Understanding the Differences Between Yoga & Pilates

Yoga and Pilates

Since the development of pilates in the twentieth century, there have been countless comparisons between this high-energy sport and its more classically mellow counterpart: yoga. Whilst these two heart-healthy activities have a lot in common, particularly when it comes to building strength and toning the body with low impact exercise, it’s important to note the differences between the two, so you can sign up for either yoga or pilates classes, knowing that they’ll cater to your personal fitness goals.

Read on for a comprehensive breakdown of the key differences between yoga and pilates.

Yoga vs. pilates equipment

When it comes to yoga or pilates equipment, yoga classes generally only require you to bring the bare basics, these being your own mat and potentially your own bolster, although most studios do supply these as well. When it comes to pilates, however, classes may involve a selection of different tools or equipment, ranging from pilates rings, resistance bands, medicine balls, exercise balls, and potentially also reformer machines, for full-body workouts. 

If you’re looking for an activity that uses very little external tools or equipment, working only with your own body weight, then yoga may be best suited for you. Of course, if you’re looking to be pushed past the limits of your own body weight, reformer pilates classes may be a valuable addition to your fitness routine.

Static vs. dynamic movement

Yoga flows tend to be more about holding poses, and breathing through the slow movements that your body is required to make. Whilst this slower paced style of physical activity can be valuable for innately building muscle strength across a selection of muscle groups, holding these poses can also be quite strenuous for some. In fact, some yoga poses across a selection of disciplines can even lead to muscle strain and other injuries if they aren’t approached correctly. This is a consistent risk of maintaining static poses.

In pilates, however, staticity is kept to a minimum, as this activity prioritises high-energy dynamic movements above holding poses. The dynamic movements in pilates work in a similar fashion to dynamic stretches practiced by professional athletes to gently push and pull the muscles, warming them up to ensure minimal risks of strain or injury before training. If you’re healing from any back or muscle injuries, pilates can be a soft reintroduction to physical activity for your body. 

If, however, you’re interested in yoga, practicing dynamic stretches before beginning yoga flows can be an effective method of keeping your muscles safe from strain.

Flexibility vs. core strength

Although both yoga and pilates do build muscle strength across your full body, it’s worth noting that there is indeed a greater focus on building flexibility and balance in yoga, whilst pilates tends to prioritise building core strength above all else. If your personal fitness goals span across both core strength and flexibility, you may find that practicing both yoga and pilates over your weekly fitness routine may be more valuable for you than choosing one activity in particular.

Cultivating your mind/body connection

Finally, it must be said that there are some small consistencies between the many different styles of yoga. Yoga as a general practice, encourages individuals to breathe into poses and thus, make a connection between their minds and bodies. It’s also common for yoga flows to feel almost meditative. For this reason, yoga has been recognised as a valuable activity for combatting depression, anxiety, and other mental health concerns. 

Pilates can also elevate your mood, given that it’s a high cardio activity, but if you value building stronger connections between your mind and body, even some basic vinyasa yoga flows in your weekly fitness routine can go a long way. 

Whilst it’s understandable why yoga and pilates feel as though they come from the same world, it’s also interesting to keep in mind that one has existed for about 100 years, whereas the other has thousands of years of history and culture behind it. In the modern day, both yoga and pilates have converged into similar schools of physical activity, which is why many yogis also draw inspiration from pilates movements and vice versa.

Just be sure to practice what feels best for you and your body!

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