Pilates was created in the 1920s to assist in the healing and rehabilitation of wounded soldiers. Since that time, this form of mind-body exercise has become very popular in mainstream culture. Pilates uses various positions or poses that focus on the core group of muscles to improve posture, flexibility and strength. Many people use Pilates accessories to assist in achieving the full benefits of the poses. There are several types of Pilates accessories and props, including the Pilates mat, a Pilates ball, and Pilates socks or shoes.
Pilates mats are similar to yoga mats, but they typically are thicker and have more cushioning. The mats come in many shapes, colors and sizes. They are used as padding and to prevent slipping, especially when in a seated or kneeling pose. Most of these types of mats are made from rubber or foam, and they should be at least half an inch thick.
One of the most recognized Pilates accessories is the Pilates ball. Sometimes called “fitness balls,” they typically are 14 to 35 inches (35 to 85 cm) in diameter. The balls are made from elastic polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and are used in several poses. They help practitioners increase core strength and improve balance, they provide resistance, and they assist in deep stretches. Pilates balls also are used to support the practitioner when he or she is in a challenging pose.
Pilates shoes and socks are worn to prevent slipping during poses. These types of footwear also help to gain a good grip on the floor, which helps the practitioner feel the full effects of the pose. These Pilates accessories usually look like ballet slippers, and they keep the wearer's feet warm and dry during the exercises. There are numerous brands, colors and sizes of Pilates shoes and socks available.
Many newcomers to Pilates buy other Pilates accessories, such as clothing and jewelry. The best types of clothing to wear to a Pilates class are those that are nonrestrictive and comfortable. Clothing that is too baggy or exposes too much skin should be avoided. There are several Pilates clothing lines that sell stretchy capri pants, tank tops with built-in shelf bras and T-shirts.
Other Pilates accessories include towels, water bottles and bags to carry props and mats. There are many Pilates-inspired lines of jewelry that depict the different poses in charms and necklaces. However, most teachers request that students do not wear jewelry to class, because it might restrict poses or get caught in the wearer's clothing or elsewhere.