Mats are now ubiquitous! Almost every store I can think of sells them. When it comes to Pilates, yes - there are differences between traditional yoga mats and specialized Pilates mats (the latter are somewhat thicker). However in practice most people use a single mat for both Pilates and Yoga (i.e. a traditional yoga mat).
Thicker mats can be found at such stores as Target and Sports Authority. You DO want a mat that is ‘sticky’ or can give you some traction. Too much softness in a mat won’t provide the stability for your body.
I use a fairly thick but solid “Earth Elements” mat made by hugger mugger. It is 10mm thick. Look for this carefully on the internet because many Earth Elements mats are only 5mm thick (which is fine too - unless you’re looking for the thicker mat). Pricey, yes - but really comfortable and functional. You’ll need a large mat bag for this one.
You can clean your mat - whatever type of yoga or pilates mat it is - by wrestling it into the bathtub and scrubbing it with a little Woolite or similar mild detergent, then towelling it dry. Yes there are fancy “mat cleaning” supplies too.
One of my teachers, Elizabeth Larkham, made two award-winning videos that are really good how-to guides for all the original Pilates exercises. These videos are not so much ‘follow-along’ as they are explanatory. You can keep pausing the video while you do the number of reps you choose, but these are not traditional exercise videos. Nonetheless I think they’re among the best Pilates videos I’ve seen.
Of the two, only one video is still available: it is called “Balanced Body Pilates Mat Program” and you can click here to go to the Balanced Body online store where it is offered.
Elizabeth Larkham also has a five DVD series - again, they are more how-to guides than traditional follow-along exercise videos. The series is called “Pilates Pro at Home” and you can click here to find them online.
I also like anything by Katherine and Kimberly Corp.
Pilates Style Magazine
I was one of the first 10 people to subscribe to this magazine, and I’ve read every issue they’ve printed. It’s pretty much the only trade magazine devoted exclusively to Pilates. Click here if you’re interested.
Podcasts: Elizabeth Larkham
I mentioned Elizabeth’s videos above. She has also made short podcasts on a number of different subjects. And she writes occasional columns for Pilates Style magazine. I received my initial pilates training from Polestar Pilates, which she co-founded.
Other teachers I recommend:
Marie Jose Blom Lawrence (who knows everything there is to know about posture and the core), Eric Franklin (the King of movement and metaphor - who has written many great books), Alan Herdman (a British fellow who really knows his Pilates), Lynne Robinson (a British lady who is a great teacher and writes very good books - check out the one on pregnancy and pilates), and Brooke Siler - check out her books: “The Pilates Body” and “Your Ultimate Pilates Body Challenge” because they have great pictures and cues. I also recommend Jillian Hessel’s work. Regarding books, don’t hesitate to browse the remainder tables at Barnes and Noble or the book table at Costco. Both are great, cheap sources of decent Pilates books.
Comfort is King! Clothing you can move in is a must. I favor clothing from Costco and Sam’s Club, Marshalls, Tuesday Morning, etc. (If you want to get fancy, try Athleta.) For tall women like myself, the brand Champion usually fits well. It is important that you feel comfortable while you work!
I make no secret about being a HUGE fan of Tracy Anderson. I do not agree so much with everything she says - I just do her exercises, which are fabulous for core as well as body sculpting. She has a men’s program as well, and programs for pregnancy which are legendary. I’ve done her metamorphosis and continuity programs (omnicentric) with profound results. In my mind she is the next Joseph Pilates! Her website is here. PS Ignore the hype. Just do the work.