A Mat Pilates class provides the basis for the entire Pilates system of exercises. A workout that focuses on the whole body, a traditional Pilates mat class should work your legs, abdominals, lower/upper back and shoulder stabilising muscles (occasionally classes may have a particular focus but overall should encompass a total body workout).
On the mat, it’s your body weight that provides the resistance against gravity. This can often make a workout more challenging as it’s quite hard to lift your body, especially if the right muscles aren’t being engaged to do so. This is what Pilates teaches us. How to use the right muscles to do the work more efficiently. That’s why Mat classes can be great options for beginners due to this emphasis of learning to control your muscles. You must be in full control of your body, rather than relying on the assistance or support of the springs and cables of an apparatus (although you will often use props throughout a class to increase the challenge or change the focus of an exercise).
Don’t get the wrong idea though, Mat classes can also be the hardest because you’re using the weight of your body all the time, you have nothing else assisting you like you do when using a machine. Just remember, you are also gaining awareness of your own body and it’s important that you listen to it. You can stop and stretch at any time, if something doesn’t feel quite right or perhaps you are not feeling the correct muscles. You will see results from only a few Mat classes, the best thing to do is to give it a go!