Reformer Pilates: What Is It and Why Should I Try It?

When I first saw people doing reformer Pilates, I thought the machines looked more like torture devices than exercise tools. Granted, they can look intimidating to a beginner, but I’m so glad I pushed past my initial discomfort to give it a try.

First things first: what the heck is reformer Pilates? I’m sure most of the people reading this are well-versed in this awesome form of movement, but I also know that a lot of people have never heard of it, so if you’re in the latter camp, let me give you a little low-down.

Reformer Pilates was created by Joseph Pilates in the early 20th century. Pilates led quite the interesting life, studying every kind of movement from tai chi to body building. He was a boxer, a skiier, a trainer and more, and he developed Pilates as a new way of strengthening and conditioning the human body.

The first reformers were made of hospital beds with springs attached, which Pilates created to help patients regain strength while he was working as a nurse. The method picked up steam when he moved to New York and trained famous dancers like George Balanchine, and the rest is history.

In a typical reformer class, you’ll work your entire body, usually by pushing and pulling the carriage with a certain number of coloured springs attached to add resistance. Although relatively simple in its design, the reformer is a magical machine which can help you stretch, strengthen and lengthen muscles you didn’t even know you had.

Although reformer Pilates is usually a tad bit more pricey than your average drop-in class, I think it’s so worth it because you’ll see results from even one reformer class a week. In case you’re still unconvinced, here are more reasons to try a reformer class:

Reformer Pilates

1. Reformer tones, strengthens and lengthens. I love the moves we do in reformer class because they make me feel like I’m elongating my muscles rather than shortening and contracting them. Put simply, reformer will help you get longer, leaner and more toned. I used to dance ballet, and reformer is the closest I’ve come to replicating that amazing lengthening I used to feel in class. I find it’s the perfect combo of strengthening and stretching muscles, and after class, I always feel like I’ve accomplished something great for myself and my body.

2. Reformer is more mindful than your average fitness class. Joseph Pilates was also a practitioner of zen meditation, and he recognized the importance of a mind, body, spirit connection. When you practice Pilates, the instructor will usually make a point of cueing breathing and mindfulness practices like they do in yoga class. The aim is to connect with your body and your inner self in addition to getting fit and strong. I feel like a lot of fitness classes today are missing this element, so it’s so refreshing to go to a class where the students are meant to slow down and tune into the present moment. My weekly reformer class is like an hour-long vacation away from the world where I can simply focus on moving mindfully and enjoying the moment. “The mind, when housed within a healthful body, possesses a glorious sense of power.” -Joseph Pilates.

3. Reformer can help with injuries and pain. I’m lucky enough to be free of pain and injuries, but I know for a fact that reformer Pilates can be one of the best ways to rehab any wear and tear on your body. By gently toning and lengthening your muscles, reformer Pilates will help you heal any injuries while preventing new ones.

4. Reformer can help with bad posture. Pilates places a big emphasis on lengthening the spine and strengthening the entire core (your core includes your back, too!), so the practice is amazing for desk jockeys who are in need of a lift. We all sit and hunch over our computers for so much of the day, so reformer is an excellent way to help reverse the effects of desk time by strengthening core muscles and elongating the spine. “You are only as young as the spine is flexible.” -Joseph Pilates.

5. It will challenge you in the best way. I love reformer because it’s like learning a new dance routine every time I go. It challenges my mind to work in tandem with my body, and it keeps my muscles constantly adapting to new moves. While running or lifting weights often feels monotonous to me, reformer classes are different every time, and they always feel fresh and exciting.

“In 10 sessions you’ll feel the difference, in 20 you’ll see the difference, and in 30 you’ll have a new body.” -Joseph Pilates.

Have you ever tried reformer Pilates? What do you love about it?

If you’re in Toronto, my favourite places to do Pilates are Ultimate Athletics and Misfit Studio.

For more movement inspo, check out this post on four reasons to try ballet.

6 thoughts on “Reformer Pilates: What Is It and Why Should I Try It?

      1. I think it depends on the studio! If you’re going to a mixed level class, I would give the instructor a head’s up that it’s your first time so they can give you a quick tutorial beforehand. 🙂

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