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Pilates vs. Yoga. What is Best for You?

Info Relinque - Monday, August 13, 2012

What is the difference between Pilates and Yoga? And which one is best for you?

It seems most people have had some experience with pilates or yoga these days. But what is the difference? And what is best for you?  The Pilates Instructors from our Studio in Ivanhoe compare the two.

What is Pilates?

Joseph Pilates established the Pilates method in the 1920’s. It was designed to strengthen weak muscles, increase flexibility, and correct poor movement patterns. Pilates focuses on strengthening your core muscles - particularly the transverses abdominus and pelvic floor muscles. This creates greater stability for your spine, pelvis and supporting muscles. It is this focus on strengthening your core and pelvic floor that defines pilates apart from yoga.

Pilates classes are generally split into two different styles. 1) Mat work classes that are performed on the floor and use small props, and 2) reformer or studio classes that are performed on the pilates machines and utilize the full array of pilates equipment. 

Pilates trains your body to function with more efficient body mechanics. When performed properly, correct movement patterns will free your body to release all tensions, giving you increased energy and a greater sense of well being.

What are the benefits of Pilates?

-Increased core strength and muscle tone.
-Increased mobility of spine and rib cage.
-Improved flexibility.
-Improved posture.
-Improved postural awareness.
-Improved breathing patterns.
-Strengthening of pelvic floor.

Pilates is one of the safest forms of exercise available. Pilates can be beneficial for just about everyone, regardless of age and fitness level.

What is Yoga?

Yoga is a term used to describe a physical, mental and spiritual discipline that incorporates meditation to attain spiritual insight. Yoga originated in India over 5,000 years ago, and has evolved over the years into many different types of yoga including Bikram, Hatha, Iyengar and Ashtanga to name just a few. 

Yoga aims to unite body, mind and spirit through stretching and strengthening moves, breathing and meditation. It is this union of mind body and spirit that clearly defines yoga apart from Pilates. Someone who practices yoga with a high level of commitment is called a yogi.

What are the benefits of Yoga?

-Increased flexibility
-Increased strength
-Increased mobility of internal organs
-Improved posture

Difference 1. The Class

Each class you participate in will be different so a few generalizations need to be made for this comparison.

Studio pilates is the original way pilates was meant to be taught, as it utilizes the full array of pilates equipment. Before starting studio pilates classes, each student should undergo a full postural assessment to determine your strengths, weaknesses, and all muscular imbalances within your body.

Studio classes are generally 60 min in duration, and have a maximum of 3-4 students in each class. Each student will be taken through your own personalized routine depending on the findings of your assessment. Studio pilates classes should be structured to meet each students needs.

Yoga classes are very flexible in their structure and generally run for 60–90min. The various postures and sequences can be combined into thousands of different routines in each class. The make up of the class will be determined by the style of yoga you practice and the teacher on the day. Certain styles of yoga such as Bikram, and Ashtanga have more set sequences of postures.

Difference 2. The Breath

In Pilates you are encouraged to breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. Great emphasis is placed on expanding the lower rib cage laterally, as you inhale deeply - lower rib expansion forms the basis for all pilates exercises.

Yoga incorporates breathing on a very deep level during classes. Postures and movements are matched with different breathing techniques that can bring about profound changes in mind, body and spirit. Often in yoga classes, sections will be entirely devoted to breath work, called pranayama. In yoga you generally breathe in and out through the nose.

Difference 3. The Results

Both yoga and pilates aim to improve strength, flexibility and general fitness. They also both aim to promote deep and correct breathing patterns.

Pilates is more specific with matching the types of exercises to each individuals needs. There should always be exercise to increase core strength, whilst maintaining and strong, flexible and healthy spine. The focus of pilates is to strengthen the weak areas, and loosen the tight areas within your body. 

Yoga aims to work every muscle in your body equally. Each posture has a counter posture to create flexibility and balance within your body. Core strength is an important element of yoga, but it does not have the same focus as pilates. 

Yoga also aims to promote relaxation and mental clarity, as well as improve the function of internal organs.

What is best for you?

If you have a specific injury that needs rehabilitation, weak core, or pelvic floor that needs strengthening, then pilates may be best for you. If you are looking to improve your overall flexibility, and help with stress and relaxation, then yoga may be the better option. Either way, both will help improve your health, and give you a greater sense of well being.

If you have any questions regarding Pilates or Yoga, please contact one of the Pilates instructors at Relinque Sports & Spinal Group.

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