YOGA VS. PILATES - WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

Although they have very different histories, and very different focuses, it seems that these days Yoga and Pilates are spoken about as similar practices.

plank pose

It’s common, for example, to see Yoga or Pilates studios offering both forms of exercise, and while that’s not a bad thing in itself, it has led to some confusion about what each practice offers and the benefits it can provide.

In this quick overview, we share some of the key differences between yoga and Pilates, but also hope to show that as with most things in life, there’s room for both.

Philosophies

Although it has numerous health benefits, at its core, yoga is a spiritual practice based on Hindu philosophies. At least this is where it originated; the spiritual side was somewhat lost in translation when it came to the west, and the main elements that were adopted were based on hatha yoga practice, which focuses yoga as physical exercise. That said, there does remain a more spiritual ethos around yoga, as demonstrated through the focus on breath, mind-body connection, and the meditation elements. 

Pilates, however, was designed with the sole purpose of improving the mechanics of the human body. It was developed by a man called Joseph Pilates (hence the name) as a way to strengthen the body through very targeted and highly specific exercises. 

Although they do differ in their history and development, it is also true that there are areas of overlap in their philosophies. Examples include the belief that the mind and body are connected, and that breathing is hugely important to the optimal functioning of the body.

Varieties

Due to its long history and its widespread adoption across the globe, yoga has evolved a great deal over the centuries. As a result, there are now many different forms of exercise-focused yoga practices available in the west. Examples include Hatha Yoga, Bikram Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga, and many more. Each focuses on a slightly different element of wellbeing, and the variety is proving immensely popular as people are seeking more personalised exercises that fit their needs. 

Pilates is somewhat more fixed in its approach. The practice is based on a set of physical movements as developed by Joseph Pilates several decades ago. However, while it has undergone less radical evolution than yoga, even within a few decades Pilates has been adapted to make it more accessible to a greater number of people. Although the exercises are primarily based on specific principles of movement, the introduction of varying difficulty levels and the inclusion of equipment means that it can be adapted to suit many different abilities, and as with yoga, this means that a more personalised exercise experience is now available.

Pilates, however, was designed with the sole purpose of improving the mechanics of the human body. It was developed by a man called Joseph Pilates (hence the name) as a way to strengthen the body through very targeted and highly specific exercises. 

Although they do differ in their history and development, it is also true that there are areas of overlap in their philosophies. Examples include the belief that the mind and body are connected, and that breathing is hugely important to the optimal functioning of the body.

Physical (and Mental) Benefits

When it comes to the benefits of yoga and Pilates both have extremely powerful outcomes when practiced on a regular basis. However, they do have slightly different health benefits, especially on a physical level. 

As we explored in our recent blog post, yoga isn’t just about being bendy, but flexibility is one of the main benefits of long-term practice. In addition, yoga is particularly good for relaxation, and keeping the joints supple. 

Pilates tends to be more focused on core strength, which also helps in building a strong back, reducing back pain, and improving posture. 

That said, there are, again, overlaps between the two. Both forms of exercise offer a full body workout, they can both aid in improving balance, both support good breathing practices, and both are good for developing strong muscles.

 

So while there definitely are differences between Yoga and Pilates, there are also lots of commonalities between them, which probably goes some way to explaining why there’s sometimes a confusion over what each practice offers and the benefits it can provide.

Ultimately, the similarities means that if you discover that you prefer Yoga over Pilates or vice versa, you can still enjoy a huge range of benefits for your body and mind. Equally, though, because there are subtle differences it means that if you love them both, you don’t have to choose.

And because there are so many different forms of Yoga and Pilates these days, it’s easier than ever to find the right class for your needs, and take advantage of all those health and wellbeing benefits that both Yoga and Pilates offer.

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