Yoga vs Pilates

August 10, 2017

In the world of mind/body fitness there is a lot of confusion about these two modalities, often lumping them together as one interchangeable form of exercise. Either that or yoga is thought of as “just stretching” while Pilates is viewed as just a bunch of ab crunches.

The fact of the matter is, there is a world of difference, so how do you find out which is better for your needs? Let’s find out.

Yoga is an ancient discipline, it’s been around for thousands of years and has a deep spiritual component. For yogis, the physical practice is really meant to strengthen and relax the body and mind to eventually enter into a state of meditation. In the western world, oftentimes we use yoga as a form of fitness or just to stretch but it really is so much more than that. Lifestyle, diet and being at peace with oneself are strongly encouraged.

The yoga Sutras are the philosophies or guidelines yogis follow; non-violence, truthfulness, fairness, simplicity, letting go of ego, spiritual goals, self-actualization and discipline. There are so many different styles of yoga these days from intense power and hot classes focusing on cardio and strength building to restorative classes encouraging relaxation or meditation classes focusing on breathing techniques.

Pilates is a form of exercise designed by Joseph Pilates during the First World War as a form of rehabilitative exercise for people with spinal and other musculoskeletal issues. All Pilates exercises focus on the core (shoulder girdle to pelvic girdle and the deep muscles around the spine, front and back). Movements focus on strengthening and mobilizing the spine, and lengthening muscles. Proper alignment and posture is constantly reinforced to bring the body back to its proper place.
Yoga is a moving meditation, a flow that is different for every body. There are so many variations and interpretations for everyone out there, it’s about how you feel and letting the breath initiate it all.

Pilates is a structured form of fitness, students are working towards an ideal execution of a particular movement while adhering to the Pilates Principles of breath, control, precision, concentration, fluidity, and centering. Pilates is considered strength training as you are working against resistance on machines and with or without props or on a mat while adding repetitions. Pilates can also be used in a therapeutic way focusing on realigning the musculoskeletal system and correcting imbalances in a very safe and controlled way. You can go to a Pilates class solely to work on your “six pack” while your neighbor is there rehabbing a spinal injury.

People ask me all the time what the differences are and what is better for them. As a passionate teacher and lover of both, I would say that Pilates is well suited for those that have specific postural issues and imbalances while yoga has that beautiful spiritual, flowing dance-like element. Yoga delves much deeper into the many different facets of meditation but both practices emphasize deep mindful breathing proven to reduce stress.

The bottom line is that our bodies are meant to move. at different times in our lives our bodies crave different types of movement. The only way to know is to keep exploring with an open mind ready to challenge yourself constantly while having fun and maintaining a playful spirit. If you find something you like you will be that much more likely to keep pursuing it and that’s what will keep your body and mind youthful and fit always.