Odds are that you’ve heard of Pilates, yes? With studios popping up all over town, it may appear that it’s more of a fitness fad than a wellness solution that has been around since the early 1900s. Pilates has a rich history, though, and it has staying power, which should be our first clue that it works. The beautiful part about the many local studio options now available in Nashville is that there’s a perfect Pilates place for every person to plug in and enjoy regardless of age, size or ability.

We tried out some of the city’s most popular Pilates outlets to bring you a realistic idea of what’s out there and assess which would be the best for your personality. After all, if you have a great first experience, you’re more likely to return, right? And, we promise, it’s a workout worth returning for. Here we go:

Swell

6000 Hwy. 100, Nashville • (615) 352-1100

Swell's bright studio features eight top-of-the-line reformers.

Swell’s bright studio features eight top-of-the-line reformers.

Swell, located inside Spaces in Belle Meade, has a modest waiting area before you enter the small, but impressive, studio. Store your belongings in one of the ample-sized cubbies, and then stake your claim on one of the eight reformers. A reformer newbie? Fear not! Your instructor will give you a quick intro, and you’ll be good to go … it looks more complicated than it is, we promise! Mirrors line both walls, allowing you to check and recheck your body alignment throughout the class, and the instructor will gently guide you to proper positioning, if needed.

Our instructor, Stephanie, was patient, accommodating, warm and welcoming, all ideal attributes when trying something new and unfamiliar. She played some music on low volume, but there was no struggle to hear the instructions. As far as the workout goes, we felt some sweat beads forming but never broke out in a full-on sweat. That doesn’t mean we didn’t get a solid workout, though, because we did … we could feel it. By the end of the class, we’d been completely stretched out, and frankly, it’s the best we’d felt in a long, long time.

Bonus points: Swell has three instructors who are also physical therapists. Why is that awesome? Because if you’re rehabbing an injury, they can offer modifications to any move while still giving you a solid workout.

Ideal candidates: In addition to Pilates veterans, Swell is a fantastic option for the Pilates-curious crowd (yours truly!) and those who are rehabbing injuries. My classmates were all shapes, sizes, ages, genders and skill levels, meaning that unless you’re an alien, you should fit in just fine!

Current specials: Keep an eye out for a Valentine’s Day special starting on Feb. 14. Swell also offers both group and private lessons, as well as packages and contracts to accommodate various budgets. Visit swellstudionashville.com for details.

Willow Pilates

2203 Bandywood Drive, Nashville • (615) 297-7117

Willow Pilates mat class.

Participants enjoy a mat class at Willow Pilates Studio in Green Hills. Photo courtesy of Willow Pilates Studio

Willow Pilates in Green Hills is a 3,000-square-foot, full-service Pilates studio with all the equipment a student could want, including reformers and Cadillacs downstairs and mat/tower units upstairs. (Click here for a full equipment menu.) Classes are small to ensure that every student receives appropriate attention and gets the most from their class. Our instructor was Kelly Rogers, a former dancer and gymnast who’s taught for eight years, having discovered the benefits of Pilates for the injuries she endured during her dance career. That speaks volumes to us.

Bonus points: Willow trainers have certifications in Muscle Activation Technique, Stretch Therapy, Massage and Myofascial Release, meaning there is at least one trainer there (if not more!) who can help with your specific needs. 

Ideal candidates: Willow is great for people who like options and a decent-sized, but not impossible, challenge. There were a variety of ages, shapes and skill levels present, with several women who were rehabbing injuries. Most of the students in the class we took had been coming for a while (devoted students=good sign), but it wasn’t clique-y at all. We felt very welcome.

Current specials: In honor of New Year’s, lifetime memberships (a one-time fee) are $75 (a $150 value). Visit the website for a complete menu of rates.

Simply Balanced

521 Eighth Ave. S., Nashville • (615) 321-5200

Simply Balanced in Cannery Row

Simply Balanced offers both Pilates and yoga, and the industrial-feeling studio features a wide variety of equipment for an all-encompassing workout facility.

Touted as “the official Pilates studio of the Nashville Ballet,” Simply Balanced is owned and operated by David Gensheimer and is located in Cannery Row on Eighth Avenue. Of all of the Pilates experiences we had, this one made us break a sweat and felt truly athletic. To quote Gensheimer, “David’s beginner classes aren’t like other beginner classes.” True dat.

The beginner reformer class we took actually felt more advanced beginner, challenge-wise. David entrusts his students to work independently in terms of completing reps on their own versus as a group. While you’re finishing your reps, he’s explaining what’s coming next, which keeps things moving at a nice, steady pace. This does, however, require a bit of a multitasking mind, and it puts the accountability on you … you’ll only get out of it what you put into it. He’s also great about helping students obtain the ideal posture and positioning, which, as you’ll learn the more you do Pilates, is what it’s all about.

Bonus points: David has a playful personality, but he also raises the bar, challenging students to do their very best work possible … he’s as committed as you are.

Ideal candidates: For those who work in or around downtown and want to work out on their lunch break or on the way home after work, this is the place for you. David will show you the equipment, get you up to speed and give you a solid workout. During my visits, ladies of all ages, shapes, sizes and skill levels were present and stepping up to the plate!

SB Tip: Don’t type “Simply Balanced” in Google Maps, as it will take you to the old location. Type in the actual address, and you’ll be fine. Also, leave yourself about 15 extra minutes the first time you go to familiarize yourself with parking and the studio location.

Current specials: Check out the SB Deal going on now with two savings options; otherwise, $150 for one month unlimited reformer, mat and yoga classes. For complete pricing and additional discounts, click here.

  • Align Wellness Studio (offers Pilates, nutrition counseling, yoga, jump classes and more) Location: Belle Meade Plaza
  • Springs Studio Pilates (private, semiprivate and small group classes available) Location: 21st Avenue
  • Marathon Pilates (a new part of Marathon Fitness that opened December 2014) Location: 12th Avenue South

Quickstart beginner’s guide:

  • Studios typically require either special Pilates socks or bare feet
  • Wear tight-fitting fitness pants (yay, Spandex!) for maximum comfort
  • A form-fitting top helps the instructor see your posture and make changes when necessary
  • Just-for-fun reading: The History of Pilates

Be sure to check out an amazing group of workout studios, only the best of the best, all found in the SB GUIDE.