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10 Things You Should Know About Pilates

Starting with, ‘you're never too old to start.'

Where do I find a teacher?

Instruction takes place in gyms, dedicated studios, senior centers and physical therapy offices everywhere. Be aware, however, that Pilates teacher certification programs vary widely — ask your instructor about his or her educational background and training (mat certification, for example, typically requires a minimum of 40 course hours). If you're considering a group class, ask to observe it first, to get an idea of the teacher's style and be sure he or she corrects students through cues and touch. You might consider a few private sessions before joining a group class, for personalized feedback on your postures. Fees will vary by region and type of session. A group mat class usually costs about $10; a class using equipment will be about $15 to $25; and the fee for private instruction is anywhere from $45 to $75 for an hour-long session.

Can I practice at home?

You can, but only after you've really mastered the exercises. Ask your teacher to recommend exercises and instructional DVDs that are most appropriate for you.

What's the difference between yoga and Pilates? Why do some classes combine them?

At the most basic level, yoga is primarily concerned with stretching, whereas Pilates is focused on strengthening. In many ways, however, they are similar: both emphasize the body/mind connection, use breathing to help you focus, and share certain postures (Pilates founder Joseph Pilates practiced yoga and relied on many of its core poses in creating his eponymous technique). In a class combining them, you might do a yoga sequence with Pilates exercises interspersed; regular attendance can lead to not only a stronger core, but also more flexible hips. As with any class, you should let the instructor know of specific issues beforehand, so he or she can cue you appropriately.

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