From an outsider’s perspective, yoga and pilates seem like the same thing. It’s true that they both involve a lot of crazy-looking positions and can build physical health.
But, there are actually some key differences between yoga and pilates.
While yoga and pilates are both great for your wellbeing, they target slightly different aspects of your mind and body. Let’s take a look at what sets yoga and pilates apart.
What is yoga?
Yoga is an ancient practice that began in India approximately 10,000 years ago. This low-impact, mind-body practice can be used by all body types and fitness levels.
There are tons of different yoga styles, with each being guided by a specialised yoga teacher. Common types of yoga include:
Hatha yoga is possibly the most common style practised in the western world. It’s a beautiful melting pot of yoga styles. A typical yoga class will begin with an ‘Om’ chant, while you’re seated on a yoga exercise mat. You’ll then start the class, which involves holding a series of static poses, each with their own name and meaning.
For the most part, poses are pretty challenging. They’re excellent if you want improve strength, flexibility and posture. Think positions like the one above, which is downward facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana). In this instance, your body makes an ‘A’ shape as your hands and feet press to the floor.
Sometimes, props like blocks or buckles are used in yoga practice, but nothing too intense. Classes usually end with a guided meditation, where you lay flat and simply relax. Meditation is a great way to improve your overall health and wellbeing. Most yoga classes also incorporate breathing techniques, as this helps the body-mind achieve deeper relaxation.
Benefits of Yoga
There are heaps of health benefits associated with regular yoga practice. This special form of exercise supports the mind-body connection. Plus, it promotes physical and psychological wellbeing to help you perform at your peak.
When you use proper form, yoga poses benefit:
Studies show that yoga has many mental health benefits. This is because yoga postures and deep breathing promote stress relief. Not only does this lower stress hormones, it also increases feel-good chemicals in the brain. This is beneficial if you’re stressed, anxious, depressed or prone to mood swings.
Yoga is the type of exercise that gifts you with improved flexibility over time. It gently nurtures the connective tissues, massages the organs and moisturises the joints. This helps to ‘open up’ the body so blood, oxygen and nutrients flow more freely. It’s an excellent, low-impact way to support ranges of motion, treat joint pain and improve poor posture.
Even though yoga is a low-impact workout, it can promote weight loss. Choose any of the heated yoga styles, like Hot or Bikram, and you’ll have an effective exercise for weight control. These styles of yoga get you in the ‘fat burning zone’ by boosting your heart rate to approx. 120 beats per minute, for at least 20 minutes . As an added benefit, using yoga for weight loss may decrease your risk of heart disease.
Hormone health can improve when you practice yoga regularly. Primary benefits relate to lowered stress levels, which has a huge impact on overall hormone balance. However, there are also yoga postures that specifically target the endocrine glands. Some support the pancreas and aid insulin levels. Other nourish the thyroid and help T3 and T4 status.
What is pilates?
Pilates is younger than yoga and was invented in the in the 20th century for muscle rehabilitation. While it’s still low-impact, pilates is a bit more dynamic than most schools of yoga and has a bigger focus on fitness. Instead of holding static poses, it’s all about slow movement designed to tone, strengthen and improve posture. While yoga concentrates on flexibility, pilates focus on core strength and body conditioning. Think planks, sidekicks and slow pushups.
Unlike yoga, which use basic props at most, pilates classes use special equipment and exercise machines. This can include anything from reformer beds (pictured above) and medicine balls, to bands and weights. Diaphragmatic breathing is also an in important part of pilates. It involves taking deep, wide breaths to fill all areas of the ribcage. This calming breath helps to fuel the muscles.
Benefits of pilates
Pilates exercise can make you feel strong and (almost) invisible. It’s an empowering practice that can have a positive impact on the entire body. Here are some of the major pilates benefits:
Movements in pilates target your core, even though it’s technically a total body workout. This happens because many exercises require you to stabilise your torso, whole moving your arms or legs in different directions. This activates the abdominal muscles and other major groups to improve core stability and core control. It also results in a firmer stomach 🙂
Pilates can improve your physical posture. It does this by engaging your deep core muscles, i.e. the abdominals, back and pelvic floor. This allows your shoulders and neck to relax. It also reduces pressure on your hips, legs and feet. The result is better posture and confidence. It also reduces your risk for injury and the potential of urinary incontinence.
You need to focus on your body when you do pilates movements. Research shows that having body awareness when you move is good for your nervous system. This may even result in lower stress hormones (cortisol) and more endorphins in your blood. This is good news if you have stress, anxiety or depression.
Pilates improves core strength, muscle health and flexibility. This, progressively, helps the body function more efficiently. It also stimulates self-healing processes. This makes pilates excellent for treating acute and chronic pain related to the musculoskeletal system. This further reduces your risk of injuries because your body is in better shape.
Pilates Vs. Yoga: Which workout is better?
There really is no ‘better’ when it comes to choosing between these physical practices.
If your personal preference is having a spiritual practice that also works your body-mind, yoga is for you. There are many forms of yoga for you to choose from.
However, if you want to become strong, tone up and work your core muscles, try a pilates class.
You may also want to consider what health conditions you’re dealing with (if any) before deciding.
Should a beginner start with Yoga or Pilates?
A beginner can start with yoga or pilates. There’s no wrong choice, as both forms of exercise have beginner and advanced levels. Yoga and pilates are trusted by health professionals and physical therapists internationally. So, think about your health goals and select a workout routine from there.
Can you do Yoga and Pilates together?
Yes! Combining pilates and yoga is excellent for physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. Adopt both practices and you could enjoy:
- a healthy mood
- improved muscle strength
- a strong core (hello, flat stomach!)
- better postural alignment
- enhanced flexibility and muscle control
- injury prevention
- less stress
- a deeper spiritual connection
- + so much more!
Final takeaways on Pilates Vs Yoga
Pilates and yoga are stellar low-impact exercises.
Not only do their precise movements promote optimal physical movement and body strength. They also have a spiritual component that nurtures your inner self and mental health.
As you know, the major difference is that yoga simply requires an exercise mat to get started. You can practically do it anywhere, anytime. On the other hand, pilates exercises require specialised equipment. This means it’s not as readily accessibly 24/7. But, your physical body and mentality will thank you if make the effort and visit pilates classes.
Interested in pilates, yoga, or both? Avaana can connect you with the best yoga and pilates instructors near you. It’s time to pop on some tights, roll out your mat and get moving (or stretching)!