Five Differences Between Pilates And Yoga


Nowadays, instructors are used to incorporating Pilates and Yoga into their workout sessions. While these two focus on the mind-body-breath connection using low to medium level mat sequences, they are entirely two different practices originating from very different histories.

Continue reading to understand the distinct characteristics of Yoga and Pilates better. Perhaps at the end of the article, you will be able to discern which practice you find suitable for you and your way of life.


Difference #1. The Roots

Pilates was named after its inventor himself, Joseph Pilates, a German physical trainer who was often sickly and weak as a child. He developed the exercise sequences on the mat and with various equipment to increase strength and mobility. In the 1900s, the practice was solely utilized for rehabilitation. Later on, when Joseph moved to New York, dancers and ballerinas discovered that the practice would greatly improve their skills by helping them build their flexibility, strength, and endurance. According to William C. Shiel Jr., MD, “Since the 1920s, the basic tenets that Joseph Pilates set down have been preserved, and to this day, even with some modifications, the Pilates remains true to its origins.”

Yoga, on the other hand, originated from the southern part of Asia over a thousand years ago. It only involved one branch with simple poses, then progressed to more poses and various types such as Vinyasa, Kundalini, Ashtanga, and Bikram.


Difference #2. The Purpose

Yoga involves getting to the flow and attempting to achieve the most difficult level of a particular poseto fully lengthen the body. It requires arm balances, inversion techniques, bends, and twists to succeed in working the core, the extremities, and the whole body. “The purpose of yoga is to build strength, awareness and harmony in both the mind and body,” explains Natalie Nevins, MD.


While Pilates is also associated with working the core, the movements are smaller, more specific, and repetitive. The purpose of the practice is to achieve control of the body through spinal alignment and core strengthening.


Difference #3. Expectations

If you expect to clear your mind along with sweating out your stresses by doing challenging poses that differ every session, you might want to join a Vinyasa class, as the poses can be modified or progressed by the teacher, if she wants to get creative. She can also decrease the intensity and speed of the poses if you expect to have a relaxing evening session.

Pilates workouts are more uniform day to day. They are done in prone, side, and supine positions. Mat exercises are usually low-impact flexibility and strengthening with a few machines, which may or may not include the Reformer. Although Pilates offers beginner to advanced levels, the traditional practice does not have modifications, unlike Yoga.


Difference #4. The Breathing Pattern

In Yoga, breathing is known as pranayama and is believed to be an energy and life source that affects the entire body. The purpose of knowing the appropriate breath pattern is to be able to take control of your body and your life as a whole. Some breath patterns involve 3-part inhales and exhales while attempting to do a pose. This is called the ‘Ujjayi’ breath. Robert Rountree, M.D. says, “I frequently recommend yoga to my patients for a wide range of problems.” He adds, “I find it especially helpful for people with chronic anxiety and insomnia.”


Pilates does not have periods of focusing only the breath, but instructors and students are reminded to always be aware of their breath throughout the entirety of the class. There is only one guideline to follow for breathing: inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth. Breathing is consistent and regular in Pilates.


Difference #5. The Spiritual Aspect

Most of us know fully well that the practice of Yoga is intimately entwined with spirituality, mainly because of its origins. “Asana,’ meaning pose, has another deeper meaning in another branch of yoga – to be in a seated position. This is the meditation pose. Additionally, almost all poses that are done in Yoga are to be associated with meditation.

In contrast, Pilates may have the same relaxing and rejuvenating effects as Yoga, but it does not intend to evoke a spiritual experience.


Which One Is For You?

If you haven’t tried either Pilates or Yoga, we suggest that you try both. Besides, both practices offer healing of the body and mind. Both also provide stress-relieving effects. None of the two are really better than the other. The bottom line is your purpose for doing either of the workouts and the result that you want to attain.


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