Pilates and Yoga

To the uninformed, Pilates is often compared (or confused!) with yoga. It’s understandable. Both are body awareness based exercise methods that encourage a connection between mind, body and spirit. But the differences between the two are clear when we look at the core values and methods of instruction that lay within.

For instance, Pilates encourages a small range of motion to begin with. This physical therapy is useful for beginners or for people with injuries or issues with movement. This progressive build up of movement and muscle lengthening is in contrast to common forms of yoga, which tend to teach poses in their end joint range. These poses can be dialed back in difficulty if you are unable to perform the movement, and the instructor will direct you to hold your pose at whatever range is possible for you.

Have you been to both a Pilates and a yoga class? One thing you may have noticed is that generally yoga classes start in standing position and end in peaceful pose on the floor. Pilates does the reverse! You start in a supine position and conclude in standing positions. Yoga employs a finishing position of rest to integrate the postures and return you to a relaxed or meditative state. Pilates, on the other hand, has you finish in active standing positions to prepare your body for activity.

Though both yoga and Pilates consider controlled or conscious breathing to be an essential part of movements, they employ different techniques. Pilates generally employs lateral breathing. This is covered in more depth in this post. Essentially it is diaphragmatic breathing that distributes your breath into your lower ribs, allowing them to fan out. Yoga also employs diaphragmatic breathing but most practices employ a technique that allows for belly distention. However, there is a multitude of techniques of yogic breathing and many classes will employ different methods. Both Pilates and yoga make the act of inhaling and exhaling and essential part of each movement.

One notable difference between the two is the inclusion of spirituality. Yoga is derived from the Hindu practice of religion and as such incorporates a form of meditation or spiritual reflection in its practice. In contrast, not much is known about the religious or spiritual beliefs of Joseph Pilates. He has said that his practice of Contrology (as Pilates was called when he invented it) is the “complete coordination of mind, body and spirit” or the “trinity”. However he does not prescribe other spiritual teachings within his method as is present in yoga by means of the Prana (life force energy) Chakras (energy plexuses in the body) and Bandhas (methods for stopping the loss of energy from the Chakras). It seems Joseph Pilates took a universal approach to his teachings by listing the benefits of his method as mental clarity, a zest for life and better concentration, which can be seen as beneficial regardless of your religious leanings.

There is no reason one cannot enjoy the teachings and benefits of both Pilates AND yoga. Some of our clients undertake both methods and find the practices to be complimentary!

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