Yoga vs Pilates – How To Make The Right Decision For You

The ancient practice of Yoga and its younger, hip sibling Pilates have become the world’s most popular workouts in the last ten years. The question of yoga vs pilates must be considered by many when choosing a daily workout routine.

yoga vs pilatesAccording to the American Heart Association, there are over 100 types of Yoga styles and perhaps as many of Pilates.

Because of the common features that both share, even a new style has emerged: Yogalates. You guessed it—it’s a combination of Yoga and Pilates.

But at their core, Yoga vs Pilates are quite different, not only when it comes to different outcomes for your body but also when you consider the spiritual aspects of Yoga.

The movements and breathing techniques used in Yoga are just tools in the grander scheme. The ultimate goals of the practice are peace of mind and mindfulness.

Pilates, on the other hand, lacks any lifestyle or philosophical implications. It’s a full workout system that was initially designed to help injured soldiers. It’s gentle yet effective, especially if you want to flatten your stomach.

Want to know more? Let’s meet the competitors and see what they have to offer.

Yoga 101

Born 5,000 ago, the oldest competitor is not just an effective workout routine. For many, it’s a lifestyle that involves tolerance, stoicism, and a journey to self-discovery.

However, that doesn’t mean Yoga is only for people interested in spirituality, as the practice of Yoga can be done without meditation. Rather, it just means that in a Yoga studio respect, tolerance, and a no-phone policy are encouraged.

However, since there are so many videos out there, you can start doing yoga at home on your mat.

The poses, or asanas, that you see in Yoga studios are used to gain better control over your body, control your breathing, and reach a state of calmness.

Because of Yoga’s emphasis on healing the mind, it’s effects go beyond fixing a stiff neck or treating scoliosis. It has calming effects on your sympathetic nervous system and on your hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis.

The first is responsible for controlling your cortisol (stress hormone) levels, whereas the other can be beneficial for hormonal imbalances caused by the pituitary gland.

What a Yoga Session Looks like

To start practicing yoga, you just need a mat. You can also incorporate props if you plan to have a Restorative yoga session.

Additionally, you will need a comfortable outfit with breathable fabrics such as cotton, and, of course, yoga leggings or tights.

Yoga can be done at home, in a studio under the supervision of a yogi, or even in crowded places (though the latter is more for experienced practitioners who know how to “block” out the world around them).

Because yoga is a practice focused on relaxation and mindfulness, if you take the studio route, you have to respect a few general rules:

● No cell phones
● No discussions with your workout buddies
● Leave your shoes in the lobby
● Be on time since the studio locks up after class begins

Respecting these rules makes it easier for you and others to relax, block out negative thoughts, and focus on your movements and breathing.

How Do I Find My Own Style?

Yoga can be both calming and challenging on your body, depending on your goals. You can relax and improve your flexibility at any size, or you can challenge yourself with an intense Yoga session.

Before you get started, it’s important to familiarize yourself with basic poses and test your limits in a safe manner using props.

Restoration yoga is a gentle, easy-on-the-joints style that can be practiced by elders, people with injuries, or by the those who want to engage in some type of physical activity during rest days.

After you become accustomed with the basics of Yoga as well as your own limits, you can then make the decision regarding what yoga style you should try next.

Ashtanga, Bikram, and Hatha Yoga

Ashtanga characteristics:

● Intense, competitive, and challenging for your core
● A workout system that requires at least 5 days of practice per week
● Encourages lean mass growth

Recommended for driven, competitive yoga practitioners who don’t suffer from any injuries and are used to challenging workouts.

Bikram characteristics:

● Takes place in rooms heated up to 100 degrees
● Features over 26 poses dedicated to practitioners with mobility issues
● Encourages the detoxifying process through sweating

Birkram is recommended for practitioners who have back problems, stiff necks, and poor mobility, as heat increases the mobility of the human body.

On the flip side, this yoga style isn’t ideal for those suffering from hypertension or diabetes.

Hatha characteristics:

● Focuses on breathing and relaxation
● Slower paced stretching
● A broad term that covers a number of contemporary styles

Hatha is the most popular style of yoga found in the western world and focuses on breathing techniques that relax the body.

This yoga style is also used by those who want to focus more on meditation and less on burning calories.

What You Can Accomplish with Yoga

The goal of all yoga styles is to help practice detachment. You can think of yoga as a stoic exercise that uses breathing and movements to help you cope more effectively with stress.

But if you’re more interested in the effects that yoga has on your body and not on your mental state, here is my list of 10 ways yoga can benefit you:

  1. Increases flexibility
  2. Regulates blood pressure
  3. Drains your lymphs and fights inflammation
  4. Fights osteoporosis
  5. Lowers your cortisol levels
  6. Fights stiffness in your body
  7. Helps you get better sleep
  8. Lowers blood sugar levels
  9. Protects your spine
  10. Promotes well-being

I hope I helped you get a clearer picture of what yoga is and what it does. Now, let’s move on our second competitor, Pilates.

What Is Pilates?

Pilates is a form of exercise used for decades by the elite. Only within the last few decades has it entered into mainstream fitness routines.

The system was developed with injured soldiers in mind. Joseph Pilates, the inventor of Pilates, refined his practices in hospitals and in the dance community in Germany.

One of the reasons why Pilates became so popular in the 20’s was the ease as well as the wide variety of people who can benefit from the Pilates method.

Unlike Yoga, Pilates doesn’t have any philosophy. It’s just a workout method meant to gradually strengthen your core and improve your flexibility.

What a Pilates Session Looks like

Pilates, like yoga, can be done either at home or in a studio, and it’s usually done on a mat as well.

However, if you need extra support (practicing on a mat makes it hard to keep your posture), the Reformer, a machine invented by Joseph Pilates, will help you out during your routine.

Pilates works all of your muscles using movements that involve stretching and resistance. However, it focuses primarily on strengthening your core.

Similar to a yoga session, you will need equipment that is tight-fitting and avoid using shoes on the mat.

If you’re taking the studio route, you should know that unlike yoga classes, the doors won’t be locked once class begins. Also, you can chat with others, but keep in mind that it will damage the flow of your routine.

Pilates Styles

There are a number of schools that preserved the initial Pilates workouts created by Joseph Pilates and his wife Clara. However, there are also a number of modifications made to routine.

The only difference between the classic Pilates and the contemporary style is the fact that the latter is more customizable (i.e., if you have an injury and you don’t want to work the muscles in that area too hard, it provides an alternative).

Exercise Modifications

Pilates is all about protecting your body from injuries and helping you progress.
You’ll often notice that in a Pilates class you’re never forced to keep up with others.

Pilates instructors often recommend exercise modifications that smoothen the transitions from light workouts to more intense ones.

I put together a short list of recommendations you’ll probably receive in a Pilates studio, especially if you are a beginner:

  1. Always start with a warm-up routine
  2. Treat your head like an extension of your spine
  3. Support your neck and spine with a mattress or a low pillow
  4. Support your arms if you feel the need to
  5. Bend your knees for a gentler back workout
  6. Keep your legs lower to the ground when working your core
  7. Support your tight hamstrings with a lift under the hips
  8. Place soft fabric under your wrists to avoid pain when using your body weight during exercises

Pilates benefits

While it doesn’t have any impact on your well-being, nor does it tone each muscle group like Yoga, Pilates can benefit those who want to lose weight and build a stronger core.

To give you an idea of what Pilates can do for you, I put together a short list of benefits that come with popular workout method:

  1. Improved posture
  2. Stronger core and back muscles
  3. Weight loss
  4. Improved muscle elasticity and joint mobility
  5. Low risk of injuries
  6. Bone mass loss prevention

One of the biggest advantages of Pilates is that it can benefit anyone who gives it a try, unlike Yoga where certain styles involve heat or poses that could be less beginner-friendly.

Similarities Between Yoga and Pilates

Now that I’ve finished analyzing the two competitors separately, let’s take a look at what Yoga and Pilates have in common:

  1. Both Yoga and Pilates can be done with little to no equipment, and it’s up to you if you want to start the workouts in a studio or in your home.
  2. They both build lean mass and improve your posture.
  3. Breathing techniques are important in both workouts.
  4. Both can be customized to suit different fitness levels or injuries.

Differences Between Yoga and Pilates

Are you open to embracing a new philosophy with a focus on tolerance and stoicism, or do you just want a good workout?

Let’s take a look at the differences between two before you make the big decision:

1. Different Goals

The ultimate goal of Yoga is to unite the body with the mind. The term yoga actually means “unite.”

The poses, or asanas, are just practices that help the Yoga practitioner get a better control of their body. They smoothen the path to a more positive outlook of life.

Most people who take Yoga classes do so to relax, practice mindfulness, and get rid of the negative thoughts while exercising.

On the other hand, Pilates doesn’t have a spiritual element to it, and the goal of the workout is to get the most out of your body while avoiding injuries.

2. Different Practice

Yoga can be practiced anywhere. All you need is a mat and you’re ready to go. Contrarily, Pilates does require special equipment if you don’t want to put too much pressure on your back.

Yoga is practiced in a different manner in studios too, depending on the style. The temperature of the room may vary. Also, yogis practice a different studio etiquette.

Since Pilates has no connections to philosophy nor religion, the rules in the studio are the same as in any other fitness class.

3. Different Results

While both Pilates and Yoga work all of the muscles in your body, there’s no doubt that the latter focuses on larger muscle groups while the former strengthens your core.

Yoga vs Pilates? The Big Winner

Yoga can be great for you if you want to give meditation and breathing techniques a try. However, if you aren’t too interested in the spiritual dimension of yoga, you may feel uncomfortable doing it.

Pilates, on the other hand, is a gentle core-strengthening routine that focuses primarily on improving your physique.

Clearly, there is no real winner here. The personal decision of yoga or pilates must me made based on what you’re comfortable with as well as your goals.

Did you benefit from this article? Did I miss anything? Any feedback or suggestions would be appreciated – please post in the comments and I will personally respond!

Marcus Stone

Marcus Stone

Soon after graduating college with a degree in Journalism, Marcus decided to pursue his love for yoga and traveled to Rishikesh, India to complete his RYS 500 yoga teacher training. Marcus wants people to know that yoga is for everyone – no matter your race, gender, age, or physical ability. >> Read More
Marcus Stone

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2017-09-23T08:07:10-08:00

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