A Decade of Pilates Growth in the Middle East: My Personal Journey

By Cloe Sommadossi

When I first moved from Europe to Dubai 10 years ago, the Pilates landscape in the Middle East was vastly different from what it is today. Back then, the Pilates industry was nearly invisible. Dubai boasted fewer than a handful of specialized studios, and the concept of Pilates was virtually unknown to the general public. Across most countries in the Middle East, the practice of Pilates was unheard of, a stark contrast to the well-established and thriving market I had left behind in Europe.

From Obscurity to Boom

The transformation over the past decade has been nothing short of remarkable. What started as a niche market has exploded into a booming sector. Today, Pilates studios are springing up across the entire Middle East region, from the United Arab Emirates to Saudi Arabia, from Qatar to Bahrain, from Iran to Jordan and Lebanon. International brands of equipment and education have taken a keen interest in the market, establishing a presence in most Middle Eastern countries. This growth signifies not just an increase in availability but a profound shift in regional attitudes towards health and wellness.

Embracing Pilates Amid Cultural Norms

The local population’s embrace of Pilates has been encouraging, albeit with a unique regional adaptation. Many studios are female-only, reflecting cultural sensitivities. While it remains a common belief among local males that Pilates is either a discipline tailored for women or simply a form of stretching, I’ve witnessed a gradual change. More and more men are beginning to experience and embrace the benefits of Pilates, breaking down longstanding stereotypes.

The Medical Industry’s Growing Connection with Pilates

The connection between the medical industry and Pilates professionals in the Middle East is in its nascent stages but growing steadily. Some clinics have started incorporating Pilates spaces within their premises, recognizing its benefits for post-rehabilitation practices. This development marks a significant step towards integrating Pilates more deeply into holistic health practices.

The Demand for Certified Instructors

There’s an increasing demand for certified Pilates instructors, heralding a promising career path for those passionate about the discipline. The region’s growing focus on health and wellness provides fertile ground for Pilates studios and related businesses to thrive. Yet, the journey is not without its challenges. Raising awareness and educating the market about the benefits of Pilates remains a crucial hurdle to overcome, to foster a more inclusive Pilates community.

Pilates: A Strong Industry and Professional Opportunity

The evolution of Pilates in the Middle East is a testament to the discipline’s resilience and adaptability. It’s clear that Pilates is not merely a passing trend but a robust industry offering significant professional options and business opportunities. The vibrancy and potential of the Pilates industry in the Middle East mirror the region’s growth and increasing openness over the past decade.

Looking Forward: A Future Full of Potential

As we look to the future, the Pilates industry in the Middle East is poised for even greater expansion. There is a unique opportunity for the region to learn from the Western evolution of Pilates and to contribute to its global growth. The foundation laid down over the past decade promises a future where Pilates is an integral part of the Middle East’s health and wellness culture, bridging traditions and modern practices.

The journey of Pilates in the Middle East, from obscurity to a flourishing industry, is a powerful reminder of the universal appeal and adaptability of this discipline. As someone who has witnessed this transformation firsthand, I am excited about the future prospects and the continuing growth of Pilates in the region. The best, I believe, is yet to come.

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