I speak from my experience. I had a severe lower back pain for five years. I visited many doctors, chiropractors, I did physical therapy, acupuncture, I was on the decompression machine, saw a pain management who gave me epidural injections (three) of a high dose of cortisone and prescribed not doing anything, even exercise.
Pros: Then, a friend suggested to see this homeopath doctor, a Zen master, he changed my diet; recommended to swim and to do Pilates, I do mostly Pilates as my breathing is not helping me with the swimming workout. This happened in May this year, I am going three times a week.
Cons: if you have an unbearable pain while doing the exercises, stop doing them and if some exercises are easier than others, just do the easy ones. If you pain is really bad you must invest in a trained instructor to work one o one and get benefits from this investment.
Equipment: I just practice the matwork with a ball, the ring and two pounds weights. You can, also use the bar weight. I am going to the YMCA near me and the instructor is a middle age woman who is being teaching for ten years and she is admirable.
Benefits: The pain is completely gone and I am able to do anything that I wasn't for five years. Also paying more attention to my body's posture.
Thank you for bringing this question. Today I just blog about it.