Pilates vs. Yoga

Which on is best for you?

Allison Kares, PMA®-CPT

THERE is often a misconception that Pilates and yoga are the same. Although both methods have their roots in mindful awareness of movement, there are some key differences that separate these two disciplines.

1. Yoga is a mat based class that can include small props to assist you with achieving the movements. In the Pilates method, the original set of exercises created by Joseph Pilates was mat based. He later developed many pieces of large equipment to help people make more effective and efficient movements and body connections. The reformer is a key piece of equipment used in a Pilates studio that uses springs as resistance for the exercises. The springs can act as assistance as well as resistance to provide supported movement, more effective muscular connections, increased mobility and flexibility and strength without straining. Many times, when first entering a studio, clients believe they need to start with mat work to progress to the equipment. Nothing could be further from the truth. The smooth moving equipment is a perfect place to begin, especially for those dealing with back pain or recovering from surgery. People often assume you need to be able to tie yourself into a pretzel to do yoga. In Pilates, we focus on optimizing movement and gradually increasing range of motion in the spine and extremities.

2. Often people tell us they do yoga to help them relax. Did you know that one of the foundational principles of Pilates is concentration? "Concentrate on the correct movements each time you exercise, lest you do them improperly and thus lose all the vital benefits of their value,• says Joseph Pilates. This inward focus helps to calm the mind and relax the nervous system to help achieve a more connected whole-body approach to exercise. Like yoga's focus on relaxing the mind and releasing tension, Pilates achieves a similar effect through inward focus of your body moving in space. Think of it as moving meditation.

3. Breath is a key component in both yoga and Pilates. Although taught differently and often used for a different purpose, both methods will help you breathe with ease and release tension through breath techniques. In Pilates, breath is also often used to facilitate movement and support the spine. When we inhale, our spine naturally extends and when we exhale our spine naturally flexes. We use this breath pattern to help make these movements easier to achieve. An exhale also helps to naturally engage the core muscles (pelvic floor, deepest layer of abdominals, spinal stabilizers and diaphragm) so it can be used to create support for those who are struggling to find connection with the deep muscles of the body.

Whether you practice yoga or Pilates, the attention you're bringing to your movement and your breath will create a healthier, happier lifestyle. The two methods can be a perfect complement to each other and by practicing both, you can maximize your benefits. In the wise words of Joseph Pilates, "Be in control of your body, not at its mercy."

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