Pilates: It’s NOT Yoga!

For many people, Yoga and Pilates get shoved into the same pigeonhole. Agreeably, there are many similarities, but in my opinion there are many more differences.

Let’s talk about both!

Firstly, let’s consider the origins….

Yoga developed in northern India over 5000 years ago, it was designed to rejuvenate the body and prolong life.

Pilates is much younger, developed only in the early 20th century by a German man, Joseph Pilates, the method was originally named Contrology and used as a form of rehabilitation for war veterans, later developing into a training method for dancers and actors.

Equipment or not?

Joseph Pilates designed a range of equipment around hospital beds, utilizing springs for resistance. It is more similar to weight training than yoga for this reason, but your Pilates instructor wont get you throwing around bar bells and medicine balls.

The Pilates equipment offers support, or a greater challenge, depending on what the client needs. It is different to weight training in this regard. Quite often on the Pilates equipment LESS spring resistance will make the exercise HARDER.

Don’t believe me? Come try it

In more recent years, yoga has also started to incorporate props such as bolsters, straps and blocks – but we wouldn’t call these “equipment”, they work more as “assists” for those practicing, allowing them to achieve a more comfortable position.

Pilates uses small apparatus items as well as the large equipment, usually called “props”

But the moves are the same, right?


The first thing you’ll notice is that Yoga has a lot more standing work than traditional Pilates exercises that are usually performed lying down. This is one great thing that perhaps makes Yoga a little more functional than Pilates.

Depending on the
style of yoga you practice, you might be holding any one pose for as long as 5 minutes. One of the principles of Pilates is “flow”, so there are no long holds, just continual flowing movement.

Both Yoga and Pilates will move the body through a variety of planes of motion (in all different
directions), which is fantastic for keeping the body mobile and strong in all ranges.

What’s with the loud breathing?

Both methods teach specific movements with the emphasis on a specific breath pattern. Yoga will have you breathing in and out through your nose, while in Pilates you will inhale through the nose but exhale through the mouth.

In Pilates, the conscious exhale through the mouth aids in connecting the deep abdominals. It is important to establish this first for deep stabilization and correct muscle recruitment – the foundation for all Pilates exercises.

For many people who practice both Yoga and Pilates, the difference in breath patterns will be a hard habit to change during each practice.

So why do people think that Yoga and Pilates are the same?

I don’t know. I imagine this thought process comes from people that have never practiced either method.

While there are a few similarities, the biggest one (in my eyes) is the mindfulness of both methods. That is what I love most! The need for those practicing to be mindful in their movement for the duration of a class (and quite often even outside of the studio as well) There is no aimless throwing around of limbs or weights without purpose. Each exercise serves a purpose and is performed for a specific reason. Both Pilates and Yoga demand that your body AND your mind be present in order to really reap the full benefits. Those who fail to apply their mind won’t “feel” the work, movements will appear easy and without effort as the deeper muscle connection has been missed.

And what’s the biggest difference?

It’s got to be the spiritual aspect of Yoga (the “Omm-ing”) This is the bit that isn’t for everyone. It either sits well, or it doesn’t.

“So which is better?” I hear you ask.

For me the decision is not about which mind body method is “better’ but which resonates best with each individual.

Who’s to say you can’t practice both?

A lot of people practice Yoga and Pilates and take away different things from each. Pilates classes will focus on core strength, muscle toning, body control, and flexibility. If you like a more structured workout (without the chanting and OMing) this could be the workout for you. Yoga, on the other hand, focuses on flexibility, balance, endurance, strength and spirituality. Classes can range from gentle and nourishing to challenging and sweaty, depending on the style you choose.

Whatever your choice, it has to sit well with YOU. Exercise should not be a chore but something you enjoy. Something that you want to get up and do, instead of making excuses all the time. But most importantly, it should be something that leaves you feeling rejuvenated and ready for the rest of your day!

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