Man pulling exercises at Internal fire Pilates, Mill Valley, Marin
Women in pilates session at Internal fire Pilates, Mill Valley, Marin
Men sessions at Internal fire Pilates, Mill Valley, Marin

How is Pilates different from other forms of exercise?

Pilates is the art of control (described by Joseph Pilates himself as Contrology) that develops centering and precision in your movements enhancing how your body functions. Pilates requires a deep focus and intention on your body as one integrated and activated system. We do not isolate body parts, as our bodies don’t really function that way. Pilates is always a whole body experience, utilizing movement in all directions and powerful full breathing to stimulate and enhance the function of all systems in the body. We work with the concepts of decompression and buoyancy to return to natural movement patterning, improving your body’s ability to move through the world as a perfectly organized and functional system, supported by a strong center. One major goal of the Pilates system, aside from whole body health, is uniform development. By developing a deeply strong center, we move with less compensation, making our movement patterns more efficient, which can help improve chronic pain, increase energy levels and inspire confidence.

I’ve never done this before. How do I get started?

The best way to get started is to sign up for a few private sessions. It’s important to have the concepts and skills introduced in a way that is tailored to your body and learning style. This also allows us to assess the best way to help you achieve your goals safely and effectively. After your first few sessions, you can continue with private sessions and/or move into Fundamental /Beginning level classes or duets and trios. To schedule, read the answer to the next question.

What’s the best way to sign up for a session or class?

The easiest thing to do is to link from our front page of our website under “View Class Schedule”. You will be prompted to create a login if it’s your first time visiting. You can make an appointment request directly from our scheduling program and/or sign yourself up for group classes. We do require online sign up for group classes and will cancel classes 24 hours in advance with less than 2 people signed up.
You can always email us at if you have other questions or would like to speak with someone prior to signing up. Or you can call us at 415.360.3008 and leave us a message if you land in voicemail.
Before you come in for your first session, feel free to download our intake forms and fill them out ahead of time. If you don’t have a printer, no problem, just arrive 10 min. before your session to fill out the forms.

What do I wear?

Come dressed in something comfortable that allows you to move. It’s best if you don’t have zippers or other things that may catch onto and tear the upholstery. Also be aware that you will be moving in all directions and clothes that are too tight or loose may end up on parts of your body you didn’t intend to wear them on. We also use the traditional apparatus to work the feet and toes, so typically you will work out barefoot.

I’ve done this before. What level am I?

Intro/Fundamentals – You may be brand new and have never done this before, or you may be returning after recovering from an injury. If you have never done Classical Pilates, you may need to start here to learn the exercises. You will be working on Fundamental Movement Skills, Pre-Pilates exercises and your Basic 5 Mat exercises as well as the starting points on each apparatus. You’ll learn what your core is and how to find it with each exercise.

Beginning –

At this point, you are ready for a little more challenge and have mastered your basic mat skills. You are developing your Ab 5’s as well as Swan and Mermaid on the Mat. You are mastering your Footwork on Reformer as well as Stomach Massage Round, Short Box Round and Knee Stretches (among others) while exploring some of the more challenging exercises on the other equipment that is advancing you toward Intermediate level.

Intermediate –

You’ve mastered your Beginning level exercises and skills and are working with more speed and greater challenge. Range of motion increases as your ability to stabilize improves. You are working on mastering Short Spine Stretch, Teaser on all equipment and Mat as well as other exercises that challenge your balance and strength.

Advanced –

You’ve been doing this a while and are working with flow and transitions. You know the names of various exercises and possibly are also working with memorizing the order of the Mat and Reformer Series. You are working toward mastering the very challenging exercises like Tendon Stretch and Snake/Twist on the Reformer, as well as working with more difficult choreography and at an accelerated pace.

How often should I come in?

It is ideal to practice between 2-4x/week. We recognize that this may not be possible, so we encourage you to practice on your own at home or to utilize Pilates Anytime to assist your home practice. Many people choose to do 1-2 privates and 1-2 classes each week, once they understand the basics, in order to maintain a consistent practice.

What’s the difference between Mat and Equipment classes?

We use traditional Pilates Mats, which are raised with side boxes, and use a foot strap and weighted bar. The apparatus you may use in an equipment class (aside from the Arcs and Barrels) uses spring resistance, which is unique in that the load increases and decreases as you move, creating two-way resistance. Aside from concentric muscle contraction, Pilates works with eccentric muscle contraction, where the muscle is contracting as it’s lengthening. This has been shown to develop more strength more quickly and to encourage long lean muscles. We use the springs for feedback, to connect us together and to direct us into our center vs. pushing resistance away from us from superficial strength. We also use the feeling of spring compression to teach our bodies, especially the spine, how to decompress.

Pilates Privates

This is a great option if you are just starting out or if you’ve been doing this a while and prefer the greater level of supervision and detail that is tailored to your body. If you have previously recovered from injuries, privates are a great way to retrain and return to natural and efficient movement patterning, as your form is adjusted and perfected by your instructor.

Pilates Duets/Trios

Duets and Trios are a great option if you prefer a little bit more self-guidance and find having a fellow student motivating and inspiring. We can try to match you with someone who is at your level or you can come in as your own duet or trio.

Group classes

These are a great way to challenge yourself and to develop confidence in your ability to sense where you are in space and to integrate cues.