Pilates and Yoga:  What’s the difference?  

Yoga and Pilates are both great workouts, however there are many differences between these 2 methods of exercises.

What is Yoga?

Yoga was created in India over 5,000 years ago and was designed to improve physical, emotional and spiritual health. The main components of yoga are postures which are a series of movements designed to increase strength, flexibility and breathing. Through these repetitive series of movements, Yoga focuses on flexibility and broad muscle groups while proving to be extremely therapeutic. Many types of yoga involve meditation and deep breathing, which aids in relaxation. The meditative portion of yoga tends to attract people who are seeking to relax and de-stress. There are many different types of yoga that range from relaxing to physically stimulating and include Hatha Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga, Hot Yoga and Restorative Yoga.

Yoga offers many health benefits including: 

  • Improved flexibility: Through deep stretching, Yoga can increase overall flexibility and mobility in the muscles and joints respectively.
  • Improved balance: Through isometric standing and balance poses, Yoga can improve balance and stability.
  • Better sleep: Yogis report that time on their mats leads to improved sleep and feeling less stressed.
  • Mental health: Yoga's focus on mindfulness and breathwork can help Yoga practitioners improve their mental and emotional health. Research also suggests that Yoga can help with anxiety and/or depression.

What is Pilates?

Pilates is a physical fitness system that was created in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates.  Joseph created the exercise system during World War I with the intention of helping injured soldiers regain their health by strengthening, stretching, and stabilizing certain muscles.

Pilates exercises are a series of precise, controlled movements which follow specific principles as the foundation of the method. These principles include correct alignment, centering, concentration, control, precision, breathing, and flow. Joseph believed that mental and physical health were essential to one another,  and with this in mind, created a method of total body conditioning. There are 2 forms of Pilates: Mat based and equipment based Pilates. Exercises that are based on the Pilates equipment can be done utilizing any of the Pilates equipment which includes the reformer machine, the cadillac table and the peddle chair.  Exercises can be modified to cater to differing strength, flexibility, mobility and co-ordination.

The health benefits of Pilates are multiple and include:

  • Improve core and postural muscles strength
  • Lean muscle tone development. During Pilates movements, the focus on strengthening and lengthening the muscles at the same time produces long, lean, strong overall muscle tone that doesn’t create bulk.
  • Improved posture. By focusing on correct body alignment and posture, you will eventually hold yourself differently by standing taller, sitting straighter, and moving with better coordination and balance.
  • Improved bone density through resistance and impact exercises.
  • Improved pelvic floor function by using pelvic floor activation training techniques prior to and during Pilates exercises.
  • Stress relief. The mind-body connection that you will achieve during Pilates will help relieve external stresses and pass time.
  • Noticeable results within weeks of regular practice, multiple times a week. Normally, the first changes practitioners will notice will be a flatter stomach, smaller waistline and perkier bum.
  • Pilates can be a great exercise for older adults or those recovering from injury due to its low- impact exercises and subtle, gentle movements
  • Increased energy. Pilates isn’t an exhausting workout that leaves you feeling worn out. Instead, you’ll end your workout feeling an increase in energy with a clear, focused mind.

So clearly, there are great reasons to try either Yoga or Pilates, so how do you decide which is best for you? That really depends on the reasons behind why you want to embark on a new exercise routine in the first place. Yoga may be more appropriate for some people and Pilates might be exactly what another person is looking for based on their goals and needs.  

To summarise, Yoga can help deepen your meditation practice with a focus on breathwork for relaxation, improve your flexibility, strengthen muscles and help with balance. Yoga sequences often include holding poses for multiple breath cycles which builds isometric strength. Conversely, Pilates practitioners keep moving throughout the workout in a continual flow with an energizing breath. Pilates strengthens the body with a focus on building foundational core strength to improve functional everyday movements and enhance other sporting activities. Pilates is also beneficial when recovering from an injury for post-rehabilitative strength and conditioning.

Yoga and Pilates are both great forms of fitness for the body and mind. One isn't better than the other, but one might be better for you personally, depending on your goals, accessibility, injury states and physical exercise experience and fitness.