For people that love to work out but running around the block or hitting the elliptical aren’t their favorite activities, yoga and Pilates can be go-to exercise programs. Both programs take a gentler approach when toning the body and stress the importance of specific breathing patterns. Some fitness classes will combine the two activities, a hybrid of aerobic and non-aerobic exercises. But there is a difference in the way the two programs approach their objectives.
The biggest difference between yoga and Pilates is the spiritual element incorporated into yoga practices. Yoga brings the body and mind together with three main elements: exercise, breathing, and meditation. Structured, static poses are designed to put pressure on glandular systems, promoting overall body efficiency and total health. Yoga was originally designed as a path toward spiritual enlightenment but today has become popular as a gentle form of exercise and stress management.
Pilates was inspired by yoga, calisthenics, and ballet and was originally developed to help injured athletes and dancers. An emphasis is placed on the quality of posture in each exercise rather than the amount of reps. There are 500 Pilates exercises, each designed to put your body in an unstable posture and then challenging you by moving your limbs.There are two different types of Pilates: mat Pilates which consists of exercises performed on the floor using gravity to your body weight to provide resistance, and equipment-based Pilates which uses a spring-loaded machine that you push and pull along tracks. Dumbbell weights can be used in Pilates exercises as well for more resistance.
The lack of spirituality certainly doesn’t take away from the effectiveness of Pilates. Its main objective is core strengthening, requiring intense concentration and breathing techniques. Workouts tend to run in the 45-90-minute range, with 5-10 reps per exercise, incorporating precise ranges of motion, rhythm, and breathing. Like yoga, it can help improve muscular and postural strength, but because of the focus on the core has the added benefit of toning abdominals more quickly. Although it is more active than yoga, muscles are never worked to exhaustion and Pilates lengthens and stretches all of your major muscle groups in a balanced way.
- Department of Health & Human Services. “Pilates and Yoga – Health Benefits.” Better Health Channel, Department of Health & Human Services, 31 July 2013, www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/pilates-and-yoga-health-benefits.
- “PILATES VS. YOGA.” Energy Pilates Fitness Yoga, www.energypilatesfitness.com/pilates-vs-yoga.html.