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Mat versus Equipment Pilates 1.0

Updated: Feb 14, 2022

A Pilates studio space will generally have various combinations of the unique equipment and apparatus/props that was invented by Joseph Pilates and is now manufactured by many companies around the world. Joseph Pilates was a prolific inventor of exercise apparatus and furniture.

BASI (Body Arts and Science International) Pilates performed in a studio or from the comfort of your choice of destination (especially your home) will include a full-body workout. A Pilates class utilises a combination of the equipment, apparatus, props or simply just a mat to address individual needs both in the body and the mind.

You are probably wondering, so which form of Pilates is better? Well, they are both Pilates, and both address “the whole” body, mind and spirit. Working with the best instructor for you is far more important than the kind of equipment, apparatus/props that are used. Each exercise has a very specific dynamic, which varies depending on the goal of the exercise, the level at which the exercise is taught and the level of the client. The instructor will determine the goal and teach accordingly. As the client becomes more advanced, the pace of exercise and the overall class may get faster (or much slower)! Importantly, the quality and precision of each exercise are more important than the pace of the class.

Creating and using modifications (changing the choreography) and assists (using an external apparatus to achieve a goal) makes an exercise easier or harder. These tools are used to get the best out of each client, their needs, allowing for progression as well as variation. The intrinsic patterning of human movement, strengths, weaknesses, tightness, etc always needs to be a focus. A good instructor gets their client’s mind, body and the Pilates environment to move in harmony.

Strictly speaking, and the simplest difference between mat Pilates and equipment Pilates is that mat Pilates is purely repertoire performed in its original way - purely on the mat. Mat work often uses apparatus/props such as a small/big ball, magic circle, thera-band, foam roller, stick etc. The inclusion of equipment from the fitness industry such as a swiss ball, light weights and the likes is not technically Pilates, yet a contemporary approach often considers non-Pilates small items of equipment into the classes, whilst still adhering to the Pilates principles. Mat Pilates can be done almost anywhere. It is often seen as being more convenient, accessible and cheaper to use, maintain and enjoy. The BASI Pilates mat work has a beautiful sense of flow and harmony giving it a meditative quality while still getting a good workout.

In the studio, the instructor will usually decide which equipment will be used. This includes equipment such as the Reformer, Cadillac, Wunder Chair, and the Avalon. This choice may be influenced by the number of clients in the studio at any given time, the sharing of clients among the equipment, a variation from the client’s last Pilates class, or a necessary consideration such as an older, injured or perhaps a pregnant client. This consideration involves the clients' needs, mobility and necessary comforts. The equipment can often be more supportive of a client’s body yet this is only true if it’s used correctly and safely. The equipment has flow within each BASI Block System, but time needs to be taken into consideration when moving around the straps, springs and making individual equipment adjustments to tailor the client’s needs.

Neither the mat nor equipment Pilates should be seen as more superior than the other. Although there are notable differences, the beauty of BASI Pilates, is that regardless of what is being used the BASI principles stay the same. This honours the integrity of each movement. Acknowledging and embracing different bodies and minds from session to session or moment to moment is what makes every class interesting, challenging and a forever evolving work in progress.

~Chi Ingledew

For more read "Mat verses Equipment Pilates 2.0":



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