We read of so many fads and exercise routines and can become quite confused by them. And what’s more, there are now a whole line-up of combination workouts like Power Yoga, Hot Yoga, Aerobic Pilates, and the like. One question that many beginners new to exercising are faced with is the choice between Pilates and yoga. Well, this depends on your goals and what you are seeking from your exercise routine.
Both are tried and true
Yoga is an ancient Indian philosophy, more than 5000 years old, attributed to Patanjali. Today, Hatha, Bikram, Vinyasa, Iyengar are popular.
Pilates is more modern. It was developed by the German, Joseph Pilates, in the 1920s, who introduced it in America to help rehabilitate injured WW1 soldiers. It has since been adapted and modified with calisthenics, yoga, and ballet, and used by dancers and others to strengthen and tone their bodies.
What’s the focus?
Yoga works your entire body through different postures and controlled breathing, while Pilates focus on your core which comprises the deepest muscles in your abdomen, inner thighs, butt and lower back.
Body, Mind or Soul
Both yoga and Pilates work on your body through your mind. Both require focus and concentration to achieve mind-body coordination. But yoga has a third dimension. It also aims at enhancing the spiritual element which is why it is so highly recommended for stress management.
Relief from pain
Both yoga and Pilates are good for rehabilitation, Pilates is especially effective for quicker physical rehabilitation and pain relief. Yoga takes a more holistic approach and targets emotional, mental and physical rehabilitation.
It’s all in the breathing
In Pilates, breath is used as a technique to channel energy to the muscles to make them work efficiently. In yoga, breathing is to relax the mind, improve concentration and relax specific muscle groups.
Aerobic or not
Both work all the major muscle-groups and strengthen and lengthen them, but never to the point of exhaustion. While Pilates is not an aerobic exercise and you will not work up a sweat, certain yogasanas (postures) can increase your heart rate and make you sweat. Yet, yoga as exercise is not aerobic either.
While neither of these routines is an aerobic form of exercise, both are low-impact and suitable for almost all ages. Both yoga and Pilates improve your flexibility and tone your muscles, but yoga is gentler while Pilates is more intense and aimed at achieving faster results.
Suitable for beginners
Both yoga and Pilates are suitable for beginners as the level and intensity can be adapted and increased according to your fitness level. At a basic level, just an exercise mat will do for Pilates. As you advance you will need equipment, most of which can be found in your Pilates class. These are special spring-loaded machines that create resistance to create stability and increase mobility throughout the body. Yoga uses body-weight for resistance and you have no need for any special equipment – a mat, towel or rug will do the trick.
So, which is better? Yoga or Pilates? That depends on what your goals and motivations are:
If you are looking to manage stress, learn meditation or feel the need for quiet reflection, yoga is the answer. While both tone and strengthen the body, yoga looks at the mental and spiritual angle through breath-control. If you don’t want too much of the ‘spirituality’ you can choose a more secular class. Also, while Pilates does improve flexibility, it is not the focus as it is in yoga. An asana or posture involves stretching and holding a pose to improve flexibility of muscles and slowly joints as well.
If you are looking for quicker results and to improve posture and movement, go for Pilates. If the aim is to lose weight, tone your abs, tighten your glutes, and strengthen your lower back and thighs, Pilates will be more effective than yoga. If you have suffered an injury and looking to for pain-relief, improving range of movement and rehabilitation, Pilates will definitely show positive results sooner.
Now what? How do you begin?
Try out both yoga and Pilates at home. There are a bunch of videos on YouTube that you can follow. These will help you decide which you prefer.
While you could do yoga and Pilates by following a DVD, there really is something to be said for learning from a professional.
Go online and check out the places that teach these exercise forms close to where you live.
Pick more than one so you will have a choice.
Go over and talk to the instructor about your goals and needs.
See if you can get a free trial class or two to help you decide whether it’s yoga or Pilates is for you.