Pilates for Beginners: Essential Do’s and Don’ts

Discover the key Pilates do’s and don’ts for beginners to ensure a safe and effective workout routine. Get expert advice on getting started with Pilates today!

  • Author: Lesley Logan
  • October 3, 2023
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pilates dos and don'ts for beginners online pilates classes
pilates dos and don'ts for beginners online pilates classes

Do’s and don’ts when you’re doing Pilates

If you’re new to Pilates or you want a refresher on the do’s and don’ts when you’re doing Pilates, you’ve come to the right place. That’s what this video is all about. Hello, I’m Lesley Logan, I’ve been teaching for over 15 years. I have taught hundreds of Pilates instructors around the world and 1000s of students. And I’m here to share with you the do’s and don’ts about how to have proper form and great transitions while you’re doing Pilates. As a second-generation Pilates instructor, which just means my teacher was taught by Joseph Pilates, I have witnessed tons of people being able to learn this method as a way of their own practice. And that’s a goal I have for everybody who watches our videos here or takes from OPC. It’s important that this practice becomes your own. And when you know the do’s and don’ts, you’re going to be able to take a class and have the independence and autonomy to make sure that you’re doing the right exercises for your body.

Welcome to OnlinePilatesClasses.com™, the most supportive Pilates-loving community across the globe. Enjoy new weekly classes from our amazing teachers. Download the OnlinePilatesClasses.com™ app today.

Do focus on your form and your posture

All right, do focus on your form and your posture. Don’t just focus on the choreography. Let me explain what that means. So when you are doing Pilates, it’s very easy and tempting to just focus on the choreography, what’s going where. And when you’re new, you actually do have to learn the exercise. So that’s fine. However, if you’re just going through the motions, it’s going to feel really easy. And the big joke about Pilates, is if it feels easy, you’re probably doing it wrong, even if you are doing the choreography correctly. So you want to be focusing on the connections you’re making, where you’re putting the bones in place and working from that proper posture and form. And if you’re not sure, you want to ask the teacher you’re working with, if you’re an OPC member, you can actually show us your form. And we’ll give you some feedback on it. But you want to focus on that posture in that form. Because that’s when you’re working from the correct places, which is your center and not the fingers and the toes and the lock knees and the lower back.

Some things that go wrong in your posture and your form

So let’s actually talk about what are some things that go wrong in your posture and your form when you’re doing Pilates. I see a lot of times is kind of throwing ourselves into a movement or hanging out in our lower back, I’ll show what those are as an example. And also kind of moving through the movements too quickly from your locked, elbows or locked joints. So let’s talk about that. Throwing yourself in and out of it exercise can look a lot like … and like down. And I know this sounds really dramatic. But I see this in classes all the time. And yes, that is sort of the crisscross. I asked you to bring your elbow opposite elbow to your knee, but you want to be doing it from the center. So we’re not dropping out and coming up and throwing ourselves into it. We’re just staying in the movement. And if you need a break, you can take the break by lowering yourself down with control as opposed to falling down, the arch of the lower back. Here’s the deal, you do have a natural curve. I do want you to keep that in your life. But if when you’re doing your exercises, you lower the legs, the back arches, you lift the legs when it comes up, you’re actually moving your legs from your back not from your center. So you want to feel like you’ve the longest spine and every exercise. And that was ever happening in your legs or in your arms isn’t disrupting your center. Because if it is, that’s a sign that we’re going for the choreography like what’s moving where versus moving from correct posture and form. Your arms and your legs should move from your center first. And so one of the telltale signs you’re not focusing on posture and form is if your pelvis is tipping forward and back in the exercises, where your shoulders are coming up and down in your ears, or you drop down and you hurl yourself back up. Yes, it’s challenging. But if you need a break, take the break. Another way to focus on your posture and your form is actually in the transition of an exercise. And that is where we can actually get even more out of the exercise we’re doing or we can get a lot less.

Some amazing transitions to do between exercise

So let’s talk about some of those transitions. In the mat, for example, there are some amazing transitions to do between exercise what actually makes the mat more possible. One of those is between rolling like a ball and your abdominals series, single leg pull, single leg stretch, you can actually transition from the rolling like a ball shape. And you can come into the exercise. And I actually pulled myself into the shape. So I can do the exercise. I can actually transition to the next exercise, one into the next without stopping that would be more advanced but also by bringing the connections that I just made into an exercise and that I can come all the way up and round forward into my spine switch forward. So knowing that transitions really will help take your practice to the next level. It also is going to keep you connected to your muscles so you’re less likely to get into that choreography piece or into a place where you could actually injure yourself.

Leave your comments below

If you’re wanting a whole video on transitions. Let me know in the comments below because I’ll make one for you. If you’re still unsure if you’ve got your form down correctly, you can actually ask for my help. In fact, at OPC, all of our members get access to feedback on their form, either by submitting a video of them doing an exercise or coming to the live class we host every single month, we work out together, and we hang out for a q&a where I can actually see them move, provide feedback and help them connect to their next level.

Don’t forget to breathe

Don’t forget to breathe. Oh my goodness. This is something I see people do in Pilates often, even people who consider themselves advanced practitioners, they hold their breath. While there are some exercises where there is some directions around when to breathe and when to hold the breath. Most Pilates exercises you’re supposed to breathe the whole time and, and out through your nose. In fact, if you’re wondering the best way to breathe and still keep connections to your abdominals, you’ll want to check out my video on how to breathe in when you’re doing Pilates. It’s actually really informative, super helpful, because how we breathe in Pilates is very different than how we breathe in life. And can keep you if you’re breathing the same way you do in life can keep you from the connections and really be able to take one exercise into the next one without kind of holding your breath or feeling like you need to hold your breath because you’re losing access to your abdominals. So check that video out. And then make sure you’re breathing when you’re doing Pilates.

Do challenge yourself

Do challenge yourself. Alright? This is really important. I know sometimes we get a little nervous, like maybe I’m not doing it right. Maybe I get to perfect it better before I go to the next level. But the truth is, is that gate taking yourself outside of your comfort zone to challenge yourself with an exercise can really reveal where you’re really rockin’ in your practice. So you can challenge yourself by transitioning from one exercise into the next without stopping. You can also challenge yourself by asking your teacher. Like what are some ways I can scale this exercise up. You can also use some prompts to find deeper connections like a magic circle or a thera-band or some lightweights. So it’s really, really fun to take some time on those days, you’re feeling up for it to challenge yourself.

Don’t forget to listen to your body

Don’t forget to listen to your body, though. So here’s the deal, I hear too often that I gotta find a burn, I gotta get the sweat on. Here is the deal. Some days, you’re gonna be up for that challenge. On some days, you’re gonna be like, Ooh, I feel a little tight here, I feel a little loose here. What I love about people who are actually using Pilates as a practice as they listen to their body. And at OPC we actually believe it’s brave and courageous to replace exercises you can’t do yet, with ones you can do. And sometimes there are days when you know you could do that exercise. But today isn’t the day. When you listen to your body, you’re able to actually challenge yourself on the days that are great for that and take yourself down to another level on the days you need that. So that might be asking for some modifications, or using props to support your practice, or maybe taking things a little bit slower, or only doing a few minutes of the practice. All of that is a okay, because you’re listening to your body. While listening to your body, it’s important to notice a difference between something that is difficult, or painful. And this is something I’m going to share our own personal story for. I had broken my tibial plateau back in 2013. And when I was re-engaging with movement, My trainer was giving me things and I go, Oh, I can’t do that it hurts. I can’t do that it hurts. And he finally asked me, Is it hard? Or does it actually hurt like pain. And that was very interesting for me because I was attributing heart and pain as the same thing. So please know when you’re working out. The goal is to actually challenge yourself to create more strength in your body and take your body to another level so you can do your life better. However, please pay attention to when it’s an actual pain, like, oh, I shouldn’t be doing this. Or it’s just really hard. If it’s just really hard. Keep going. If there’s a pain, let your teacher know, if you’re an OPC member, let us know. So we can give you the proper modifications. So we can strengthen your bodies, we can either add that exercise back in down the road or keep it out forever.

There’s no shame in being in practice

And finally, there’s no shame in being in practice, being in the process, listening to your body and taking it slow on the days you need to. Remember, we believe it’s brave and courageous to replace an exercise you can’t do with one you can do yet. And so if you don’t have a replacement exercise, let us know so we can give that to you. At OPC, all of our classes are designed to be at all levels. Here on this channel, I’ve linked for you a beginner mat and a beginner reformer class that you can take right now. And over on the OnlinePilatesClasses.com™ app, we actually have a whole pilates beginner exercises – mat series that’s free for you to take.

Don’t rush

Don’t rush. I feel like saying, don’t run in the house. But the reality is, I want you to find a flow in your practice and when you’re new where it’s gonna feel like you’re gonna be slower at things and when you’re more advanced, you will bring some zest to those exercises. But there is a difference going too slow. That’s actually going to challenge you in a way that’s not ideal or rushing the exercise. I see this in classes a lot. I’ll say okay, do five of these and people just zipping through that actually leads you to the choreography versus the quality of the movement. So focus on the quality of the exercise you’re doing. Keep a pace that allows you to work your whole body and every exercise, and have fun with it.

Do show up and enjoy the process

Do show up and enjoy the process. Here’s the thing, it’s important that you celebrate that you got there, that you did any amount of minutes Pilates that you did. Notice the aha moments you’re having and celebrate those find ways to go, oh my God, I had a strength or connection that I didn’t have before and really like truly high five yourself and be curious around the exercise you’re struggling with rather than shame or judge yourself.

Don’t forget, you’re a badass

Don’t forget, you’re a badass. Here is the deal. This is going to be a practice for your life, which is really important. Sometimes we think, okay, I’ve been doing it for 10 sessions, Lesley, I’m not getting it. You’ve been doing it for 10 sessions. And that’s really awesome. Every time you show up for your Pilates, practice is like a set at the gym. Okay. It’s compounding. And every time you come and do it, you’re giving yourself another set, another rep in those exercises, and over time, you’re gonna see amazing results. Alright, so you want to give yourself time to get those results. And part of that is going to be showing up consistently. And I know some of you are all or nothing kind of people, but that actually doesn’t work. It’s really, really important to me that you show up and do what you can, when you can and celebrate that you did it. And that’s where we at OPC come into play. We help hold you accountable and we cheer you on. Because even if you can only do five minutes a day, I’d rather do that than one day where you do 15 or 20. Or forget because you got really busy and you missed a whole week. Give yourself time to be in the practice, be in the process and celebrate that you showed up and did it.

Do practice Pilates with OPC

And lastly, do practice Pilates with OPC over at OnlinePilatesClasses.com™. We truly value, you coming as you are. We’ve got a great community to help support you and help you show up for yourself. And when you’re feeling like you don’t want to or you can’t make the time, we have a way to help you connect to yourself first, you can connect more to others. And we help you be consistent which is the most important thing to you the results you want to get. Over at OPC, we also have amazing instructors from all different backgrounds, different ages, different body types, and we love to cheer you on. All of our teachers are fully certified. That means they’ve done a comprehensive training. They know how to make modifications for where you are in your practice and also how to take you to the next level. So if you want to try that out, check us out here. Check us out and see if OPC is exactly where you should be playing with your Pilates practice. Thank you so much for letting me share these do’s and don’ts with you if you have any questions about anything about Pilates, put it in the comments below. I answer your questions Sundays at 9am Pacific time. I hope you show up for that live and make sure you subscribe to this channel and have an amazing day!

By Lesley Logan

Lesley Logan, NCPT, is the founder of OnlinePilatesClasses.com, the first free online catalogue of Pilates exercise tutorial videos, where you can also find weekly online mat classes and workshops. When not teaching from her studio in Los Angeles, Lesley can be found traveling the world leading Pilates retreats, or offering Pilates business coaching to studio owners and other instructors through her private mastermind group. Connect with Lesley on instagram @lesley.logan or through the contact page on this site.

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Teaser is probably one of the most photographed exercises in Pilates. Which makes people think it's a "peak pose." But, it's anything but! It's simply another layer to your Pilates practice. This week we will acknowledge how each exercise contributes to your ability to do Teaser (someday) and then how Teaser teaches you where to get curious in your practice.

On the Mat we will use light weights for one round of Teaser as they can be helpful for those still adding into their practice.
No props on the Reformer.

See you in class,


MAT EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Your awesome self, light weights and a Mat!

>> Wondering what mat I’m using? You can find out more here.

REFORMER EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Your awesome self and a Reformer!

>> Wondering what reformer I’m using? You can find out more here.



We are all going to feel like Super Humans after this month!!

Whenever I’m in a hard exercise (for me) where I’m holding myself up with my arms and reaching my legs away I picture myself with super human strength!!! I can do ANYTHING! It makes me smile and helps me stay STRONG.

This month our exercise is Up Stretch and when you think about it - reaching your legs away and staying strong over the carriage may feel a lot like flying!

We’ll be focusing on stabilizing our strong cores while staying equally balanced in our arms and legs. We are giving you some amazing building blocks by merging strength and stretch in all directions. You are going to get a little bit of everything that you can use to connect to your Up Stretch (and even your Roll Up and Knee Stretches Off).

Chair: Please have a foam roller and a balance pad available. We are going to challenge your balance safely.



Online Mat & Reformer Pilates Class Descriptions:

The annual 12 days of Pilates is here! Grab your kiddos, partners and pups! We’ve got a new series of 12 exercises done to the holiday cheery song that you can’t get out of your head!

As always replace an exercise you can’t do yet with one you can. And, have fun! This week is supposed to be fun!

12 days of Christmas

1 100
2 single leg circles
3 double leg stretches
4 criss crosses
5 thigh stretches!!!
6 swans or swimming
7 side leg kicks
8 corkscrew
9 shoulder bridges
10 leg pulls
11 side bends or mermaids
12 push ups!

See ya in class,

xx~LL 💋

MAT EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Your awesome self, and a mat!

>> Wondering what mat I’m using? You can find out more here.

REFORMER EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Your awesome self, and a reformer!

>> Wondering what reformer I’m using? You can find out more here.


Online Mat & Reformer Pilates Class Descriptions:

In the states its the week of Thanksgiving which means a lot of things to do and little time for you. And whether you live in the states or not I wanted to give everyone an excuse to leave any room so they can "meet with the boss" aka take class!

And you are the boss! The meeting is with you, your practice and OPC! Tell people The Boss called. They'll let you go and they'll totally understand that 30 min is a legit time to talk to The Boss.

The prop needed on the Mat: Pillows or a bolster or ball. I'm thinking about things you might have in any bedroom to take a call.

Reformer: if you happen to have access to a Reformer this week YAY! The Reformer is going to be the boss. The sounds it makes, the way it feels, its got feedback for ya!

See ya in class,

xx~LL 💋

MAT EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Your awesome self, pillows or a bolster or ball and a mat!

>> Wondering what mat I’m using? You can find out more here.

REFORMER EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Your awesome self and a reformer!

>> Wondering what reformer I’m using? You can find out more here.


Online Mat & Reformer Pilates Class Descriptions:

This week we’ll focus on Teaser because we can! It’s hard! And when in need a pretty great party trick.

The end of the year brings lots of parties you want to go to, some you have to go to and some you wish you could get out of.

Let this workout be and excuse for not going to a party or as a prep for the party trick you might just need!

Props: On the Mat and Reformer a theraband for your Tinsel!

See ya in class,

xx-LL 💋

MAT EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Your awesome self, a theraband and a mat!

>> Wondering what mat I’m using? You can find out more here.

REFORMER EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Your awesome self, a theraband and a reformer!

>> Wondering what reformer I’m using? You can find out more here.


Online Mat & Reformer Pilates Class Descriptions:

Sleigh or Slay? This time of year we say both!

Reflecting on the year and recognizing all of the work we put into our practice hopefully feels like we slayed the year!! Now we are getting ready for the holidays and heading into a new year so we can sleigh and get it done!

This week I want you to feel like you can do your very best with each exercise! Meet your body where it is, have fun and dont judge how it goes! There are always those exercises you aren’t sure about, but today you just have to go into it saying, I WILL SLEIGH this one! Lets do this!!

No props needed for these classes!

See you in class,


MAT EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Your awesome self, and a mat!

>> Wondering what mat I’m using? You can find out more here.

REFORMER EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Your awesome self, and a reformer!

>> Wondering what reformer I’m using? You can find out more here.


Online Mat & Reformer Pilates Class Descriptions:

If you are a lover of the Reformer chances are you have little love for the Horseback. I don't blame you. It's not that fun. If you're on the Mat you probably have no idea what this means…

And that's ok! Horseback is like a seated Teaser but harder!

On both the Mat and Reformer we will be playing with how to connect to this exercise, prepare for it and find a Horse that works for us!

Props: Mat, have light weights nearby

See ya in class,

xx-LL 💋

MAT EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Your awesome self, have light weights nearby and a mat!

>> Wondering what mat I’m using? You can find out more here.

REFORMER EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Your awesome self and a reformer!

>> Wondering what reformer I’m using? You can find out more here.


Online Mat, Reformer, Cadillac & Wunda Chair Pilates Class Descriptions:

There are some Rocking Moves in Pilates! This whole month we’ll be getting our Jingle On as we use each piece of equipment to prepare for and expand on those rolling & rocking postures. Bring that holiday spirit, let's rock!

Mat - no props needed
Reformer - Reformer Box and Pole
Cadillac - no props needed
Chair - no props needed

See ya in class,

xx-LL 💋

Super STAR


Did you know that a Superstar has definitions surrounding it that call out words like “prime attraction”, “prominent”, and “public appeal”?

I’m laughing as I write this description because this month’s theme is about the exercise STAR and I think these words are usually disassociated with that exercise! LOL!!!

If you hate doing Star, never wanted to try Star, or have no idea what Star is - these workouts are for YOU!!
If you love Star - I’d love to know why, but also - these workouts are for YOU!!

Throughout the Pilates method there aren’t many exercises where the side body is the main attraction, which is interesting because we need to use our side body to do some of the first exercises we learn. Rolling exercises, Roll Up, and Push Up/Planking - all need to call on your side body muscles to help you do the exercises.

Our focus this month is side body work to help you not only be a SuperSTAR and try STAR, but to help you connect to these muscles to do all the other exercises.

Let’s have FUN this month and forget about the stigma STAR may or may not have :)

Equipment needed:

Reformer = the box

Cadillac = no props needed!

Chair = no props needed, but you might want a yoga block to prop up your pedal

Mat = no props needed!

See ya in class,

xx-LL 💋