As all great mind-body connection practices today, both Yoga and Pilates should be celebrated for their numerous health benefits. Both disciplines strengthen and lengthen the body through focusing on breath, alignment, balance, strength and flexibility. Both are also practiced barefoot and both follow a set of poses and movements, some of which overlap.
However, while both Yoga and Pilates are low-impact exercises that can be performed on a mat (or Reformer bed), they’re actually two totally different styles of exercise with different benefits.
Yoga is an ancient practice originating from India. It aims to unite the body, mind and spirit through breath, movement and meditation. It’s renowned to be a therapeutic exercise as it’s held in a more meditative environment that allows students to self-observe, and become more aware of their own nature. The practice is deeply rooted in spirituality, using breath work to find mental harmony, while incorporating elements of philosophy and science.
Classes can range from gentle and nourishing, to challenging and sweaty. There are so many different hybrids and styles of yoga, from Ashtanga, Vinyasa and Hatha, to Yin Restorative, Yoga Nidra and Bikram. This means there is bound to be a class for everyone. Generally speaking, each class involves a set of poses performed on a yoga mat, which uses the weight of the body as resistance, whilst focusing on breath and presence, to deepen into each stretch.
Pilates and beginner Pilates on the other hand, works from the core of your body outward. Although Pilates and beginner Pilates doesn’t focus on spirituality the way Yoga does, its origins are still rooted in healing and rehabilitation. German inventor, Joseph Pilates, invented Pilates as an exercise program for injured dancers and soldiers in the 20th century. He interweaved his knowledge of bodybuilding, yoga, circus, calisthenics, gymnastics, skiing, boxing and martial arts, with Eastern practices and Zen Buddhism, to design a series of vigorous physical exercises which would correct muscular imbalances and improve posture, co-ordination, balance, strength and flexibility
Pilates and beginner Pilates can be practiced using either a mat or a reformer machine. Other props, like bands, dumbbells, balls, and rings, can be introduced throughout class to diversify the moves. While Pilates still incorporates a lot of breath-work and mindfulness, its focus is more physical in nature, as it uses very specific targeted exercises to improve strength, flexibility and posture with particular emphasis on the core.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
Overall, the biggest difference between beginner Pilates and Yoga is the overall goal. Yoga is often considered a holistic practice, or even a lifestyle, whereas Pilates is a workout. Pilates has a heavier focus on benefiting the physical body, whereas yoga has a philosophical, spiritual and physical focus that stems from ancient Indian culture. Yoga isn’t so much goal orientated, but rather an invitation for you to feel more, by shifting your focus to the body and the breath.
Pilates on the other hand, is more athletic in nature. Its main goal is to strengthen the core, improve posture, stabilize and elongate the spine, while developing balance and overall strength. While there is breath work and mindfulness involved, there isn’t so much a focus on spirituality.
WHICH IS BETTER?
The good news is that you don’t have to choose between the two. At Kaya, we recommend incorporating both yoga and Pilates into your lifestyle as both practices complement each other. Practicing one will provide results that will only strengthen your relationship with other, so combining them together is an amazing way to transform your daily routine.
WHICH IS BETTER FOR STRESS RELIEF?
While both practices are great for stress relief, yoga is probably the best for combatting stress, as one of the greatest benefits of yoga is the way it works on your mental wellbeing. Yoga is renowned for calming the sympathetic nervous system, which aids with stress and balances adrenals, so many people practice yoga purely to destress and re-centre themselves. The way yoga also allows you to stretch and strengthen muscles as you move through various poses, provides a physical exertion that prepares the body for meditation. So the results are not only physical, but mental as well. Unlike Pilates, yoga classes also tend to incorporate a lot of relaxation practices on to the mat, which is great for those looking for stress relief.
WHICH BURNS MORE CALORIES?
Pilates and beginner Pilates is definitely more work-out and fitness orientated, so the chances are you’ll end up burning more calories in a Pilates’ class than you would in yoga. Pilates and beginner Pilates tends to also have greater focus on muscle toning. So if you are trying to lose weight, using a Pilates’ reformer machine will add more cardio and fitness to your Pilates poses, which in turn, will help you burn more calories.
WHICH IS BETTER FOR FLEXIBILITY?
Yoga tends to focus on stretching a lot more than Pilates does, so yoga is probably your best bet for improved flexibility. Yoga poses force you to lengthen your muscles and increase your range of motion. The breath-work involved simply deepens you into the stretch, allowing you to elongate the tendons and muscle fibres.
WHICH BUILDS MORE STRENGTH?
Both! Yoga and Pilates both incorporate strength work in different ways. Pilates and beginner Pilates focuses more on core strength to support exercises that tone all areas of the body and improves posture, and yoga focuses on holding poses for an extended period of time to strengthen the muscles. In other words, the practices work hand in hand so combine both into your lifestyle to take your strength to the next level.
SEE WHAT WORKS FOR YOU:
Overall, yoga and Pilates are deeply beneficial, transformative mind-body practices and at Kaya we offer classes of both! To see which one is right for you, we recommend trying out a few different classes of each so you can make an informed decision. However, it’s important to remember that yoga and Pilates don’t have to be two separate practices! For maximum benefits, we recommend incorporating both Pilates and yoga into your lifestyle. The emphasis on core strength in Pilates and beginner Pilates means you can do more in your yoga practice, and visa-versa, so combined together they have the ability to completely transform your alignment, balance, strength and quality of life.