Overall, yoga and Pilates aim for the same results, but with different methods. They utilize separate styles of breathing and a different viewpoint. The benefits of both have many similarities, such as weight loss, increased muscle tone, better balance and increased strength. However, familiarizing yourself with the differences between the two may allow you to see the benefits for yourself of one versus the other, and maximize those positives.
When beginning yoga, the basics are breathing, how to meditate, and specific poses. The focus is on, well, focus. The poses are a means to an end. Many different poses will be taught, such as arm balancing, twists, standing poses, lunges, and more. Beginners are often surprised at how personal issues can be dealt with quite well with yoga, as this is a big part of yoga’s aims (separating yourself from the daily grind).
Pilates teaches people about their own body, as well as how to maintain flexibility. It focuses on building core strength. The main difference from yoga is that Pilates does not utilize meditation or spiritual ideas. Pilates works more on increasing strength, balance & flexibility. You’re more likely to “push” yourself in a pilates class, while in a Yoga class, you’re more likely to back off and concentrate on an exercise that’s more comfortable.
Where yoga is similar to Pilates is that they both usually open up a body in new ways, especially if you spend all day sitting at a desk. Furthermore, they are great for people of all ages and sizes. If you have achy joints, shin splints or are prone to pulled muscles, either of these can be a great alternative to running, lifting, etc. They also both utilize straps, wedges and other similar props during any exercise.
The mentality of yoga is that of Eastern philosophy. It’s all about taking the body and mind to a place of self-discovery. A state of peace (through meditation) is the goal of a yoga session. With Pilates, the focus is more on building the body with strength, versus the mind. While yoga has been around for centuries, Pilates is relatively new, and largely incorporates techniques from Yoga and numerous fitness regimens to achieve its aims.
With yoga, the movements utilized are static. They are intended to be held for long periods of time. You don’t count with seconds or minutes, but with breaths. It’s all about what works for you. If 10 seconds of stretching is what you like, then that’s what you should do. In Pilates, you’ll do some stretching, but you’ll do just as many repetitive movements. Here, it won’t be about breathing, but a certain number of reps. So, you’ll do 10 leg raises one each side, the same as everyone else in class.
If you prefer a more physical exercise program, then Pilates may be the better option for you. If you want a more spiritual activity that just happens to make you look and feel better, then yoga may be best for you. Either way, you’ll see increase benefits after a few weeks, and you’ll probably swear by whichever you choose! My suggestion? Do both! Alternate between the two and do each weekly. You can’t go wrong there! They’ll likely help each other out.