The Key Differences Between Yoga and Pilates

Yoga and pilates are both celebrated for their numerous health benefits. From forming a connection with the body and the mind, stress relief to developing strength, flexibility, endurance and control. The thing that connects them both is the breath work.

There are a lot of cross over between yoga and pilates, however they are very different. The biggest difference between them is the emphasis on the spiritual side in yoga classes.

Origins of yoga

Yoga is a holistic practise originating from ancient India.

Yoga uses breath, movement and meditation to unite the mind, body and spirit. It incorporates elements of philosophy, science and ethical living. Classes can range from gentle and nourishing to challenging and sweaty.

Modern yoga in the West has become mainly about movement, however the practise has deeper roots. Yoga is a spiritual philosophy, the physical part only makes up one of the 8 limbs of yoga. The other limbs are ethical standards, self discipline, breath, sensory transcendence, focus and meditation.

Origins of Pilates

Pilates was created by Joseph Pilates who was an anatomist. It is a movement system that uses specific exercises to improve strength, flexibility and posture with particular focus on the core. It is a practise that needs to be done on a regular basis to provide benefit. There are a few variations of pilates teachings, from mat work to reformer based resistance-based workouts. Classic pilates consists of mat work and a whole host of apparatus.

The Physical Benefits

When practised regularly yoga and pilates both develop core strength and balance. Given that most of the poses in yoga and exercises in pilates involve supporting your body weight, they also work various muscles all over the body.

Pilates works primarily on core strength, with the added benefit of muscle toning, overall strength, body control and flexibility.

Yoga can increase strength and flexibility through muscles and joints. Fast paced classes build a lot of heat in the body which has a great regenerative effect and burn calories. Slower practises where the poses are held for longer, you begin to work on stretching the deeper connective tissue, the muscles and joints, which ultimately helps with flexibility.

The Mental Benefits

Many of those who do yoga and pilates say it relieves stress for them. Both practises teach breathing techniques that can help combat feelings of stress and anxiety. Both traditionally encourage alignment of the body with the mind and the spirit, taking time to focus on self care. Yoga is a movement and meditation practice, taking the time to connect the body, breath and mind – having the opportunity to slow down in our busy lifestyles and focus inwards to ourselves.

The physical postures in yoga, in addition to the breath work and meditation can benefit the mind. Yoga has a balancing effect on the nervous system through the use of deeper breathing. It is a very detoxifying practise with the twists and turns of the postures, helping to bring hydration and fresh blood supply to the organs and joints. The focus and concentration required in some of the postures keeps you very anchored in the moment and out of the distractions of the day, which helps to create a bit of space in the mind.

This is true of pilates too, as pilates also focuses on breath work, it can be meditative and stress relieving. Pilates joins the body with the mind, it requires good concentration of your body and breath, with a deep focus required for advanced level pilates, all of which can help boost your mental health.

The Rehabilitation Benefits

Both yoga and pilates are often recommend ed by doctors and sports therapist as aiding rehabilitation post-injury and also to compliment various high impact sports.

As they can both be slower, controlled practices, they can be used for rehabilitation for injuries. Equally for people recovering from depression or trauma, the re-balance of hormones created via physical movement and breath can have calming effect on the body and the mind.

Pilates maybe more beneficial for recovery, whilst yoga may help prevent sports injuries and ailments. Pilates is a series of targeted movements and adaptable solutions when injury or chronic pain impairs movement and performance. Specifically, it can have a very restorative effect on lower back pain and poor posture.

Yoga is a fantastic aid with the stretching of muscles for people who play a lot of sports/run/cycle. Yin yoga would help support these people with their training and recovery to slow down and stretch into targeted areas.

The Benefits in Pregnancy

With specific adaptations, yoga and pilates are both considered safe and highly beneficial, in pregnancy.

One of the most popular prenatal classes, yoga helps to strengthen your core muscles, ease back pain and maintain muscle tone while being a gentle exercise, that’s also kind to your joints and helps you to relax.

In prenatal classes pelvic floor, aching neck and shoulders, loss of stamina and maintaining flexibility are addressed. Practising yoga can improve sleep, reduce stress and help maintain a healthy posture during pregnancy.

Pilates is considered one of the most effective exercises in pre and post natal women as it targets the muscles that generally weaken during pregnancy.

During pregnancy the body is constantly changing. Pilates is an effective and safe way to build the strength and endurance that will help you cope better with those changes. It is also great for keeping the pelvis strong to assist the process of a natural birth, labour can last for several hours and core muscles will fatigue easily if they have not been trained throughout pregnancy. Mother-to-be who regularly exercise their core muscles may have reduced lower back and pelvic pain.