A Pilates mat is absolutely not the same as a yoga mat or indeed any other kind of gym mat. It is an essential piece of kit if you want to perform mat Pilates. So what do you need to know before buying a Pilates mat?
Many recognise the equipment used in Pilates, the reformer, the Cadillac, the chair and barrel but a Pilates mat can also be incredibly useful. The big benefit of the mat is that you can take your mat with you and perform your Pilates if you are on the move. In fact some people find the mat work they do harder than exercises they perform on the equipment, particularly the core workouts.
Many Pilates exercises can be performed on a Pilates mat and some can be done in conjunction with a Pilates ring, resistance band or weighted balls. Exercises on the mat need to be performed in a slow, controlled manner. They should improve flexibility, muscle tone, body balance, spinal support, low back health and sporting performance. Overall mat Pilates works primarily on the muscles of the core.
The most commonly known mat exercises include the Hundred and the series of Five. The list of exercises performed in a classical Pilates mat workout includes the hundred, the roll up, the roll over, one leg circle, rolling like a ball, single leg stretch, double leg stretch, spine stretch, open leg rocker,
Mat Pilates essentially works on the core or as Joseph Pilates called it the ‘powerhouse’. His view was that if the core is strong then it becomes the centre of all the power you require to move effectively. Your limbs shouldn’t need to bear so much of the brunt.
You can perform mat Pilates in a Pilates studio. Owning a Pilates mat will however enable you to practise at home.
Before buying a Pilates mat there are a number of things to think about.
Pilates mats aren’t the most expensive piece of Pilates kit you can buy but do look beyond the price. A good Pilates mat will keep you safe and comfortable and hopefully last you for years. So budget is important but so is functionality.
The primary difference between a yoga and a Pilates mat is the thickness. Because many Pilates exercises are on your back and stomach it is imperative that the mat is thicker than a yoga mat. So with this in mind the mat should be at least one half inch thick. If you start to get any thinner you will experience a sore spine if you’re not careful.
For a home Pilates mat there is the standard size which tends to be 71 by 26 inches but there are usually longer options which are 85 by 26 inches. It may seem obvious but do make sure that the mat is long and wide enough for your body size. You need to be able to really stretch out on it.
Some Pilates mats will have a grippy surface on the bottom which stops them moving about, this can make it safer when you are switching between moves.
A Pilates mat that has a sliding top can also allow for smooth transitions between Pilates moves. There are others however that have slightly textured tops which can help you hold stationery poses. It will depend on personal preference and usage here.
Pilates mats tend to be made from a closed cell foam structure as these are easier to clean. In addition it is essential that your mat can cope with moisture and not take on too much dirt. A closed cell surface will also prevent sweat and dirt from getting absorbed into the mat.
Some Pilates mats are potable in that you can roll them up or they come with straps. If you are storing them in the home or taking them to and from classes buying a portable one could be really useful.
Eyelet mats have holes at the top to enable you to hang them. This can stop them getting damaged and save on storage space in the home.
The pattern on the top surface of a mat may just look nice but in fact the illustration can help you keep a good alignment during exercises.
You may have allergies to some substances including latex. If this is the case look for an eco-friendly mat that can work for people more sensitive to some materials.