What Is the Most Essential Pilates Apparatus?

Lately we’ve been talking a lot about apparatus in the Dynamic Fitness blog — the cornerstones of the classical Pilates studio, accessories to amplify your practice, and even some crazy gadgets that never made it off the drawing board — but it’s time that we acknowledge the single most important apparatus in the whole Pilates method.

It doesn’t demand an expensive purchase or a lot of extra workout space. It’s completely portable and even washable (although we don’t recommend dry cleaning). It’s used in every single Pilates exercise, from footwork to breathwork and everything in between. Figured it out yet? … It’s your body.

Perhaps this is best exemplified in the famous Pilates “mat class,” which in some studios takes the spotlight over the apparatus themselves. Pilatesology (https://pilatesology.com), one of our favorite wellsprings of Pilates knowledge, describes mat-work as “the purest form of Pilates,” since it was developed by founder Joseph Pilates long before the Cadillac and Reformer emerged from his imagination.

Stretched out on the mat, you feel gravity’s full effects on every muscle in your body. Using the weight of your own limbs to work against a literal force of nature helps your muscles develop strength holistically. That is, you’re not focused on “shredding” vanity muscles; instead, your muscle groups work together in an integrated way. When you raise your arms or extend the legs, you’re training the deep muscles that align the spine. And of course, every exercise goes back to the core, with an intent focus on quality of movement over quantity of motions.

Yes, the mechanical apparatus get a lot of attention, and that’s because they are pretty amazing examples of fitness design. Joseph Pilates developed most of them specifically for his method, and they’ve remained virtually unchanged for 80 years or so. At Dynamic Fitness, our goal is to offer the Sarasota community an unparalleled resource for classical Pilates. To that end, we have developed a studio space that showcases the apparatus, and our instructors are certified with hundreds of hours of training in how to use these machines at every experience level and for each unique body. But the Pilates method is not all about machines. Let’s not forget that they have no motors or electrical parts; the energy to put them in motion comes from you!

Maybe you’re curious about Pilates, but aren’t sure about how a Reformer would ever fit in your living room. Maybe you already train regularly in a Pilates studio, but you’re starting to feel like once a week just isn’t enough. Rest assured that wherever you go, Pilates will go with you. Our instructors can work with you one-on-one to develop an exercise routine tailored to your needs that you can practice at home, in your favorite gym, or on the beach. Contact us to schedule a private session and discover that the Pilates environment is all around you.

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Pilates Plus: Accessories to Help You Go the Distance Most people with even just a passing acquaintance with Pilates are familiar with the popular Ab Series from mat classes, and the Reformer is easily recognizable after a few sessions at a classical Pilates studio. But there's a whole other closet that's waiting to be opened. It's full of toys, gadgets, and other accessories that are designed to give you that deeper stretch or extra push. Let's take a peek inside!Magic Circle - The late Pilates elder  Romana Kryzanowska suggested that Joseph Pilates' fondness for beer led to the development of the Magic Circle. The springy hoop that we use to enhance leg and arm exercises may have been inspired from the metal hoops encircling the kegs of Joe's favorite brew. Fitness fact, or Pilates legend? Ponder on that while the Magic Circle goes to work on your hip adductors! Sandbag - Attached to a short bar or held directly in the hands, the sandbag adds a little extra heft to Pilates exercise. Working with a sandbag can strengthen the wrists, helping to relieve symptoms of carpal tunnel. They can also deepen stretches and make gravity work in your favor to get even more out of reps (which, in comparison to other forms of exercise, the Pilates method keeps low). Most sandbags come with adjustable weight, so you can tailor them to fit to your comfort level with different exercises.Jump Board - In its inception, this extension of the Reformer had nothing to do with exercise; it was actually prototyped in the late '80s by NASA scientists to simulate the effects of weightlessness on astronauts-in-training. However, the Pilates method has a history of being popular among professional dancers and gymnasts. For these athletes, practicing and strengthening their jump is a critical exercise. The original manufacturer of Pilates equipment, Gratz Design, modified NASA's prototype to fit the Reformer, and the Jump Board was born.Pinwheel - Now for something completely different. In the Pilates method, everything originates from the core, and that's not just the abdominal muscles. The core also includes the diaphragm, which controls the breath -- and the breath is an essential part of Pilates practice. Yes, it's all too easy to forget about the breath as you're fighting to support the perfect Teaser, and that's why the Pinwheel (also called the "Breath-a-cizer") has been part of the method from the beginning. Making it spin with your exhale provides valuable visual feedback that brings focus back to the breath and trains you to empty the lungs completely. Joseph Pilates invented this handheld device to increase his students' lung capacity, flush all stale air from the respiratory system, and help the body eliminate atmospheric pollutants.That's not all you'll find in the Pilates toy chest! Whether you need a little assistance in accessing a certain exercise, you want to improve your form, or you're eager to challenge your body to reach the next level, just ask your Pilates instructor about incorporating Pilates accessories into your regular method.Photos of Pilates accessories courtesy of Peak Pilates® (http://www.peakpilates.com/)  and Pilatesology (https://pilatesology.com/).A Rising Young Star: Sarah Shaw's Dynamic Fitness Story Sarah Shaw has been training at Dynamic Fitness over the past year and a half to build more core strength on her path to becoming a professional ballerina. With her own background as a ballerina, Dynamic Fitness' owner Kathy Boivin has been working the method with Sarah to enhance the strengths that Kathy knows, as a former dancer, Sarah particularly needs.We're so proud that Sarah has been selected for the summer training program at the oldest ballet school in America, the San Francisco Ballet, which is affiliated with one of America's top companies. We invited Sarah to share her Pilates story and the exciting future she has ahead:Hi, my name is Sarah Shaw and I'm 14 years old. My dream is to become a professional ballerina.I started dancing when I was fours year old at Attitudes in Dance, a local studio in Venice, Florida. I took ballet with Conneé Winslow and tap with Fran Fredricks. When I was 10 years old, my dance teacher told my mother that I had enough talent to achieve my dream, but to do that I would have to move to a school with serious training. Encouraged by Wendy Johnson, a teacher at the Sarasota Ballet School, the next school year I began my training with the Sarasota Ballet. I worked really hard, and as a result I was promoted a level at the half-year mark. The following year, I was accepted into the school's pre-professional division, the Margaret Barbieri Conservatory of Dance. In addition to my regular classes at the Sarasota Ballet School, I worked privately with Wendy Johnson and Javier and Isabel Dubrocq.I remained in the conservatory for three and a half years. It was during this time that I began to work with Kathryn Dandois-Boivin at her Pilates studio, Dynamic Fitness. Through Pilates, Kathy has helped me to dramatically strengthen my core and the other muscles that support my flexible joints. This newfound strength allows me to perform more difficult steps and to stay strong and balanced in my center. I plan to include Pilates as part of my training throughout my career in order to maintain my strength and to prevent injuries. Pilates training is a great strength-builder, and I recommend it for everyone, especially dancers and other athletes.In January 2016, I auditioned for several summer intensive programs and was pleased to find that I was accepted into the Saratoga Summer Dance Intensive, the Vail Summer Dance Intensive, the American Ballet Theater in New York, and the San Francisco Ballet School. This summer I will attend the San Francisco Ballet School summer session.