Work It: Pilates Equipment Class at Sana Vita Studio Chicago

In our Work It series, Athletish contributors sign up, show up and tell you about new (to us) classes around our hometown of Chicago. Thank you ClassPass for getting us out there trying new stuff! 

What We Tried

A Pilates Equipment class held at Sana Vita Studio in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood. It was the “Equipment” part that caught my eye. From the class description,  “Joseph Pilates designed specialized equipment, such as the Reformer, Cadillac and Low Chair, in order to tone and balance muscles without stressing the joints.” Reform me of what, exactly? And there’s a Cadillac of Pilates equipment? I’m picturing the workout equivalent of a nun wearing Chanel No. 5.  Luxe and strict and what the hell I’m trying it.

What It Was Like

On arrival to the sunlit, comfortable studio the first thing I see is what can only be the “Equipment.” Low wooden frames outfitted with multiple straps and fuzzy cuffs. Mats on the ground with pulleys, chains and a trapeze-like bar. It’s like a cheerful torture chamber. Before I can get too uncomfortable, I’m greeted warmly by the owner and instructor Marilyn who offers me tea as I fill out the customary waiver. Ok. Tea = not a torture chamber.

The class consists of me and 5 other women. Marilyn starts things by assigning us to either mats, the frame machines (Reformers), or the Cadillac, which in true Caddy style turns out to be a bigger version of the Reformer. I’m so used to Crossfit-style intensity that at first I don’t know what to make of this. This is not an explosive workout. The flow is slower, movements are controlled and great emphasis is placed on breathing. For a second I think this will be easy. Then we strap our feet into the pulleys to add resistance. Oh. This shit is HARD. I’m shocked at how tight my hamstrings are, making it difficult to keep up with my peers or perform the movements as Joseph Pilates intended.

Per usual my “body dyslexia” is on full display, but Marilyn is great about correcting my position, and swooping in to provide modifications to compensate for my lack of flexibility. We make circles with our legs and arms, get in Chair, Frog and Tabletop positions, all with support or resistance from the equipment. I appreciate the focus Pilates puts on symmetry, working the body evenly to cure us of the ill-effects from all that office chair sittin’. Most of us have a weaker side, and while my own imbalances are evident, there was no way to favor one side or the other. It all got worked.

After 50 strenuous minutes, the “Low Chairs” make their first appearance, causing the veteran Pilates students to visibly tense up. “Those are torture,” my classmate explains to me before it’s our turn. Great? Each seemingly innocent chair has a pedal attached which we stand on to perform Pull-ups, using our abs to raise the pedal up and down while keeping our head inverted. Another deceptively hard move, all it took was 3 sets of 8 for the Low Chair to earn my fear and respect.

Despite not breaking a sweat, I leave the workout knowing my ass was indeed kicked. (Update: hours later my abs and glutes can confirm this). Thanks, Sana Vita! You can learn more about their studio here.

Sana Vita Pilates Chicago