Quiz time: Do you consider yourself team Pilates or yoga? OK, you don’t really need to choose sides, but it often seems like fitness fans fall into one category or the other. Yogis may gush over the mind, body, and soul trifecta experience of the practice, whereas Pilates aficionados swear by their intensely focused workout mode.
But the reality is, yoga and Pilates share many qualities and benefits. In fact, many people see these as complementary practices—and choose to do both yoga and Pilates for optimal mental and physical fitness.
Which raises the question: What’s the real difference between Pilates and yoga? And why choose one, or both, as part of your well-being routine?
While yoga’s roots stretch back thousands of years, Pilates is relatively new. Joseph Pilates created this system in the 1920s as a way to rehabilitate bedridden soldiers during World War I. It has come a long way since then.
Today, there are two main forms of Pilates, reformer and mat. Both are low-impact and focus on building the core while strengthening the whole body. A reformer class uses a machine with spring resistance while most mat classes, as the name suggests, only require a mat to incorporate body-weight resistance.
The most common Pilates exercises, like hundreds and teasers, make appearances in both kinds of classes and work the abdominal muscles. These abs-centric moves are often used at the start of class so that students remember to engage their core throughout the session, even when the exercises focus on other body parts. “Nothing is worked in isolation, but with reference to the rest of the body,” Pilates instructor and owner of Northants Pilates Karen Grinter says. “Joseph Pilates called it ‘Contrology.'”
Benefits of Pilates.
As Pilates and yoga teacher Jill Mauck of Stoke Motion Fitness explains: “The benefits of Pilates are pretty endless!” But here are a few that stand out:
- Core control: Hundreds and teasers pay off! Pilates can help practitioners develop stronger abdominal muscles and build awareness of their critical core muscles outside of class, too.
- Better posture: Awareness and engagement of core muscles also benefit posture. Pilates students often find they can sit and walk straighter after regular practice.
- Rehabilitation: Given its hospital roots, it’s no surprise that Pilates is great for rehabilitating injuries. Classes typically move slowly enough that students can pay careful attention to what they’re doing, and exercises are easily modified to meet practitioners where they are.
- Safe mobility: Pilates includes a lot of active and passive stretching, which leads to better joint mobility and flexibility. Plus, its low-impact strengthening exercises keep those joints safe.
Yoga is an ancient practice from India, which has transformed and grown in the West over the past several decades. There are many types of yoga, from fast-paced vinyasa to slow and restorative practices like yin yoga. But all types of yoga practice share certain characteristics.
Across the different styles of yoga, practitioners move their bodies into different poses and tie deep breathing to that movement. The types of poses and transitions between them can vary among the different practices, but all aim to connect the yogi more deeply to their body and breath.
Benefits of yoga
Like Pilates, yoga has no shortage of perks that make practitioners love it and keep coming back to their mats. Here are some of the top benefits:
- Improved flexibility: Through deep stretching, yoga can increase practitioners’ flexibility.
- Better sleep: Yogis report that time on their mats leads to a better shut-eye. In fact, according to a national survey from the NCCIH, over 55% of yogis report improved sleep, and more than 85% said they were less stressed.
- Mental health: Yoga’s focus on mindfulness and breathwork can help yoga students improve their mental and emotional health. Research also suggests that this practice is great for anxiety and depression.
- Disease prevention: Yogis’ physical health can improve too. Researchers have found that regular practice can reduce asthma symptoms and decrease risk for heart disease.
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