As a pilates teacher who also loves yoga, I want to discuss why these two disciplines are very different! Quite often one discipline comes with a strong following or belief and it can seem controversial to support the other. However, there are also so many similarities between pilates and yoga that I feel the two methods compliment each other perfectly with huge benefits!
Both yoga and pilates equally move the body, stretch, lengthen, and strengthen, as well as connecting the mind and body for full body wellness.
Ancient yoga or modern pilates?
The yoga practise dates back over 5000 years and originated in India. It is considered the oldest self-development discipline and “yoga” means “union”; the bringing together of the mind, body and spirit and using them all together. Yoga philosophy has 5 guidelines for self-discipline to live by that translate to: cleanliness, manifesting contentment, discipline and passion, self-study, & surrendering and trusting that everything happens as it should (thank you Namaslay: Rock Your Yoga Practice, Tap Into Your Greatness, & Defy Your Limits)
Pilates was created by Jospeh Pilates in Germany during World War Two in the 1960s. He continued to develop his method but never trademarked it and therefore others formed modified versions of it to create the numerous pilates schools we have today. Pilates has 8 main principles that focus on movement patterns: precision, flow, concentration, control, repetition, .
The mat-based practise of pilates & yoga
In pilates, all movements focus on moving from the core, engaging the core first and aligning the body to create muscle balance and strength symmetry through repetition. Mobility exercises are also interspersed to create natural, effective movement and allow the strengthening gains to occur from optimal alignment. The breath work and concentration required for core activation with movement stimulates the mind-body connection giving a better core engagement and also the sense of relaxation afterwards. Try this quick pilates workout to get started!
In yoga, movements often flow from one to the next creating equal balance of lengthening and strengthening in each pose. Individual poses can be held longer to encourage deeper flexibility rather than higher repetitions. These prolonged holds also tap into stimulating our parasympathetic system (the calming nervous system as opposed to your “fight or flight” system). This restore body balance and produces the calming outlook yoga portrays.
Yoga is basically a mat based practise, and can also be done without the mat. If practised properly a true yogi would be practising “yoga” off the mat in the philosophical term too. The main accessories used would be a block to help with height adjustments in the poses, a bolster to accompany relaxation poses, and/or a yoga strap like Yogamatters D-Ring Yoga Belt Strap – Natural Cotton, 2m (Ocean Green)to aid flexibility.
Pilates comes with quite a number of optional accessories. A head cushion is recommended to promote correct neck alignment when lying down. Weighted balls, resistance bands & circles like the Mirafit Deluxe Pilates Ring – Double Handle are all used within strength work to improve muscle activation. Spikey massage balls enhance body awareness and also provide muscle release. Soft balls are used to either offset balance for a stability challenge or to provide reinforcement to core activation.
Moving beyond the mat, pilates is practised on the big equipment with the most popular being the reformer but not forgetting the cadillac, arc barrel and split pedal chair. Each providing a different form of resistance, instability, and general body challenges.
The yin to my yang
I teach pilates several times a week, including weekends and spend the rest of my time writing about it or reading & studying it for work related projects! So doing a yoga workout, where some principles are similar to pilates but some are very different, with a different focus and new poses that are challenging, is a refreshing change! I don’t have to think like the “teacher” and can purely focus on myself and my practise. It is the perfect compliment to a discipline that I love but also need time out from! Read more about my Fitness routine here.
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Let me know in the comments below if you prefer PILATES or YOGA?!