May 2010

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Are Your Mat Classes Dying? Try the Pilatesstick!

By Connie Borho

Two years ago my mat classes were dying. In fact, there was a point in 2008 that I had removed every mat class but one from the schedules of both my studios. I tried everything, including free classes, discount pricing and guest teachers, but nothing was getting my students to make the commitment to what I believe is the heart of the Pilates Method—the mat. All the health clubs and gyms in my area were adding “Pilates” mat classes to their schedules free to members. Classes were popping up in community centers, churches and even at the beach! And here was my facility, a classical Pilates studio, slowly starting to take the easy way out and allowing students to skip their mat classes. I couldn’t keep paying my teachers to teach to an empty room. 

I was at the end of my rope when I overheard one of my private clients telling another student about the mat class she had taken at her health club the day before. She knew the class wasn’t as good as what she could get at our studio, but it was “free” and she could only justify paying extra for equipment training. That day was really depressing for me and I just didn’t think that I could compete anymore. Then I found the Pilatesstick.

I have to admit that I wasn’t completely sold on the Pilatesstick at first.  In fact one of my teachers, my daughter Carly, had to convince me to take the risk to buy enough Pilatessticks to outfit my studios. I went home from the Ft. Lauderdale conference for PilatesStyle Magazine with 20 Pilatessticks, had my husband mount them in my studios and then prayed that I hadn’t just made a very costly mistake.

We renamed our mat classes “Pilates Mat and More.” We took a portion of each reformer class into the mat room, had the students try the Pilatesstick and gave free introductory classes for a week. Within a month, our mat classes were reborn and revitalized and were once again bringing in revenue! The Pilatesstick has brought increased perceived value to my mat classes. The students no longer think of our mat classes as “just plain mat” and no longer compare them to the free gym classes or cheap community center classes. Economically, our mat classes are perceived as “higher value” because of the addition of the Pilatesstick to the mat repertoire. Our students are paying the same amount they would have paid to take “plain mat” and perceive that they are getting more for their money. We’ve had many new students join for the first time while old students have returned—now, we regularly have a wait list for our mat classes.

Looking for a great sample class format? Here's the first exercise for one of Connie's workouts: 

Basic Two-Hand Roll Back

Set Up

1. Sit tall, shoulders directly over hips, legs extended out to front pressing down into the mat with feet flexed, about mat distance apart.

2.  Hold Pilatesstick in an overhand grip, under the pads, arms extended in front, shoulder height.


1.  Inhale and press down gently into the Pilatesstick. Engage your powerhouse, keep spine long.

2.  Exhaling, scoop tailbone under toward feet, keeping entire length of spine long.

3.  Articulate spine down into mat one vertebra at a time. Your head releases to the mat last.

4.  Pause and inhale, keeping arms straight, and gently press down into the PilatesStick.

5.  Exhaling, curl head, neck and shoulders off the mat, scoop deeply into the powerhouse, and continue to round back up to a seated position, keeping the arms straight.

Click here to read the rest of Connie’s class design for a Pilatesstick Class! Plus, Connie has written even more blog posts about the Pilatesstick on the Peak Pilates Community Site.

Connie Borho



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