While it’s true to say that both Yoga and Pilates take an integrated body and mind approach to health, well-being and fitness, the origins and objectives of the two practices vary widely and consequently their methods are quite different. Which makes a lot of people question Yoga vs Pilates what should I choose, what is the difference?
The recent emergence of popular mind-body classes such as Pi-Yo and Yogalates has made it difficult for many people to properly distinguish between Yoga and Pilates and although the different practices are complementary and can be taken up simultaneously it’s worth understanding how they vary in methods and outcomes.
That said, for the sake of focus and due to the time limitations, we all face, it may be better to for you to select one or the other.
The Origins of Yoga and Pilates
Yoga evolved in India between 3,500 and 5000 years ago! This is an ancient spiritual practice that has a physical aspect that includes breath work (pranayama), physical poses and positions (asanas) as well as meditation exercises (dhyana) in order to bring about a full integration of the mind, body and spirit that leads to a state of Samadhi.
Samadhi refers to a special state of enlightenment where the practitioner has integrated or unified the different aspects of themselves into a happy and healthy whole that has found union with the divine.
Pilates was introduced in the 1900s by its founder and namesake, Joseph Pilates which he created as part of a program to heal himself! Joseph Pilates had suffered from rheumatic arthritis, asthma, physical weakness and rickets during his childhood.
In his research and efforts to heal himself and improve his physical condition he studied Eastern and Western forms of exercise including Greek and Roman wrestling, gymnastics, calisthenics and yoga. Following his intensive and wide-reaching studies he developed the practice of Pilates.
How Do Yoga and Pilates Differ from one another?
Most Westerners are familiar with the physical aspects of yoga in which practitioners use poses and postures to release inner energies, improve their flexibility and keep their bodies healthy. However, this is only one aspect of Yoga, which also incorporates an extensive philosophical spiritual science.
The poses in Yoga help to build strength and develop focus in the mind of the practitioner. These postures, known as Asanas, strengthen every part of the body including the bones and muscles, the organs, glands, joints and even improves the metabolism. During the practice of yoga the breathing is controlled, deep and synchronized with the movements of the body.
Yoga has seen an incredible rise in popularity right across Europe, the United States and Canada and has brought the many styles of Yogic asanas to the wider world. The main styles of yoga that are practiced around the world include:
- Ashtanga – Energetic Style of yoga developed by Pattabhi Jois in the 20th Century.
- Vinyasa – Often referred to as ‘one flow’ yoga, this style emphasizes the importance of smooth transitions between postures.
- Anusara – A modern form of yoga based on tantric alignments of the body.
- Hot Yoga – Practiced in hot and humid studios this is a more vigorous workout than tradition yoga.
- Yoga Therapy – Is used to help alleviate and heal mental and physical issues with the aim of promoting self-care, self-worth and self-improvement.
- Chair Yoga – This is a form of therapeutic yoga that is practiced while seated in a chair.
- Restorative Yoga – This is a slow form of yoga that holds each pose for longer than usual often making use of props and supports to maintain poses.
- Bikram – This is a kind of yoga that uses a series of poses done in a sequence, often in a hot room.
How is Pilates different to Yoga?
There are several differences between Pilates and yoga. One of the major differences between the two is that while yoga places a significant emphasis on the development of the spiritual aspect of the self, Pilates has no official spiritual component. Of course, practitioners of Pilates do enjoy greater feelings of self-worth and achievement however this is as a byproduct of the practice rather than it being a primary objective.
The range of movement in Pilates is less organic and is focused around the central core of the body, from the base of the pelvis up to the top of the head. This is known, within the practice of Pilates, as the body’s core or ‘powerhouse’.
Pilates practitioners focus on strengthening and stabilizing the body’s powerhouse to allow the limbs to move more freely. Unlike yoga, Pilates also makes use of exercise machines to help the limbs and muscles develop strength, flexibility and improved mobility.
During Pilates the breath is carefully coordinated with each movement. The objective in Pilates is to perfect each movement rather than to do a large number of repetitions.
The Mindfulness Element of Yoga
Yoga offers dozens and dozens of health benefits for the mind, body and soul! It’s an incredibly diverse practice that is suitable for people for all ages, abilities and conditions. Yoga reaches into every aspect of life and goes far beyond a physical workout.
For instance, the mindfulness element of yoga is not taught in Pilates. Mindfulness can help you to lose weight, improve your career and feel more content in your daily life. This element of yoga can be seen as ‘life skills’ training and can be a valuable asset to those in search of a better quality of life.
Mindfulness during yoga can bring calm to your mind and body, release inner tensions and leave you with a sense of peace. Practicing yoga can reduce your levels of stress and give you a heightened sense of awareness of things around you. You will become more sensitive to your own needs as well as the needs of others.
Many studies in the field of scientific research have found that yoga, and the practice of mindfulness can have an incredible range of benefits for those who engage with it, including, but not entirely limited to:
- Boosted Sense of Well-being.
- Reduction in levels of stress and anxiety.
- Better mood and feelings of self-worth.
- Reduces the risk of experiencing depression.
- Strengthened immunity.
- Improved memory, cognition, focus and mental acuity.
- Lower blood pressure and risk of heart disease.
- More enjoyment of life in general.
- Improved sleep and rest.
- Overall benefits to your quality of life.
Why should you Choose?
While it’s true to say that both yoga and Pilates strengthen your muscles, joints and physical condition, leaving your body toned and healthy, they do have different objectives in a larger sense.
- Pilates focuses on rehabilitating and strengthening the body for optimal physical health.
- Yoga’s physical postures and breathing exercises strengthen the body and discipline the mind in preparation for meditation and spiritual evolution.
In short, Pilates focuses on the physical condition of the body whereas yoga incorporates both the mind and the body. Pilates is focused outwardly while yoga is more focused inwardly.
Choose What is Right For You!
Making the choice between Pilates and yoga will come down to your own intentions. If you are seeking to improve your physical health, then either one will do just fine. However, if you are looking for something a little deeper and more expansive, more spiritually focused and meditative, then yoga is the only way to achieve this.
Conclusion on Yoga vs Pilates
However, it doesn’t have to be either or! If Pilates and yoga sound like something you would like to learn more about then don’t hesitate to try both! Each practice has unique things to offer and it may well turn out that once you have given them both a try you won’t want to give up either!