Yoga and Pilates – Same Thing?

Camel Stretch- a yoga pose

If you want to make any pilates instructor cringe just utter these words “Oh yeah- I’ve tried Pilates – well I mean yoga but it’s the same thing!”  I can’t tell you how many times I have heard some variation of this statement.  I assume yoga instructors probably feel the same way.

So what is the difference between Pilates and Yoga??  Both forms of exercise are good and have many benefits.  Both can be quite challenging. But they also have different goals, objectives and means of accomplishing their intended end result. The basis is not the same.

I’ve asked a local yoga instructor and pilates student, Kathleen Goodman, to weigh in on this discussion and shed some light on what Yoga is as I explain what Pilates is.

Let’s clear up the confusion once and for all!

Here is Kathleen’s definition of Yoga and the benefits you can expect from a yoga practice:

“Yoga is more than just a practice. It is a transformational experience opening you up to endless possibilities physically, mentally, and emotionally. There are many styles of yoga so although the poses may vary two things remain the same. The emphasis on moving with breath and clearing your mind are focal points to any yoga practice. Moving with your breath allows you to send oxygen to the areas that need it the most- yes, those tight, sometimes painful areas like the hamstrings and hips. Through asana (poses) and meditation, yogis begin to gain tools to quiet the chatter of the mind, learning what it means to be truly present.

There are many benefits of yoga depending upon which style you practice. For example, Power Vinyasa allows you to heat the body from the inside out through breath work and rapidly flowing through poses. Bikram yoga, also known as Hot Yoga, allows your muscles to warm with the heat of the room so you can safely move into postures at a deeper level. All styles of yoga have many of the following benefits: detoxifying your body, increasing flexibility and muscle tone, relieving stress, improving digestion and sleep, just to name a few.”

That’s a lot of good stuff and who couldn’t benefit from being more present, increasing flexibility and stress relief?

So how about Pilates??

Teaser- a Pilates staple!

Pilates is a method of movement using the mind to control the body and muscles and gain greater body awareness, strengthen, flexibility and core toning.  Pilates was originally created by Joseph Pilates to rehabilitate dancers and later adapted for the general population.

Pilates helps build flexibility and long, lean muscles, strength and endurance in the legs, abdominals, arms, hips, and back. Students practice a neutral spine and pelvic alignment, breathing to assist the work and allowing adequate oxygen flow to muscles, developing a strong core (toning abdominals while strengthening the back), and improving coordination and balance. In Pilates all movement originates from the core. Exercises and practice can be modified to accomodate beginners, advanced and even students overcoming injuries. As students progress, intensity can be increased to continually challenge the body and student.

While you can see from the above definitions both forms of exercise emphasis awareness, flexibility and breath but there are also differences.

For starters Pilates uses a dynamic stretching method –  the student continues to move through exercises to challenge muscles, tone the core and improve flexibility. Yoga primarily uses static stretches where students hold poses longer with the goal of increased flexiblity (vinyasa yoga being the exception).  The style of breathing is also different. Pilates uses a ‘shh’ breath incorporating the exhale for the harder portion of a movement. Yoga breath can vary and is also integral to the practice. Pilates focuses on a neutral spine and pelvis alignment and is considered ‘safe’ for students with back issues.Yoga encourages students to move beyond neutral as their bodies will allow and challenges their flexibility and range of motion. Many in yoga develop impressive flexibility! Pilates focuses on movements originating from the core. Yoga’s focus can be the heart center and or a specific focus per class.

As you can see Pilates and Yoga are not the same but they both offer great benefits.  If you are not sure which one is right for you- try both!  Many find they prefer one style of workout or another.  As I always say it’s a matter of finding what you like whether that’s yoga or pilates!  Many thanks to Kathleen for her contribution to this post!  Namaste!

3 thoughts on “Yoga and Pilates – Same Thing?

  1. Sore subject for me…Great informative post! Yoga and Pilates are two entirely separate sexy beasts. Before I go on a self serving rant I will just say this: The very heart and soul of true Yoga practice is Ahimsa: non-harm. You can’t beat yourself up running and think yoga will bring balance back to your life.
    No gentleness, no Yoga. No consciousness, no Yoga. No acceptance, no Yoga. Most importantly…Without a undeterred willingness to see the perfection of your being and stop comparing and competing with others, there is no Yoga.

    1. Isn’t it like most things- people want a quick fix. A pill to lose weight or one quick stretching session to undo a week of abuse! Cardio junkies have a hard time slowing down for yoga or pilates when it would really be the best thing for them…and there’s my rant 😉

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