Is Yoga or Pilates Better?

Yoga and Pilates are both excellent workouts. Some of their combined benefits include improving core stability, gaining mental clarity, increasing flexibility, and building long, lean muscles. But which one is best for you? Here's how to choose.

Yoga vs. Pilates: Similarities

Pilates is a specific exercise system that was created by a German anatomist in the early 1900s. Yoga, on the other hand, is more of a holistic discipline that comes from ancient India. They come from two different origins, but, on the surface at least, they are very similar. There's a lot of overlap in the two practices, so it can cause some confusion when people try to decide between yoga and Pilates.

They are both excellent forms of low-impact, gentle exercise and as such, they offer a multitude of health benefits. They both provide a mindful connection to the body, stress relief, and increased flexibility, control, strength, balance, and endurance. There are countless versions of both disciplines, but one thing that is common for all of them is the breathwork.

Yoga uses gentle movement, breath, and meditation to connect the mind, body, and spirit. It also puts a focus on elements of science and philosophy to create a whole-lifestyle approach. Classes range from slow and gentle to fast and sweaty so there's a lot of range with yoga. If you don't like one type, try another.

Anatomist Joseph Pilates created the Pilates practice to be an exercise system that improves posture, flexibility, and strength through the use of very specific targeted movements. Pilates also puts extra focus on the core. It can be done either on a mat or a specialized reformer machine but movements are almost always slow and gentle, with an emphasis on control over sweat.

Many of the exercises in Pilates and the poses in yoga also involve using body weight as resistance to work the muscles. And both of them are done barefoot on a mat with very little equipment. There are yoga and Pilates classes that are appropriate for almost any fitness level, too.

Yoga vs Pilates: The Differences

Perhaps the most significant difference between yoga and Pilates is that yoga puts an emphasis on the spiritual side. Typically meditation is part of yoga classes, but not Pilates. And Yoga classes may, therefore, integrate lifestyle ideas and camaraderie around that approach. Whereas Pilates is focused on movement and strength and working the body to create mental clarity as a result of fitness, not as a result of meditation or spiritual attunement.

Generally speaking, Pilates is a discipline that uses smaller movements to target different areas of the body and the emphasis is on control of the muscle movement. It also focuses much more on building core strength. Pilates students get the benefits of flexibility, body control, muscle toning, and overall strength. This is an ideal workout for people who need or want the slower, more controlled movements that create flexibility and strength at once, without putting emphasis on cardio or sweat elements. Though make no mistake, Pilates will make you sweat.In slower forms of yoga, like Yin yoga, students hold each posture for longer so there isn't much of a cardio element there, either. Yoga also has more of an emphasis on flexibility and balance, and as we've mentioned, there is also a meditation aspect. Yoga is excellent for people who want to slow down from their busy lives and focus inward. It benefits the mind as much as the body. And, depending on the type chosen, can have some cardio elements included.

Another difference is that most of the exercises in Pilates take place on the ground, while yoga includes many standing postures. The deep breathing in both yoga and Pilates provides a balancing effect on the nervous system. And the twists and turns of the poses help to bring fresh blood and hydration to the joints and organs, making either a very detoxifying practice.

How do You Choose Between Pilates and Yoga?

In general, Pilates may be better for those recovering from injuries just because it takes place mostly on the floor. In contrast, yoga may be better for the prevention of injuries if you practice long term and build up to good balance and even inversions like headstands. Both of them can have a restorative effect on bad posture and lower back pain. Some forms of yoga require good flexibility and joint mobility, while Pilates requires more core strength which may be better for those with back pain.

Those who have a hard time holding themselves on their hands (such as those with arthritis) may struggle with Yoga more or suffer from increased pain in their hands from holding their weight frequently. Those who can't get down to the floor may prefer yoga if they can choose all standing movements.

Instead of choosing just one of them or declaring one better, why not give both a try? Without any extenuating circumstances, it just may come down to which instructors you like in your area and what is available for variety. Doing both yoga and Pilates will give a healthy balance of strength and flexibility. The two disciplines actually complement each other beautifully and many people do both. People who strengthen their cores in Pilates class will have better balance when they do yoga. And students who increase their flexibility with yoga will be able to go deeper and bigger in Pilates.

Overall, these are two killer workouts. You really can't go wrong with either. So why limit yourself to just one?

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8/13/2020 7:00:00 AM
Wellness Editor
Written by Wellness Editor
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