This is a common question that many people have. To the ordinary onlooker, there really does not seem to be much difference between yoga and Pilates. However, upon further inspection, you'll see that the differences can be rather profound.
In truth, neither exercise is necessarily better nor worse than the other. The one you choose to embrace will depend largely upon your own personal goals and preferences. Here, we're going to take a look at some of the similarities and differences associated with both of these disciplines. This should help you to make a quality decision for yourself.
Of course, there is no rule stating that you can't do both. There is no right or wrong answer here and neither discipline need be mutually exclusive. Unlike bodybuilding which requires its practitioners not to engage in long cardio sessions, neither yoga nor Pilates has such rules. You can certainly alternate these exercises on a daily (or weekly) basis.
At this time, let's take a brief moment to cover a few key aspects of each discipline. Expect to gain a much clearer understanding of both yoga and Pilates in the next few paragraphs!
Yoga originated in India over 5000 years ago. Pilates was created far more recently by a gentleman named Joseph Pilates, in an attempt to help with his own physical rehabilitation and to strengthen his body. So, yoga has a considerably more expansive history, as well as many more forms than Pilates.
Yoga aims to strike a balance between the body, mind, and spirit. This is an eastern philosophy. The breathing and meditation techniques in yoga aim to connect with the spirit. Pilates however, only focuses on a mind and body connection.
Generally, most Pilates sessions are more intense than yoga sessions. If you are looking for quicker results, you may wish to go with Pilates. It is more focused on strengthening your core muscles and making you stronger. Yoga aims for flexibility, circulatory benefits, and mental well-being. There are some forms of yoga, such as Ashtanga yoga or Bikram yoga, that are far more challenging. But in most cases, Pilates is a harder workout with faster results.
As such, you'll need to decide if you'd prefer something fast, furious, and more results oriented... or something slower, steadier, and more well-steeped in tradition. This is the classic hare and tortoise scenario, and which of these two animals you'd like to be will clearly be determined by the personal goals you've set for yourself. That said, it bears repeating that you can engage in both activities.
As a whole, yoga tends to be a bit less structured than Pilates. Since there are many poses in yoga, these poses may be arranged in many different routines with no set order. Pilates is generally quite structured, and each move follows the next. Yoga also has a meditation element.
Many yoga practitioners chant and meditate at the beginning and end of a session. This is to create focus, dedication, and appreciation for the art. Pilates, which is much more modern, does not embrace this particular element. It’s a more calculated form of exercise that aims to strengthen and heal the body with specific moves and specific goals.
The breathing techniques in yoga are considerably more complex than Pilates. With Pilates, the breathing technique is pretty straightforward. You inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth. With yoga, your breathing will be much deeper and your breaths will follow the movements, poses and postures. You will be breathing in and out through the nose. Usually in yoga classes there is a dedicated period of time just for breathing techniques known as pranayama.
So which do you choose? Yoga or Pilates? Well, are you looking to de-stress and calm your mind? If the answer is yes, then yoga is for you. If you are only interested in strengthening your core muscles and back muscles, Pilates is your answer.