Difference between Pilates and Yoga

What is the difference between Yoga and Pilates?

Yoga and Pilates have similarities at their core (pardon the pun!) in that they are both low impact and inclusive forms of exercise but their approaches are quite different. In short yoga focuses more on flexibility and strength of the whole body whereas Pilates is more about strength and control of movement, again of the whole bodybut with a particular focus on deep abdominal core muscles/pelvic floor muscles.

Yoga was originally practiced by holy ascetics in India, 500 plus years ago, and has a large spiritual element to it. The original teachings of yoga aimed to focus the mind and connect with a higher consciousness.

Although Pilates does not include or follow the same spiritual rituals its founder Joseph Pilates was inspired to bring together the mind and body to control and rehabilitate movement patterns. “Pilates is complete coordination of body, mind and spirit” (Joseph Pilates).

Joseph Pilates moved to England from Germany in 1912 working as a circus performer and trainer in self-defence. When WWI broke out in 1914 he was interned as an orderly in a POW hospital on the Isle of Man. Whilst he was there he was shocked to see so many unwell patients were lying in bed not doing any exercises. Therefore he devised a gentle exercise regime for these patients, progressing onto resistance exercises using springs from old hospital beds. It soon became evident that the patients practising Joseph’s exercise regime were improving faster. After the war Joseph returned to Germany and began to develop his exercise regimes further within the dance world.

His reputation grew and he was asked to train the German army but it was at this point Joseph decided to head to America where he open ‘The Pilates Studio’ in New York. From there he continued to develop his Pilates method. Today this legacy continues and Pilates has continued to evolve and benefit thousands of people around the world.

Rehabilitation has always been at the root of Pilates principles and method which is perhaps why as a Physiotherapist I am more drawn to Pilates practice. I have often used Pilates teaching and exercises to help rehabilitate clients with musculoskeletal conditions.

Although the roots of both Pilates and yoga come from very different backgrounds they have both developed and evolved from their origins. There are now many different teachings of both yoga and Pilates. This is not just in style of teaching methods but with the use of additional equipment, such as reformer bed to provide resistance and HIT Pilates method involving a more cardiovascular workout. Yoga in contrast has a number of variations to it’s original method including Asthanga, iyengar and vinyasa. The more dynamic forms of both yoga and Pilates are not suitable for beginners as there is more potential for injury if you are not used to the movements.

With all these different variations with both forms of exercise it can be difficult to know which one to follow. Personally, I think it comes down to what you enjoy the most and what is most suitable to your physical ability and needs. Many forms of physical exercise have been shown to improve mental and emotional well-being. Therefore both Pilates and yoga in all their forms can have a positive influence on our mind and body’s health and well being.

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