Yoga and Pilates are both very effective in building strength and flexibility. They also promote body awareness, enhance proprioception, and promote mindfulness. Moreover, both methods have been shown to improve posture and heal physical imbalances (most particularly in the spine).
With all their similarities, you might be wondering what sets the two of them apart. Read on below!
1. Their historical and cultural roots
Although it was much different from the kind of practice that we know today, yoga was developed in Northern India about 5,000 years ago. The word itself, in fact, was first mentioned in the Vedas—a collection of sacred texts with mantras and rituals to be practiced by priests.
Later on, Patanjali (also known as the father of contemporary yoga) created the “eight limbed path,” which detailed the different steps to enlightenment—including familiar practices like asana (posture) and pranayama (breath control) to more internal, ethical guidelines like the yamas and niyamas.
Pilates, on the other hand, was founded by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s. It had the initial objective of restoring physical strength back into injured soldiers and war veterans. It was also developed to enhance core strength, stabilize the spine, and improve overall posture.
That said, yoga was developed largely for spiritual connection and enlightenment, whereas Pilates was developed mainly for rehabilitation.
2. The variety of styles and equipment
There are different kinds of Pilates styles, such as Mat Pilates, Reformer Pilates, Stott Pilates, to name a few. Additionally, the Pilates method may involve a lot of equipment. The reformer is the most notable invention of Joseph Pilates, and was designed for movement, resistance, and stabilization.
Different exercises can be done on the Pilates reformer–sitting, standing, pulling onto the straps, pushing the footbar, and so on. With dedication and commitment to a Pilates practice, performing exercises on the reformer can help heal pain associated with injuries and physical imbalances.
When it comes to yoga, the main questions is what kind—from ashtanga and vinyasa, to restorative yoga and yin. Some types of yoga were developed mainly for relaxation, while others are intended mainly for building heat and strength, detoxifying the body and spirit, and increasing flexibility.
There are a variety of props that you can use in your practice, such as yoga blocks and straps. Depending on your need, though, you can actually get through an entire practice without using props at all.
3. The breath
For both yoga and Pilates, focusing on the breath is an essential part of each session. The breath techniques in yoga, however, are geared towards regulating temperature (especially if you’re in an ashtanga or vinyasa class), restoring vitality, as well as internal purification.
In Pilates, the breath is used to manage the amount of oxygen in your body in order to relax, activate, and control the core muscles.
4. The anatomical focus
If you’ve ever tried a Pilates class, your may have heard your instructor emphasize the core. This is because Pilates focuses on “the powerhouse muscles,” which includes the deep core muscles like the transverse abdominis, as well as the muscles of the spine and the hips.
Although yoga is also quite effective in building core strength, the classes can be quite varied. Some flow classes may focus more on building strength across the extremities—like the arms or legs. Others may focus on building towards a specific pose, like an arm balance or inversion.
If you’re in the mood for a very focused, results-driven routine, have a go at Pilates. Either way, both yoga and Pilates have a plethora of benefits for your body!