Pilates vs Yoga – What’s the Difference?

So you’ve noticed that both Pilates and yoga are growing in popularity. All your friends are talking about it and your Instagram is saturated with beautiful fit half naked people posing in their over priced gym gear doing it.

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Pilates exercises for Strong Abdominals and a Flatter Stomach

To be honest, I haven’t really tried Yoga. Don’t get me wrong, I would like to, because it has many physical benefits, and some days I long for a big long stretch out, but Yoga classes contain a very spiritual element that conflicts with my own religious beliefs. However, even if I did do Yoga, I would still be a regular at Pilates. The two are actually very different, and at the same time complement each other very well. Both Pilates and Yoga improve circulation, digestion, muscle tone, strength and flexibility and both have a core connection and a mind / body element. However, the way in which these are achieved are completely different, the focus is on different outcomes, and both teach a different set of techniques. I’ve summed it up for you briefly here: What you can expect during a Pilates class:

  • a short warm up to lubricate the joints and warm the muscles, consisting of exercises such as squats, lunges, push ups long poses or stretches
  • the remainder of the class is spent mostly on a mat on the floor in a variety of positions such as face down (prone), face up (supine), flexion (like a sit up) and side lying to perform the exercises
  • a strong focus on – alignment of posture
  • – precision of movement and stability of the hips, low back and pelvis
  • – lateral thoracic breathing (deep breathing into the sides of the rib cage, not belly breathing)
  • – being aware of, activating, and strengthening the deep abdominal muscles, glutes (butt), the back and the pelvic floor
  • sometimes props such as phyiso bands, fit balls and reformer machines are used depending on the style of class
  • expect 3-10 repititons of progressional exercises before moving to the next
  • Cool down stretches and full body relaxation (not mediation.) Pilates has a strong mind / body connection but this is not in the form of mediation. The mind / body connection is taught through the principle of concentration, which involves feeling where your body is in space and how it is aligned, knowing what the exercise is you are about to perform and being fully mentally engaged during the exercise to control the breath, core and precision of the movement.

What to expect during a Yoga class:

  • 75 – 90min class
  • Quiet time to prepare the mind
  • Warm up (sometimes a heated room) consisting of flowing limbering poses to warm up the joints and muscles
  • A series of poses (asanas) using the traditional names which focus on stability (balance) and relaxation (stretching). These asanas aim to enhance the flow of energy and physical systems of the body
  • Use of props e.g blocks
  • Strong focus on full deep breathing
  • Mediation, chanting or stilling of the mind depending on the style of class you have chosen, and the teacher
  • Final pose or lying on the floor (cool down etc)

Pilates is excellent for weight lifters, those that are sedentary, those with pain especially of the low back, and is absolutely essential for any woman who has had a baby. Yoga is excellent for weight lifters, pregnancy, the older population and those with chronic or mental illness. I would not recommend yoga to those with injuries unless recommended specifically by a specialist. Yoga may increase the risk of injuries to those muscle imbalances, poor posture or hyper-mobile joints. Both Pilates and Yoga do not focus on weight loss or calorie burning. You will burn a small amount of energy during a class compared to doing nothing, but this is not at all the focus of either disciplines. Both however, DO complement each other very very well. “Pilates is the key to a stronger yoga pose.” How? Yoga requires a good amount of abdominal strength and balance to achieve certain poses. Pilates can help you achieve that core strength, stability and a deeper sense of awareness to help you get into those poses or asanas. Yoga on the other hand, can prevent joint and muscle tightness which may be inhibiting pilates exercise progression. For example; You may have developed good core strength and are ready to progress your pilates exercies, however, your tight hips or hamstrings may inhibit you being able to get into the correct alignment for the next level Pilates exercise. I love teaching and practicing Pilates. Like most people, I knew Pilates was good for “the core” but I enjoyed high intensity workouts and didn’t think pilates was going to be enjoyable in this way. So wrong. I did not try Pilates until something went wrong, and a Physio recommended it. After the birth of my first baby, due to a weak core and some muscle imbalances, I had a few repeats of low back pain in which I was twisted into the posture of an old witch and found it difficult to do anything for 5-7 days each time. Learning simple postural alignment and correct core engagement has improved my performance in all other activities, including simple things like lifting my toddler in and out of her car seat, to my skills and performance at the gym or on the bike and being able to lift heavier weights at the gym. What ever you choose to try first, be sure to give both Pilates and Yoga a fair go. For a list of benefits of both disciplines, stay tuned for the next post. A Pilates at home program is available through my website, www.fitlypt.com and I am soon to release a home stretching program, for pregnancy, post natal and beyond for similar benefits to that of Yoga. X ali

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