health as well. Please answer, thanks in advance! 🙂

    1. Laura says:

      No 🙂 I started when I was 14.

  5. Lauren Ruffin says:

    WOW! This was very informative and fun to read and learn about….wish I read this BEFORE I started lol! Then again, there are no regrets here 🙂 I’m about to do my Beach series Wednesday Stretches

    Much Love from Maryland <3

  6. Usually I don’t learn post on blogs, but I would like to say that this write-up very forced me to take a look at and do so! Your writing style has been surprised me. Thanks, very nice article.

  7. madeleine Baguette says:

    February 1,2013
    Cassey, Thank You for your dedication to your followers, of which I have just joined the list.
    My daughter in Texas, turned me onto your web-sight, I will in-turn turn on my sister in N.Y.
    Just learned the first important step to restoring core health is correct breathing. Thank You .from Mad

  8. Marylin says:

    Hey Cassey! Great information i never knew! thanks!! & btw….i love your workout shorts on the first pic above..do u mind sharing where you bought them from? 😀

  9. Toni says:

    Cassey, I’m 41, and in the last several months I have lost over 75 pounds! I feel better than I have in years. I really need to tone up, badly! I don’t like weight training or the bulk it brings on. I don’t like yoga because of the religious connotations. I am so excited to have found your blogilates/pop pilates!!! I’m going to try it this week! Thanks, Toni

    1. blogilates says:

      WOW!!! congrats!

  10. indz says:

    Yes Cassey, I’m one off new blogilates fans wave in 2012.
    This really great articles. I’m dreaming having a straight back, since in my everyday life i spend for almost 8hours a day in front of computer and it is hard to keep my back straight.

  11. Kim says:

    Hi Cassey!
    You are inspirational!
    I’m currently not a very active person but I really want to change that! So I’ve decided to get off my butt & try Pilates! I love yoga but don’t practice often so with the new year here it’s time for something new! Since I’ve never done Pilates, I was planning to start with your Pilates for beginners videos. Oh & btw I would like to lose 20-30 pounds by summer time! – any advice for me as I begin my new adventure? Thanks for all that you do 🙂

    1. blogilates says:

      Do the 90 day challenge!

      1. Bree says:

        Hi! What’s the 90 day challenge sounds interesting! 🙂 Thanks in advance

  12. Gillian says:

    Hey Cassey, I have been doing your videos on youtube for about a month and a half now, and just wanted to say thank you! I have always been super active but don’t think i have ever looked so good… Love ’em all, please keep them coming! And thanks for this post, i had no idea what it was really all about. I’m excited to kick ass on the beach in Mexico next week : )

  13. Beth says:

    Found your site a few days ago and have begun the 90 day challenge. So SORE! I’ve been wondering exactly why pilates is so hot, and I see now. I’m on the wagon because I am susceptible to muscle bulk.

  14. Amy says:

    Hey Cassey!!! Love this article, i never knew the history behind pilates before! I have been doing your workouts for about 2 months now and i LOVE them. I used to be really into lifting weights and body building and then i started running half marathons and found weight lifting just wasn’t for me anymore. While i still love doing weights like in your weight workouts and the Tone it Up workouts i love using just my body weight for pilates. I never really had done just pilates before always pilates/yoga/tai chi fusion classes. I find your workouts so tough! Which is crazy as i thought i was so strong from weight lifting…not the same at all! I do your workouts 2x a week, yoga 1-2x and run 3x. As well as walking my dog daily:) Great combo for me!! I would love to have more time to do more of your workouts like after a run..but my runs are always 45 min plus so not always possible:) Plus i have overtrained in the past so i am careful not to now…my day off is Sundays and i usually do 20-30 min yin yoga or a runners yoga basically just tons of stretching! Thanks again for all your hardwork and awesome workouts and posting them online for free!

  15. Janice says:

    yes i will start 2012 with a bang!

  16. Carolyn says:

    Hey, Cassey!
    I’m not trying to be a critical b*tch or anything, but the Venn diagram isn’t entirely correct. There are many different kinds of yoga, and some, like Vinyasa and Ashtanga, do promote weight loss, total body conditioning, strength without bulk, energy, fast results, and solid core muscles. Also, it can be used as one’s primary form of exercise, especially if one is focusing on Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Power yoga, Bikram yoga, or any other form of yoga that gets one’s heart rate up, and/or challenges one’s muscles (e.g. Anusara yoga doesn’t move quickly, but there are many long, precise, difficult holds that challenge the muscles).
    In terms of getting a flat, muscular belly versus a muscular one that protrudes, yoga promotes the former, too. We are told to hold Uddiyana bandha and Mula bandha, which essentially means we engage the pelvic floor up, and draw the entire wall of upper and lower abdominal muscles back towards our spines.

    Still, great article! I don’t know much about Pilates (as you can tell, I am a yoga gal =) ), and I really appreciated the information. Have a lovely day!

    1. blogilates says:

      Wow that is done fabulous info u have there!!! I got the chart online as you can see and I am a pilates gal w curiosity in yoga 🙂 thanks for clarifying!!!!

      1. Carolyn says:

        Haha, I don’t think I could have missed the fact that you’re a Pilates gal. =P And no problem! =) I figured the chart wasn’t yours, but I thought I should clarify, anyway. Hope your day is going well!