I bought this manual on the Pilates method and upon reading it, I was pretty surprised how wrong my form has been all along. This manual has enough detail for each exercise to effectively keep breathing, core, control, flow, etc all coordinated but not overwhelm the reader.

However, I'm kind of compulsive with doing it right, and the past seven sessions I would read the 1-3 pages for each exercise before actually doing the exercise. I feel this helps me enforce the proper form without an instructor, but it is taking a hit on the "flow" of each exercise.

So my question is how concerned should I be with reading the manual before executing each exercise? Should every other day I toss the manual aside and do the exercises (and the mental form checklists) from memory? My goal is to have the Pilates method completely memorized and to have form perfect.

  • 1
    I'm not experienced with Pilates, and I'm not sure of the loads on your body. I'd just comment that in general form matters a lot, and especially with repetitive motion (cycling, etc) or heavy loads (power lifting, etc) bad form can be downright dangerous. Yoga, as an example, will give much worse results if you use bad form. Boiled down, I'm guessing that if you're not doing the actual technique, you're not really doing Pilates.
    – Eric
    Dec 22 '14 at 2:50
  • 2
    I find that the research and muscle memory fades over time, no matter how much you focus on form. Consider making brief notes for yourself of the things that are really important, so you can check them again in the future without rereading the whole book.
    – Noumenon
    Dec 22 '14 at 11:06
  • That crossed my mind but now that you mentioned it, making quick notes does seem very sensible.
    – tmn
    Dec 22 '14 at 20:34

People all learn things differently. Some may be able to figure out a complex movement from just a diagram, whereas others might need a video, and then there are those that learn simply by doing.

Regardless of your particular brand of learning, however, there are two things that will remain constant:

  • Form / safety always comes first.
  • Practice makes perfect.

So do what you need to understand the correct form, and then practice it, and then keep practicing it until you can do it purely from muscle memory and it feels totally natural to you. This doesn't just apply to pilates, but exercise as a whole, whether it be mastering your form for shooting a basketball, doing heavy squats, or even running.


Rather than trying to learn the perfect form for all the exercises at the same time (probably exhausting yourself in the process), how about either

Learning the perfect form for a couple of exercises and repeating those until you can naturally perform them without overly thinking.


Learning the basic form for each exercise and repeating those. After you can naturally perform them, then you work on perfecting the moves.

This allows you to maintain the flow with little disruptions and more importantly, make it fun enough for you to continue.

After all, if you exhaust yourself trying to get the perfect form, you might end up quitting the program in frustration.

Don't let Perfect be the enemy of Good.

As long as you keep at it, you'll get better and your form will improve. Consistency is key!

Good luck.


"I bought this manual on the Pilates method ..." From your question, it sounds like you are doing mat Pilates. It doesn't sound like you are doing apparatus Pilates. The apparatus I'm referring to would be the Reformer, the Wunda Chair, the Cadillac, and the Wall Unit.

If you are doing mat Pilates only, I would encourage you to find a dedicated Pilates studio with all the apparatus, and learn Pilates on the apparatus. If you have the money, it is worthwhile.

Historically, the mat exercises were only created because Joseph Pilates was occasionally on the road without his equipment, and he came up with the mat exercises as a substitute. However, when Joseph was in his New York City studio, he worked entirely with apparatus.

Now, I'm going to say something that is controversial: Pilates on the apparatus is the real thing. The mat exercises are a poor substitute. Personally, I don't do the mat exercises. Other people will disagree in the strongest possible terms with that position, and everyone is entitled to their opinion.

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