What’s the Difference Between Pilates and Yoga?

What’s the Difference Between Pilates and Yoga?

As a collective, our society is placing a greater emphasis on physical and mental well-being, adopting healthy self-care regimens to nurture our minds and bodies. And, let’s face it, with all of life’s little stressors, we need an outlet to relax and unwind. 
Yoga…Pilates…PiYo…Yogilates…geez. Despite the popularity and longevity of Pilates and yoga,  the evolution of these two exercise methods has created some confusion. Boundless variations of each discipline have manifested at studios and gyms across the globe. Iyengar, Ashtanga, and Vinyasa, for example, are all relatively modern incarnations of traditional yoga practices. Inevitably, as the exercise arena has become more commercialized, new deviations of Pilates have cropped up as well. 
So, what’s the difference between the two?

Pilates History and Benefits

Compared to yoga, the origin of Pilates is fairly recent. Developed in 1920 by a German-born man named Joseph H. Pilates, the exercise was created as a form of rehabilitation. As a child, Joseph faced numerous ailments, like rheumatic fever, asthma, and rickets – all contributing to his frail and deteriorating physical health. By studying various exercise methods, such as boxing, Jiu-Jitsu, body-building, and gymnastics, Joseph H. Pilates was able to engineer his own techniques, methodology, and movements – which intertwined yoga-based principles with isometric resistance exercises. His teachings, which later ignited a global revolution, significantly improved both his health and physical prowess. 
Pilates was built as a means for enhancing strength, flexibility, and body awareness without accumulating bulk. The central goal of engaging in Pilates exercises is to improve posture, elongate and stabilize the spine, develop balance, strengthen your core, and improve overall strength through the use of mindful movements with breath control. 
Pilates has six key principles: breathing, control, concentration, precision, flow, and centering. By pairing these fundamentals with the right mindset, Pilates provider a longer, leaner, toned body. Exercises can be performed on a mat without equipment or in conjunction with machines created solely for Pilates, like the reformer, tower, and the Cadillac. 

What You Can Expect From Pilates Exercises

A posture that rivals royalty | With an emphasis on proper body alignment, you will begin noticing that you hold yourself differently. You’ll sit straighter, stand taller, increase your balance, and possess better coordination.

Bulk-free is the way to be | Pilates movements were designed to lengthen and strengthen your muscles in a manner that’ll create a toned, lean physique rather than a bulky one. 

Ahh…stress relief | Due to the mind-body connection encouraged during Pilates workouts, you can expect to reduce anxiety and stress levels. Bring on the tranquility!

Summon a new inner strength | You wouldn’t believe how effective Pilates can be when it comes to forging a healthier relationship with your body and mind. Over time, it’s as if you switched the radio dial and you’re suddenly more in tune with your individual needs. 

Goodbye toxins | When you practice Pilates regularly, the workouts will help increase your metabolic rate, improve digestion, and strengthen your immune system.

Feel energized & passionate about life | Rather than feeling dead-tired and completely wiped out following your Pilates workout, you’ll find yourself feeling energized, focused, and clear-minded. It truly gives you a whole new perspective on life

The History of Yoga

Developed in India over 5,000 years ago, yoga was created as a means of uniting the individual consciousness with the universal consciousness through physical exercises. By leveraging repetitive movements, yoga focuses on improving your emotional and spiritual health. Many engage in the practice for its therapeutic benefits. In addition to building flexibility and targeting a broad range of muscle groups, many variations of yoga incorporate a meditative aspect into the workout as well. 
Yoga classes come in all shapes and sizes – from physically stimulating to relaxing. Some popular forms include: Vinyasa, Hatha, Bikram, Iyengar, Ashtanga, Kundalini, and Yin.

Key Differences Between Pilates and Yoga

Yoga and Pilates Differences

Photo Credit: Let’s Start Pilates
Although Pilates and yoga share some similarities – like their low-impact exercises – the workouts themselves differ from one another. Yoga classes involve a series of poses (like tree pose, downward dog, cobra, and warrior pose) that use your own body weight as a form of resistance training. Yoga utilizes the body to form a connection between the mind and your inner self, while Pilates focuses on mindfulness as a way to bolster awareness and unite the mind to the inner workings of your body. 

One of the main differences between the two is the spiritual aspect associated with practicing yoga. In both exercises, however, some of the poses are very similar. For example, in Pilates, there’s a movement called the elephant, which is essentially the same as performing yoga’s downward dog.

Think of Pilates and yoga as two best friends – they both enjoy a glass of bubbly and complement one another quite nicely, but they’re not the same person. Pilates embraces her inner nerd and is incredibly science-based. The focus lies on building strength, improving fitness, and correcting posture through mindful movements and breathing techniques. Pilates is well-known and celebrated for its ability to provide those who practice the workout with a stronger core, enhanced posture, and more toned look. 

Pilates’ BFF yoga, on the other hand, is steeped in a more spiritual and meditative practice, where the physical aspects of the workout become secondary in terms of importance. Both, however, place an emphasis on low-intensity, low-impact exercises. They’re also similar in that they both encourage a healthy mind-body connection. Each, however, is unique in why and how they incorporate mindfulness into their workouts. Yoga and Pilates ultimately approach movement from opposing sides – they encompass different breathing techniques and exercises (although a few movements happen to be similar).

The best part? Both workout methods target muscle groups that you don’t normally access with other types of exercises. Married to your Monday boxing classes for the past few years? Kudos! But, the reality is, you’ll struggle just like any new Pilates or yoga beginner. Even if you consider yourself incredibly fit and run 5 miles daily, your muscles will still experience that rewarding achy soreness after your first stab at one of these two workouts.

Pilates or Yoga? Which One is Right for You?

So, how do you choose between Pilates or yoga? The deciding factor ultimately relies on what your individual goals are. If you play sports (like tennis or golf) or have back issues, Pilates provides the foundation for building core strength and stability and you’ll reap a number of benefits from the exercise. Pilates’ low-impact style will put your muscles through the ringer and still provide that feel-good burn and shake that comes with an impactful and effective workout sess. 

If you’re someone seeking relaxation, improved flexibility, and a better mind-body connection, then you may want to give yoga a try. Many people approach yoga as their outlet for recentering themselves and reducing stress. When it comes to how each method will make your body feel, both Pilates and yoga are designed to improve your balance, alignment, and strength. As far as cardio intensity is concerned, both also rank low on the calorie-burning scale. I’d suggest giving both a try as each provides a myriad of benefits you can’t find anywhere else. 

Whether you’re someone who loves yoga’s Zen-like vibes or you can’t get enough of that feel-good burn from a Pilates boat pose, the most important thing to remember is investing time in self-care and showing your body the love it deserves.

Ready to experience the transformative power of Pilates workouts? I promise they’re 100% sustainable and 0% overwhelming.