My yoga practice
I often get the question, “What is the difference between Pilates and yoga?” This is a difficult question to answer, firstly, because there are many different types of yoga, ranging from a gentle practice, to an incredibly physical “Oh my god, I’m going to die” Ashtanga practice, to a more spiritually focused practice. There are also different schools of Pilates, although the differences between them are less dramatic than in the yoga world.
Although not professionally certified in yoga, I have been intensely practicing yoga for a couple years, and have made it a core part of my life. Personally, I see yoga and Pilates as dramatically different from one another, although there are some shared principles between the two.
*Yoga and Pilates are mind/body exercises, combining body movement with mental focus. The result is that these practices add to an overall state of physical and mental wellbeing.
*Breath is essential to both yoga and Pilates, as it improves circulation and highly oxygenates the body. However, one breathes differently in each of the practices. In yoga, you inhale and exhale through the nose. In Pilates, you inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth. Pilates also concentrates on lateral breathing—air is directed into the sides and back of the ribcage. Yogis, however, tend to concentrate on the chest and belly when breathing.
*The two practices aim to increase both flexibility and strength, so as to create a uniformly developed body that is less prone to pain and injury. However, yoga puts much more focus on deep, static stretching than Pilates.
*Movements: Many of the movements in yoga differ from those in Pilates. Yet there are some exercises in Pilates that were inspired by yoga postures.
*Origin: Yoga originated in India over 5,000 years ago. A German athlete, Joseph Pilates, started Pilates in the mid-twentieth century.
*Spirituality: The ultimate goal of yoga is spiritual, and the physical practice is meant to make the body strong and flexible so that it can sit comfortably in meditation for hours. Yoga can be an entire way of life that encompasses diet, meditation, breathing techniques, and a moral code.
Pilates, on the other hand, has no spiritual aspect. Its goal is to make the body strong and flexible so that it can move through this world, through daily life, with grace and ease.
*The Core: Pilates emphasizes strengthening the core, the deep abdominal and back muscles, which greatly improves posture and alignment, and stabilizes the entire body throughout movement.
*Mat vs. Machines: Yoga is done completely on a mat. Pilates has a full routine of mat work, but also incorporates machines.
*Length of postures: Yoga postures are held for a longer period of time than Pilates postures. In Pilates, you truly flow—moving from one position to the next quite quickly.
*Positioning: Pilates is done mostly lying down on the back. This defies gravity and works the body by engaging the deep abdominal and back muscles to lift off the ground. Yoga, in contrast, has many standing postures.
Yoga does not have the same emphasis on these muscles. Today, however, there is an increased awareness among yoga teachers on the importance of strengthening these muscles, and therefore it is becoming more common to have core-centered exercises in yoga classes.
Ultimately, after practicing both Pilates and yoga heavily, I believe their differences compliment each other in the best of ways. The two methods combine to create the ideal physical practice, making every part of your body strong and flexible, as well as improving your breathing patterns and overall state of mental wellbeing.