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The New Must-Have Hotel Amenity: A Pilates Studio With a View

Luxury hotels, from London’s Nobu Portman Square to COMO Parrot Cay, are incorporating the fitness practice into their programming.

by Mary Holland

a woman does a stretch in a fitness studio with a tropical view
A fitness pavilion at COMO Parrot Cay in Turks and Caicos. Courtesy of COMO Hotels.

When my alarm went off at 7 A.M., following a jet lag-induced sleepless night at London’s Nobu Portman Square hotel, I was not pleased. Unwillingly, I tumbled out of bed, climbed into workout leggings, slid my feet into my slippers and took the elevator down the spa floor. It was a Monday morning–my second day in London after flying in from New York–and for some reason I thought it would be a good idea to book a 7:30am Pilates class at the hotel’s studio; as a Pilates fan, an in-hotel reformer studio sounded like a dream.

Accessible from the street (for locals) or via elevator (for guests), the wood-clad studio, lined with ten slick black reformers, has a number of morning and evening classes from classic to more energetic power flow. Not only is it a great way to help kick jet lag, but it’s an opportunity to do some pelvic curls with new instructors, as well as Pilates enthusiasts from the neighborhood.

The pilates studio at the Nobu Portman Hotel in London is open to guests and locals alike.

Courtesy of Nobu Hotels.

Perhaps fueled by at-home mat workouts or a need for more breath work during a stressful time, Pilates has become increasingly popular. Hotels are catching on, offering everything from basic mat classes under canopies of trees to advanced reformer sessions in polished, kitted-out studios.

“The decision to put a Pilates studio in was a natural fit, considering it is getting a lot more spotlight as a way to train the body from a 360 perspective,” says Marsha Lindsay, the creative director of Nobu Pilates. “People are prioritizing correct movement and overall longevity much more [since the pandemic]. And Pilates focuses on training your muscles in a functional way,” Not only has she noticed the guests’ Pilates appreciation post long-haul flight, but how people are increasingly craving breath-focused exercises.

A pavilion among the treetops at BodyHoliday in St. Lucia is used for both yoga and pilates mat classes.

Courtesy of BodyHoliday

A traveler’s decision to stay at a certain hotel, or even to book a certain destination, can often come down to its fitness offerings: Does the gym have a Peloton bike? Is the pool long enough to do laps? Is there a yoga studio nearby? Pilates is no exception.

It comes as no surprise that COMO hotels, a brand known for its wellness programming, would launch group mat and private reformer classes at its Parrot Cay private island property in Turks & Caicos. Lisa Manser, COMO Shambala’s group wellness director, has seen an increase in demand for the workout, partly due to the fact that there’s a growing variety of methods. “There’s a significant rise in Pilates instructors who practice other modalities—physiotherapists, massage therapists and Personal trainers—that Pilates can enhance.” Better still, the hotel has a 90 minute head-to-toe Pilates alignment session, a curated experience that includes a full body alignment screening and session with an expert, as well as a takeaway body chart with tailored exercises to do at home. (We also recommend a post-pilates dip in the glimmering Caribbean sea.)

A few islands away, on the balmy island of St. Lucia, BodyHoliday offers group glasses on the hotel’s Zen Deck, set high up amongst the trees, that all guests can attend as part of the all-inclusive room rate. “Pilates allows for guests of all skill-sets to be included, as the exercises can be easily modified,” says Andrew Barnard, Managing Director of Sunswept Resorts, which manages the property.

At COMO, alignment sessions are offered, complete with a menu of exercises to continue once you’re back at home.

Courtesy of COMO Hotels

Some places are even teaming up with local experts to help ramp up their programming. Las Ventanas al Paraíso, a Rosewood Resort in Los Cabos, began working with Modu Seye, owner of Moduvated, a local health and lifestyle company in 2019. He leads mat and reformer classes as well as different fusion classes including Yogalates, Barre mixed with Pilates and Suspension Pilates. “It’s an integrative experience that connects mind, body and soul, which travelers today are looking for,” says Seye.

Further south, Flor Blanca, located along the wild Pacific Coast in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica, also has an oceanfront Pilates studio with every piece of Pilates equipment you can imagine, from springboards to towers, spine correctors and chairs. It’s run by a bevy of highly trained instructors offering private and group classes, as well as osteopaths and physiotherapists specializing in therapeutic sessions. This is a Pilates oasis at its best.

At CIVANA Wellness Resort & Spa in the Sonoran Desert, the schedule is packed with yoga, meditation and traditional Pilates mat classes. “Pilates is seeing a resurgence in popularity, because of its accessibility. Every body type can benefit from and adapt the practice to their particular needs,” says Amanda Grant, CIVANA’s chief program and partnership officer. “With the mat format in particular, it helps that it can be done anywhere.”

But, like yoga, people aren’t just incorporating Pilates into their hotel routines, they’re traveling for it too. Shanti-Som in Malaga, Spain, has retreats where travelers can spend between three and ten days doing unlimited spinal twists and teasers. The retreat also includes carefully-planned meals, body scrubs, massages and meditation.

Even after my rude awakening, my hour-long power class at Nobu Pilates was positively day-changing. I walked in feeling like a zombie and left ready to tackle a schedule full of meetings. Presumably, I’m not the only guest who feels this way. According to Nobu, they've seen positive responses from other guests–perhaps part of the reason why they’ll be launching more studios at their other hotels. “Expanding the concept and launching wellness retreats is in the pipeline,” says Lindsay. “It’s only the beginning of the journey.”

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