If you’re looking for a fitness routine that integrates overall wellness, the question of yoga vs Pilates may be central to your quest. There are similarities to both practices, but the ultimate objectives and pathways to achieving them are slightly different. Read ahead to gain an overview of each to help you decide which is right for your lifestyle and fitness goals.
Yoga vs Pilates: What’s the Difference?
The main difference between yoga and Pilates can be summed up as: meditation vs action. Both use a series of poses and isometric resistance to gain strength and flexibility. However, yoga is more of a relaxing, meditative practice while Pilates is action-oriented and adds cardio fitness equipment or other accessories to help you reach your objectives.
Yoga is an ancient practice that seeks to achieve integration of the mind, body, and spirit. In fact, one translation of the word ‘yoga’ means ‘unity’ in Sanskrit. The discipline dates back more than 5,000 years to India. While yoga is part of an overall way of life in the East, it has become popular throughout the world, especially in the West over the past 100 years or so.
The practice of yoga is about achieving balance. The whole body receives an equal workout, and many moves have counter-moves that are designed to attain mental, spiritual, and physical balance. Other benefits of yoga include:
- improves circulation
- lowers blood pressure
- regulates metabolism
- improves coordination
- slows the aging process
- bolsters the immune system
- minimizes the effects of chronic conditions from osteoporosis to anxiety and depression
In practice, yoga is also more versatile. That’s because there are dozens of poses that can be arranged into nearly unlimited combinations. You can move quickly from pose to pose in succession to your increase cardio or hold each pose in turn to improve strength and stamina. Yoga also uses breathing techniques, called Pranayama, to increase focus, relax the body, and quiet the mind.
The Pilates fitness program was developed in Germany in the 1920s by Joseph Pilates, an athlete and avid yoga practitioner himself. Pilates shares similarities with yoga in its use of poses and in the theory that the mind and the body are interconnected. However, it leaves out the spiritual component and focuses more on developing core strength as a centralized means of improving overall physical fitness; the theory is that if your core and spine are strong and flexible, that strength and agility will radiate out through to the rest of your body.
Pilates programs are more regimented and structured than yoga, in general. It will work your whole body, but the focus is on strengthening the ‘Powerhouse’ muscles in the abdomen, lower back, torso, and along the spine. Pilates also uses breathing techniques, but the idea is to direct them toward energizing the muscles. The benefits of Pilates include:
- increasing core strength
- better posture
- faster healing from sports injuries
- better coordination
Which is Right for You?
Both practices improve balance, strength, and flexibility. The main difference between yoga and Pilates is their emphasis. If you’re still unsure which is right for you, try auditing a couple of classes to get a feel for each in practice. In the end, you may learn that incorporating elements of both disciplines will give you a well-rounded, balanced fitness regimen that provides core strength as well as helping you increase mental focus while improving your state of mind. Whichever you choose, you can be sure that the benefits will extend beyond mere fitness to flow through every part of your life.