Not sure whether to try Pilates or Yoga? This blog post will help you choose
So you’ve decided to start exercising and you’re hesitating between Pilates or Yoga? Don’t know how to choose? Having trouble understanding the difference between these two methods? No worries, this article explains the difference between Pilates and Yoga so you can make an informed decision.
What is Pilates?
If you’re new to Pilates, it is a gentle yet powerful exercise method that strengthens your muscles and joints. It also improves your posture thanks to the particular attention paid to body alignment, developing equal standing and lengthening the body.
Classical Pilates is practised on equipment designed by Joseph Pilates, the founder of the method. These machines are, for the most part, equipped with springs. Thanks to the resistance they offer, you gradually build your body strength.
In other words, when you practise Pilates, you feel taller, stronger and more stable. The level of concentration required can also help with developing mental wellbeing.
You can also do Pilates on a mat, where the exercises are different than on a machine. In both cases, the Pilates method is based on 6 principles that you’ll find in each class:
Why do Pilates?
Whether you feel rusty, suffer from chronic pain, want to tone up, build strength, get a leaner body, strengthen your pelvic floor, or challenge yourself with something new, there are many reasons to do Pilates.
Whatever your motivation, a regular Pilates practise has many benefits:
- It improves your overall health
- You’ll gain strength
- Increase your mobility
- Get a lean and toned body
- Relieve chronic pain
- Help heal an injury
- Improve your flexibility
- Better balance
- A sharper mind
- Reduce stress
What is Yoga?
Yoga is an ancient practice that originated in India thousands of years ago. Today, many people in the Western world do Yoga to stay healthy, maintain strength and flexibility, or help manage their stress levels.
In reality, there are as many definitions of Yoga as there are schools of Yoga. But simply put, Yoga literally means “union”. The union between body and mind. Indeed, in our current lifestyles, we often feel disconnected from ourselves, from others, and our emotions. Yoga is not only physical; it also develops the connection to the mind, and most notably to our inner Self. We can say that the ultimate aim of Yoga is to calm the fluctuations of the mind, find serenity and be in tune with our true Self.
What is the difference between Yoga and Pilates?
There are similarities between Pilates and Yoga. Both methods are practised on the floor and with regular practice, you can gradually improve your posture, muscle tone, flexibility and concentration. But as I previously mentioned, Pilates and Yoga have very different origins.
The main differences between Pilates and Yoga are:
In Pilates, we do a specific breathing technique where you inhale and exhale exclusively through the nose. This is known as thoracic breathing, and it can help develop lung capacity. The proof of this is if you look at Joseph Pilates and notice his chest’s morphology that he developed with years of practice.
In Yoga, you also breathe through the nose, but it varies according to the style of Yoga. In many styles, you’ll round the belly when breathing in and draw the belly in as you exhale. In other styles like Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, you practise a specific thoracic breathing technique called “pranayama ujjayi”. Here you inhale and exhale through the nose and draw the belly up and in at all times.
Different accessories and using machines
You can do both Pilates and Yoga on a mat. However, unlike Yoga, Pilates is also practised on specific machines designed by Joseph Pilates himself. Thirdly, Pilates is generally practised with socks for two reasons:
- Hygienic because clients use the machines throughout the day
- For safety reasons and to have a better grip on the machines
Yoga is always practised on a Yoga mat and never on a machine! You can use accessories such as bricks and straps to help get in the postures. Traditionally you don’t wear socks, but for those who tend to get a bit chilly, you can now get some lovely Yoga socks 🙂
The movements in Pilates and Yoga are not the same. Exercises specific to the Pilates method, such as the famous “Pilates 100”, are not found elsewhere. In Pilates, the focus is on precision and control, with generally relatively short movements and few repetitions.
As for Yoga, depending on the style (Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Yin, Iyengar etc.), you’ll either do a specific series of postures or a slow or fast-paced flow of postures. You will hold the posture for a particular time (5 breaths on average but it could be more or less depending on the type of Yoga), and do the posture on both sides (left and right).
Pilates is a sports practice that helps develop physical strength and flexibility as well as a mind-body connection. However, there is no “spirituality”, “philosophy” or “meditation” in Pilates.
In Yoga, the physical practise (asana) is only one aspect. Yoga can be considered a lifestyle based on certain principles and moral foundations of the yogin (yoga practitioner). There are eight of them: “Yamas” – our behaviour towards others, “Niyamas” – principles by which you live your life, “Asana” – practising yoga postures, “Pranayama” – breath control, “Pratyahara” – turning the senses inwards, “Dharana” – concentration, “Dhyana” – the practice of meditation, and finally “Samadhi” – the state of unity.
So, Pilates or Yoga? Which one will you choose?
I’ve outlined Pilates and Yoga’s origins, their benefits, and the main differences between the two practices. I’ll conclude by saying that in Pilates, you’ll challenge yourself from a physical point of view with exercises that become increasingly complex as you progress. In Yoga (from my perspective), you can find the physical challenge plus relaxation and mental serenity.
If you are looking to soothe your “monkey mind”, develop your spirituality while strengthening and stretching your body, Yoga is probably for you. If you’re looking for a more athletic and physically rehabilitative practice, then you’ll probably find happiness in Pilates.
So, Pilates or Yoga? Which one will you choose? Or perhaps a combination of both? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
If this post has made you want to try Pilates, you can find all my classes here.
Yours in Pilates,