Focus On: Pilates

Hi there!
This is Cassey over at Perhaps you’ve worked out with me on YouTube, had me kick your booty in the POP Pilates: Butt Blaster workout or banish your muffin tops in my Uh-Oh! Obliques routine. I am thrilled to be sharing my Pilates addiction with you guys today.


Like Gina, I am also a group fitness instructor, but I lurk over in the Mind Body studio πŸ˜‰ I’ve been practicing and teaching Pilates mat for quite a while now – think back to when Mari Winsor first started infiltrating our late weekday mornings with her Winsor Pilates infomercials. I found them to be very entertaining…entertaining enough for me to buy a DVD set and then end up being an instructor years later! I guess it did it’s job.

Naturally, over the years to keep things fresh and fun, I’ve created my own format called POP Pilates that’s been mentioned in magazines like COSMOPOLITAN.

It’s basically Pilates and Pilates-inspired moves set to contemporary Top 40 Hits. Today, I teach classical Pilates, POP Pilates, and Pilates Reformer. We will talk about all 3 today, but let’s start with the basics, shall we?
What is it?
Pilates is a mind body exercise that challenges your core while sculpting longer and leaner muscles, resulting in a toned dancer-like look. Joseph Pilates first developed the method back in the early to mid 1900s originally for rehabilitating POWs. He then later modified his program for injured dancers. The idea is that a stronger core or "powerhouse" enhances your posture and alignment, which ultimately results in optimal physical performance. The core muscles are defined as the deep, internal muscles of the abs and back that help to stabilize your torso.
Lucky for us exercise enthusiasts, the Pilates method was later brought to light, hitting the fitness industry by storm. That’s why in recent years, the practice has become very popular with the celebs. It looks good on camera! Famous Pilates starlets include Reese Witherspoon, Mandy Moore, and Megan Fox just to name a few.
Screen shot 2011-07-12 at 11.26.00 PM

What’s the difference between Pilates and Yoga?
I want to dispel the myth that Pilates and Yoga are "the same" or come from the same roots. Simply untrue! Although both stress the importance of breath, control, flexibility, and strength, the origins and ultimate practices are different. The beginnings of yoga are somewhat unclear, but there’s evidence that shows that it may have been practiced as early as 3000 B.C. in areas that are now India and Pakistan. Yoga was developed mainly through the religious practices of Hinduism and Buddhism. Pilates has a much shorter history, being developed by Joseph Pilates after he served as a nurse in World War I. Below is a great chart (Venn diagram style!) that breaks down the similarities and contrasts between the two. You can read more about the differences here in an older blog post I did if you’re curious.
Screen shot 2011-07-13 at 12.39.40 AM
What to expect?
Expect this: soreness in muscles you didn’t even know you had!
When most people refer to Pilates they are usually talking about mat Pilates. But, the practice can be performed on various apparatuses like the Reformer, Chair, Barrel, and Cadillac. The lessons on these machines can be quite costly but they provide a very exquisite experience to working out.

Mat Pilates is the most common and most accessible type of Pilates that can be found at pretty much every gym nowadays. All you need is you, a yoga mat, and some willpower to push through some of the best "burning" sensations you will ever experience. Mat work is usually performed with little to no equipment. For the most part this is a body weight exercise that will tone you up and slim you down. I recommend attending at least 2-3 one hour classes a week to see a difference in just two weeks. The first thing you’ll notice is your taller posture. My coworkers use to always point out my amazingly straight back as I worked in front of my computer. My chiropractor even asked me for the secret to keeping my spine so aligned. People even think I’m taller than I actually am. I owe it to Pilates! Seriously!
You will also notice a flatter belly. Yes. Well what did you expect out of a workout focused around your core?! If you get a chance to attend a Pilates class, I can guarantee that your instructor will say something along the lines of "suck you belly button into your spine." The reason why we stress this is because we want you to develop nice FLAT abs. Ever see those people that seem ripped but then they turn to the side and their abs are actually protruding? Well, by constantly "sucking in" we train our abs to tighten the way we want them to look. FLAT.

If you’re liking what you’re reading and are going nuts because you can’t get to a class right this instant, no worries! You can try it at home. Right now. Stop reading. Get down on the floor and follow along with me in this POP Pilates for Beginners video. It’s a full length total body Classical or Traditional mat workout. I explain a lot of key principles here so it’s perfect for those of you that are new to the practice:

Too easy? Fine. Then for you advanced Pilates enthusiasts, check out one of my FAVORITE videos, the POP Pilates: New Body Makeover for your legs, abs, and arms.

What to wear?
So happy I get to write on this πŸ™‚
Pilates people and Yogis sometimes are the luckiest when it comes to fitness fashion because we have uber stylish brands like Lululemon that cater especially to the mind body crowd. In general, you will want to wear anything stretchy, breathable, and form fitting. You’ll see most girls in yoga pants and a cami or tank top like this:

Make sure your clothing IS NOT SEE-THROUGH. Not that you would ever intentionally try to be that scandalous at the gym…or would you!?
Just kidding.
Anyway! Pilates involves a ton of stretching and posing in sometimes very awkward positions, so you need to be sure that the fabrication of your clothing is of good quality. Trust me, I’ve seen a lot of girls in cute capris that are very unaware that their pants don’t pass the "squat test". Please tell me you do the squat test before you buy any workout pants. If you don’t already, then do it now: put your pants on, face your booty to the mirror and squat low. Then look back. Does your underwear show? ‘Nough said.


Try to stay away from the plain cotton pants. They always fail. Lycra and supplex fabrics work wonders for me. You can find squat test worthy pants at Lululemon, Lucy, and online retailers like
The pros:

  • Noticeably taller posture
  • Stronger core a.k.a. amazing abs!
  • Long, lean muscles
  • Overall toned dancer-like look
  • You can do it at home with little to no equipment!
  • Cute fitness clothes πŸ˜‰

The cons:

  • Pilates can be very expensive if you go to Pilates-specific studios for training, especially if you begin practicing on the apparatus

That’s all I’ve got for you today. Thanks so much Gina for letting me share my love of Pilates with your fans. Hope you guys enjoyed reading the post!
<3 Cassey

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  1. Lisa @ Sunny Seed Stories on July 13, 2011 at 10:08 am

    For me, no pants manage to be high enough for Pilates. I will have to check into your clothing recommendations!

  2. Laura (On the Threshold of Greatness) on July 13, 2011 at 10:16 am

    Very informative! I love that you post entire workouts on YouTube. I’m definitely going to try the beginner one! I have no experience at all with pilates, but you’ve made it sound like so much fun. Plus, you can’t argue with the results! πŸ™‚ My computer posture sucks… gotta work on that!

  3. Kristi on July 13, 2011 at 10:18 am

    Thanks for sharing the videos, Cassey! Can’t wait to try them! πŸ™‚

  4. Amanda on July 13, 2011 at 10:22 am

    Great post! That is so funny you said that about the squat test. I was in a yoga class yesterday and it was packed. The girl in front of me did not pass the squat test and everyone was so close to each other that it was one of the only things I could see! Full upper butt tattoo and orange lace thong. Not exactly what I would like to look at in a relaxing yoga class! πŸ™‚

  5. Kimberly on July 13, 2011 at 10:27 am

    Thanks so much for the fantastic post! Enjoyed reading the comparison with yoga. I am trying to decide between buying a package for pilates or yoga. I just can’t afford both at this time.

  6. sarah on July 13, 2011 at 10:27 am

    Pilates apparatus classes FTW!

  7. Rachel on July 13, 2011 at 10:30 am

    Thanks for the information, Pilates is one thing I’ve yet to try and would like to. I would mention though that while you’l burn some calories during this exercise, it’s not going to flatten your stomach and increase your muscle (I never liked the word tone, you can only grow or decrease your muscle size, there is no tone) unless you’re eating heathy and within a calorie range for weight loss. Look forward to trying this!

  8. Laura (Cookies vs. Carrots) on July 13, 2011 at 10:33 am

    Great post! I can’t wait to start checking out some of your online classes!

  9. Leila on July 13, 2011 at 10:35 am

    This is by far my favorite Focus On post.. definitely going to try the videos she posted!

  10. Leanne (Bride to Mrs.) on July 13, 2011 at 10:39 am

    I can barely wait to try the 2nd workout that she mentioned. I will be doing so tonight πŸ˜€

  11. Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat on July 13, 2011 at 10:42 am

    Great post Cassey! I’m a group fitness instructor too but haven’t explored much in the way of Pilates yet. You’ve inspired me to check it out!

    • Cassey @ on July 13, 2011 at 5:06 pm

      Thanks Angela! Nice to meet you. Looks like I can learn a lot from your running. I am running my first 1/2 Marathon in September and will be looking to you for tips!

  12. Cait @ Cait hates Cake on July 13, 2011 at 10:55 am

    I can’t wait to try out those videos! I’ve only done Pilates a couple times, but really enjoyed it. Squat test? Hilarious.

  13. Joan on July 13, 2011 at 10:56 am

    As a yoga teacher I really see no connection between yoga and pilates. There are certain styles of yoga that have incorporated Pilates into yoga, but in the classic sense, there is no similarity at all. I love what Pilates can do but can always tell the torso type in class of people who practice a lot of Pilates as opposed to the type of yoga ‘Core’ work that I teach.

    • Cyclist Kate on July 13, 2011 at 11:19 am

      As a Pilates instructor and somebody who has practiced yoga for a decade, I for the most part agree with you–it is frustrating to me when people say, “that’s a lot like yoga, right?” when I tell them I teach Pilates. However, I have to disagree with you on the “no connection” part–although we don’t call it the same thing, we do a lot of bandha work in Pilates and many of the alignment principles are the same, such as shoulder girdle stabilization and pelvic bowl stability :).

  14. LisaG on July 13, 2011 at 11:00 am

    Does pilates give you a cardio workout as well? Or do you suggest combining cardio with it? Cassey you have a great figure.

    • Cassey @ on July 13, 2011 at 5:08 pm

      Thanks Lisa! Pilates is in general a strength training workout, not cardio although there are new and evolving types of Pilates called Cardiolates or Piladio that try to achieve this marriage.

  15. alicia on July 13, 2011 at 11:06 am

    Thank you! I got a groupon to a local Pilates studio that I need to use. Thanks for giving me some information on what I can expect!

  16. Mary (What's Cookin' with Mary) on July 13, 2011 at 11:06 am

    Really great post. I really feel like I know the differences now. Thanks !

  17. Zara on July 13, 2011 at 11:07 am

    πŸ™‚ I’m such a huge fan of Cassey! I love doing the POPPilates workouts! They have become such a huge part of my exercise program! πŸ™‚ and seriously it BURRRRNS! the first time I tried it was super hard…but the more u do it and the better u become…the achievement feels wonderful!

    • Cassey @ on July 13, 2011 at 3:11 pm

      Aww glad to see you follow both of us! Yay, I feel like the online fitness community is getting closer and closer.

  18. chelsea on July 13, 2011 at 11:16 am

    Ahh Casey! I’ve been following her for awhile now and LOOOVE her youtube videos =D! She’s amazing and so perky! Plus her pop pilates videos are pretty much the best hands down. If you haven’t given her a go yet you need to get up and get moving people lol!

    Next thing I know tone it up is going to be doing a post on here! Or maybe even Zuzana?!

  19. Holly @ The Runny Egg on July 13, 2011 at 11:17 am

    Thanks Cassey — I’ve tried Windsor pilates once (I found a disk at Goodwill for a buck!) it seems like a tough workout. I’d love to try the actual machines though — although the cost is what is keeping me away!

    What do you think of the Malibu Pilates Chair — I think Susan Lucci is in their commercials? I found a cheap one on Ebay and almost bought it but wasn’t sure if it was any good.

    • Cassey @ on July 13, 2011 at 3:10 pm

      I think it is probably unnecessary. It’s a way to make things more “interesting” but honestly I feel like there’s so much that can be done on the mat already with props.

      • Holly @ The Runny Egg on July 13, 2011 at 9:08 pm

        Thanks for the reply — for some reason when I saw the infomercial it looked like so much fun but one of those “too good to be true” items.

  20. Allison on July 13, 2011 at 11:24 am

    I think that Pilates is an AWESOME strength workout. Also I am a little disappointed to see a fitness professional jumping onto the “long, lean, dancer-like muscles” marketing bandwagon. There’s just no science behind this! That said, a really enjoyable post. Thank you!

  21. Erinn on July 13, 2011 at 11:32 am

    Thanks so much for the videos!! Getting my gear on right now and gettin’ down to business. Love these Focus On posts, Gina!!

  22. Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga on July 13, 2011 at 11:37 am

    Cassey I LOVE this post! And also this one liner “Does your underwear show? β€˜Nough said.”– haha, good one!

    I have been a certified yoga teacher for 10 years and in my own life, and in many of the classes I used to teach (not currently teaching) I always worked in some pilates-type moves and core work and various exercises. So there is overlap to the two and there can be great results when doing so.

    But I LOVE love that chart you used/showed that shows the differences and similarities between the two. Because yes, there ARE differences. Yoga IS my lifestyle, my life path. It far extends off the mat for me πŸ™‚

    • Cassey @ on July 13, 2011 at 3:08 pm

      Averie! Looked at your blog and I just got the same computer a few days ago (the one you don’t want the movers touching!) I love it so much!!! I am also looking for a good dslr that can do video too. Which is yours and what lens are you using?

  23. Chelsa on July 13, 2011 at 11:52 am

    Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for this post! I have been wanting to incorporate some sort of Yoga or Pilates into my training and this gave me the jump start I needed! I’m going for my easy 9 miles and coming back to get to work with the Pilates! Great day! Thanks again!

  24. Yolie @ Practising Wellness on July 13, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    This is such an awesome, fun, informational post – thank you so much! πŸ™‚ xyx

  25. Alejandra on July 13, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    First time comenting on this blog (I love it Gina!).
    Cassey, as soon as I read this blog post, I had to give the videos a try and let me tell you: my legs feel like wet noodles and I can already tell my abs will be insulting me big time tomorrow and the days after!
    I have been mostly doing Bikram yoga in the past year, about 5/6 times a week, but I had forgotten it was possible to work some of your muscles that deeply. I will definitely check out the rest of your videos and try to squeeze in a few of your workouts every week. Thanks for sharing πŸ™‚ xx

    • Cassey @ on July 13, 2011 at 5:10 pm

      Alejandra, you’re so funny. “Wet noodles”. That’s great, you will LOVE the soreness tomorrow. Keep me posted on your progress.

  26. Kristine @ Running On Hungry on July 13, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    My favorite Focus On to date! Thanks Gina! I’ve been doing mat pilates twice a week for about 3 weeks now and can definitely see a difference in my posture, my core strength and my ab muscles! (I didn’t even know those could be visible!) I definitely combine my pilates classes with a round (30 minutes) of cardio as well… but I’m also the type of person that needs to run or really sweat to feel like my workout is complete! πŸ™‚

  27. Kelly on July 13, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    I just finished the second workout video and it kicked my bootay! Loved it!!! Great post!

  28. Vanessa @ Swift as Shadows on July 13, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    Just did the beginner video — loved it! I definitely need to work on pressing my lower back into the ground though. I used to think the arch of my back was too curved to do this, but maybe I just lack the core strength?

    • Cassey on July 13, 2011 at 1:45 pm

      Sometimes people with gifted “assets” have a hard time pushing their low back into the mat because of that extra space. For now, just place your hands underneath your tailbone for extra support and soon enough you’ll have enough core strength to PUSH all the way down.

  29. Jessica on July 13, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    Whew! Great post, I just went ahead and tried the beginner’s video and even that was really tough! Thanks so much, will be doing this often!

  30. Julie (A Case of the Runs) on July 13, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    I’ll try that video next time I need to work out at home and don’t want to do my old videos!

    Good info about the “squat test,” too!

  31. Sonia (the Mexigarian) on July 13, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    LOL!! I never thought of the ‘squat test’ before. I guess I should test it out when I go shopping now. I look forward to trying the beginner video. I did Pilates a looooong time ago, and the only classes offered at the gym are like at 8pm :\ And yes, I did the Winsor workout as well. on VHS. lol. It was HARD!

    • Fitnessista on July 13, 2011 at 3:33 pm

      i still love my winsor dvds! they’re awesome πŸ™‚

  32. Pxoxo on July 13, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    omg i was so excited to see this because i ADORE the pop pilates workouts! i started doing them last january and i am soooo happy with the changes to my body, specfically my legs. Cassey’s workouts gave my fitness routine the extra edge to really keep my body tight and toned all over. love you cassey! πŸ™‚

  33. Amber L on July 13, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    Love pilates! Great post! Thanks Cassey and Gina!

  34. Cait's Plate on July 13, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    Loved this post! I’m a HUGE pilates fan and have been since way back in the day – it definitely helps immensely with toning!

  35. Paige @ Running Around Normal on July 13, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    POP Pilates sounds like SO much fun. Never heard of it before now! πŸ™‚

  36. mary on July 13, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    I’m glad you explained the ‘look taller’ effect. It’s always bugged me how Pilates people claim it makes you ‘long and lean’. I think lean is a function of body fat (more diet than exercise) and long is tallness! I could use some ‘look taller effect’.

  37. Christina on July 13, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    Ahhh can hardly wait to do that second video! This is my fave focus on post so far!

    • Christina on July 13, 2011 at 7:19 pm

      just did the 2nd video….burns SO good! i’m definitely doing this more often! πŸ™‚

  38. Lily on July 13, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    I just love Cassie I been doing her workout for a couple of months and I do see the difference in my body. Love you Cassie…you rule…!!!

    • Cassey @ on July 13, 2011 at 5:12 pm

      Thanks Lily! Share your transformation story on facebook…I think the gals there would love to see/be inspired by your hard work!

  39. K-train on July 13, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    Loved loved LOVED this post!! This makes me want to ditch work at a sprint and get my booty to Pilates STAT! The stretching/alignment part alone to me is worth it. This was fantastic, full of information; I can’t wait to try these at home!!

  40. Brittany @ Itty Bits of Balance on July 13, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    I LOVE pilates, but never knew how it compared to yoga! Thanks for the informative post πŸ˜€

  41. Jessica @ Sushi and Sit-Ups on July 13, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    Perfect timing for this Focus On! I have my first non-mat pilates session tomorrow morning. It is with a pilates tower, and I’m a little nervous!

  42. Vanessa @ Sweaty in Pink on July 13, 2011 at 6:01 pm

    WOW I am seriously pumped to try your POP Pilates videos! They look awesome… thanks for sharing!!

  43. caronae on July 13, 2011 at 6:59 pm

    Super informative post Cassey! Thanks for sharing. I just did the second video (New Body Makeover) and it was seriously one of the best online workout videos I have EVER done. It was challenging, but not too long, and Cassey was so encouraging. Me likes. I’ll be back for more. πŸ™‚

  44. Tracy @ Commit to Fit on July 13, 2011 at 7:11 pm

    Great post! I have been teaching pilates for about 7 years and it is nice to here that there are other people out there who love it as much as I do! Cassey, I am going to check out you blog and see what else I can learn πŸ™‚

  45. kaila @ healthy helper! on July 13, 2011 at 7:51 pm

    I love pilates! I am doing that second video tonight!!!!

  46. Kate @ Spoonful of Vigor on July 13, 2011 at 8:07 pm

    How would you recommend combining strength training + pilates? Do they complement one another or is it recommended to stick to one or the other?

  47. Jessica on July 13, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    Can you explain the difference between Pilates and bar method classes (Pure Barre, Physique 57, etc.)? They seem to have a lot of similarities.

    • Fitnessista on July 13, 2011 at 8:39 pm

      from my experience, bar method classes focus on tiny isometric movements to burn your muscles out quickly. it’s mainly bar work with some floor work and abs -the ab movements are very pilates-esque- but all of the pilates classes i’ve taken have been mat-based instead of standing, and use more flowing movements instead of the tiny, isometric ones

  48. Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin on July 13, 2011 at 9:00 pm

    I’ve never done Pilates, but reading this has really made me want to give it a try! Especially since it’ll make me look taller… at only 5 feet tall, I could use it! πŸ˜› I think I’m going to give those videos a try tomorrow!

  49. Maria on July 13, 2011 at 9:58 pm

    I love this post! My office is conveniently located over a yoga and pilates studio. I’ve taken the yoga classes, but haven’t tried the pilates yet…guess who is now? πŸ™‚

  50. meghan@ struggle muffins on July 13, 2011 at 10:02 pm

    Love this, thank you! I’ve stayed away from Pilates because I’ve identified myself with the yoga side of the mind body venn diagram (hehe) but have been more and more intrigued by it in recent months. Aaand because as much as I love yoga and what it does for my body and mind, I never get the flat abs I covet (my abs – or ‘flabs’ as I call them – are my pesky trouble spot, for sure). This definitely makes me want to give Pilates a go.

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