Sara Talbert, Director of Pilates
Pilates and yoga have many of the same goals in mind, and many see the value in both. So, what’s the difference?
The purpose of yoga is to unite the mind, body and spirit. Yoga teachers see the mind and body as one. Yoga is considered a therapeutic activity: it can be a way to heal the body and find mental harmony. It gives your body more flexibility and promotes relaxation even in the most stressful of times. Many people start taking yoga to reduce stress.
In yoga, several movements are performed on a yoga mat and the weight of the body is used as resistance. This takes a great amount of focus, and the flow in and out of each position is fluid. There are many types of yoga classes available, from very athletic Power Vinyasa to very gentle Hatha.
In Pilates, the focus is on the core, specifically the spine, so the rest of the body can move freely and grow stronger both inside and out. The work is geared towards balancing flexibility and strength, resulting in a stronger body. The major difference from yoga is, in addition to mat work, Pilates incorporates difference exercise machines.
Using Your Breath
- Yoga might be the most effective exercise to combat depression or anxiety because it focuses on the mind as well as the body. In yoga, the breathing exercises help you to achieve relaxation. Throughout a yoga routine, it’s important to continuously concentrate on how the breath is being employed. Sending the breath to areas that may be tight or are holding stress can help relax these specific muscle groups in your body.
- In Pilates, the breath is guided by the direction of body movement. For example, you would inhale when the body extends and exhale when the body flexes. The breath is used as a technique to provide muscles with the energy needed to exercise effectively. Concentrating on breathing technique throughout Pilates will help you engage the deeper stabilizing muscles in the body. When doing Pilates, one movement connects to the next with the mantra that movement heals.
Developing Abdominal Muscles
- Yoga and Pilates both contain several poses and exercises that are suitable for toning the abdominal muscles. One of the best Pilates exercises for the core is the first exercise in the mat work named the Hundred. The jump-board is another way to target the deeper layer of abdominals. In yoga, every time you do a plank, you are using your abdominals.
Dealing with Back Pain
- For individuals with back pain, both yoga and Pilates poses can provide results for stronger and more supportive back muscles. Care has to be taken with some yoga poses and Pilates exercises, as they can actually make the existing problems worse. Be sure to talk with your instructor prior to a session.
Improving Flexibility and Strength
- Yoga can be used for improving the flexibility of the body, and it will also gradually increase the flexibility of your joints. Pilates focuses on trying to relax tense muscles and providing strengthening and connecting to the deeper stabilizers in the body.
- Yoga and Pilates are both wonderful for toning and strengthening all of the muscles groups in your body. Pilates equipment uses springs, which provide a resistance on the body that will help build muscle and prevent bone loss.
In the end, the easiest way to decide whether Pilates or yoga is best for you is to have a go at both! Try one class of each and see what you think. You may also find you like both, as they pair well with each other. Both Pilates and yoga strengthen your muscles, get your body in better shape, relieve stress and expand flexibility.