Practice Pilates Without the Price

Certified Pilates instructor Saralyn Ward shows you how to save money while you sweat

As good as your tight abs, toned arms and firm tushy may feel after a Pilates class, it doesn’t always feel so good if your wallet loses weight. Achieving a lean Pilates body can be expensive, but it is possible to find the balance between a tight budget and total-body Pilates workout. But you may have to step outside the studio to start saving money.

Saralyn Ward is a certified Pilates instructor trainer and the founder and director of Core Concepts of Colorado. Saralyn admits that some of the foundations of Pilates can be foreign to beginners, but she says that a regular practice can be accessible to anyone who is willing to learn the basics.

Get moving on the mat

Saralyn recommends starting with low-cost mat classes, which can often be found at local recreation and community centers, as well as a part of gym memberships.

“Mat classes are really the best way to get started with Pilates for someone who’s looking for low-cost and easy-access instruction,” she says. “You should begin by trying to understand what the concepts of Pilates are all about.”

Unlike more intuitive fitness routines, Pilates requires instruction for a reason — it’s more complicated than just stretching and toning. Saralyn says Pilates works to access muscles that are often underused or ignored, and it takes a little practice to get them moving again.

“For people who are just starting Pilates, it can often be frustrating or discouraging for them because they’re not yet able to find certain muscles and use them,” she says. “The idea of Pilates is to take the time to get to the smaller muscles that haven’t been being used, as well as break patterns of muscle misuse, strain and inefficiency.”

Use your muscles, not your money

Some of the main benefits of Pilates include aesthetic advantages such as better posture, waistline and core definition, standing taller and looking thinner — often recognized as the “Pilates body,” Saralyn says. But finding the intrinsic benefits of proper muscle use requires attention to proper alignment, which often starts by working with a trained professional.

Although the benefits of private instruction are obvious, it doesn’t mean you have to put a whole paycheck into your practice. Pilates videos provide great instruction and are a convenient and affordable approach to Pilates and fitness practices. You’ll save money while gaining valuable instruction.

Saralyn’s most recent video, Reebok’s Total Body Toning Kit, is a great way to get started with an at-home Pilates practice and fitness routine. Saralyn recommends building your foundation with mat classes or with a private instructor for just a few classes before starting an at-home practice.

“I would suggest doing one to three sessions with a private instructor,” she says. “Pick out an instructional video you want to try and have an instructor give you feedback on the exercises you’re doing from the video.”

She says to always set your goal from the beginning. Tell your instructor that you want to start a Pilates practice that you can do on your own.

Get to know the core concepts

Pilates can benefit you in many ways, even if you just want to incorporate a few exercises into your regular workout routine.

“If you’re only going to do four or five exercises, you want to try and balance the movement of the spine,” Saralyn says. “Pilates is all about integrating the whole body and bringing balance to the joints and the muscles around the joints.”

Top 6 Pilates exercises

If you’re going to incorporate only a few Pilates concepts into your fitness routine, Saralyn recommends starting with these basic moves:

Roll up:

Roll up 1   Roll up 2   Roll up 3

This exercise teaches spinal articulation and also focuses on strengthening every abdominal layer. Lie on your back and with your legs straight and lift your arms straight up in the air. Engage your abdominals and begin to curl yourself up from the floor in a smooth motion as you roll up toward your toes along the length of your spine. Reverse this roll motion as you work your way back down.

Toe taps:

Toe Taps 1   Toe Taps 2

These focus on moving the legs without moving the pelvis and spine. Lie on your back while tapping each toe to the ground one at a time while supporting your abdominals with a slight tilt to the pelvis.

Pilates 100’s:

100s   modified 100s

This classic Pilates exercise is great for strengthening the abdominals as well as focusing on breath control. Lie on your back and lift your legs straight up in the air or modify with legs at a 45-degree angle from the floor. Keep your abdominals engaged and your lower back pressed firmly against the floor. Lift your neck and upper back off the floor and lift your arms slightly. Pump your arms up and down while breathing in for five counts and then out for five counts until you reach a count of 100.

Half swan:

Half swam hands at forehead   Half swan superman

This movement helps to strengthen and stabilize the spine. Lie on your stomach and lift your upper spine off the ground using your upper back between your shoulders and without using your arms.

Side plank:

Side plank

This helps to move the body in the frontal plane and helps strengthen the abdominals, back and shoulders. Lie on one side and lift your body off of the ground and balance on the side of your foot and your forearm. Engage your abdominals and breath. Repeat on the other side.

Spine twist:

spine twist 1   spine twist 2

This movement teaches you how to stabilize the pelvis while you move the spine and the ribcage. Sit up tall and engage your abdominals. Extend your arms out to the sides in line with your shoulders. Twist to one side from your waist, not your shoulders. Repeat on the other side.

A little goes a long way

Saralyn says that even if you practice Pilates just one or two times a week, it becomes a way for you to find balance, strength and awareness in your mind and body every day.

“A lot of what Pilates is about is learning to stabilize one part of the body while mobilizing the other, and learning to balance those two things,” Saralyn says. “This can be applicable to everything you do in life.”

She says when you learn how much potential your body has and you learn how to access this potential in an efficient way it becomes empowering.

“Once you understand the concepts, you can apply them to everything you do,” she adds. “You can take them outside the Pilates studio, or off the mat, and it just makes everything in your life that much better.”

Get toned with Pilates videos on GaiamTV.com!


Head shot of Sarayn Ward

Saralyn Ward grew up dancing and discovered Pilates through physical therapy and rehabilitation after a serious knee injury. After graduating from Penn State with degrees in Dance and Kinesiology, she began her Pilates training in New York City and became certified by Stott Pilates and then by Pilates Academy International. She currently teaches Pilates classes in Boulder Colo., as well certification programs through her company, Core Concepts of Colorado, LLC. She also has worked on fitness and Pilates videos for Self Magazine and with Gaiam. You can work with Saralyn in her new video, Reebok’s Total Body Toning Kit.

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