For those of you in love with equipment and neglecting your mat classes, it's time to rediscover the benefits of mat work:
Toning, flexibility, better posture, efficient movement, body/mind connection -- just about every benefit the Pilates method has to offer is available through the mat work.
Pilates equipment adds moderate resistance training, which is important in your overall fitness plan. However, a Pilates mat workout, when informed by the classical Pilates sequence, is an exceptionally good workout that will provide the basis for a life-time of health. Not to mention, of course, that Pilates mat work is the alpha and omega of core workouts.
Some people think the Pilates mat exercises were intended by Joseph Pilates to be the foundation for the Pilates equipment exercises. We don't really know exactly how Joseph Pilates developed the work with regard to the mat and equipment exercises. However, most Pilates instructors and long time practitioners will tell you that consistent mat work is profoundly helpful to performance on equipment.
Many mat exercise translate directly onto the equipment -- teaser and swan are examples -- keep their names as you move through reformer, chair and tower; and all mat exercise teach skills that relate the equipment exercises.
Pilates has nothing to do with religion, but it was definitely developed with the intention of helping integrate and elevate the body, mind and spirit.
Pilates exercises are always practiced with the Pilates principles of centering, concentration, control, precision, breath, and flow (some people change the word order, number or names but the ideas are basically the same). When a Pilates workout is infused with this kind of attention and quality it becomes more than a physical experience and the effects are felt throughout ones life. On the mat is the perfect place to embody the Pilates principles.
A mat class will give you the support to stick with it and the feedback you need to make sure you are doing everything right. Once you know the mat exercise and can put them together in a routine for home, you make Pilates your own, which is what Joseph Pilates intended for all when he wrote Return to Life Through Contrology.
All you will need is a mat or a firm padded surface.
Before You Buy a Pilates Mat