Yoga vs. Pilates: What’s the Difference?

2 minute read
Yoga vs. Pilates: What’s the Difference?

If you accidentally walked into a yoga class instead of a Pilates class, you might not notice the difference right away. Both classes are practiced on a mat with similar props, and are made up of a series of movements that are held for intervals of time. But there are key differences that set yoga and Pilates apart, as well as unique benefits to each. Let’s explore.

How is yoga different from Pilates?

A key difference between yoga and Pilates classes is the flow between postures. Yoga classes typically include poses that flow from one to the next in a series of movements and a focus on the breath. 

In Pilates classes, small movements are added to each pose to engage the core muscles (the central muscles connected to the spine, trunk, and hips). Strong core muscles help to support your spine and reinforce balance. How do the movements differ? In yoga, you may flow from a standing pose (on both legs) to a balancing pose (on one leg) which engages the whole body, whereas in pilates, you might start lying on your back and then lift your arms and torso for 10 counts to engage your core. 

Although Pilates instructors encourage mindfulness and self-awareness, it is considered more of a physical practice than a spiritual one. On the other hand, yoga has origins in Hinduism and Buddhism, and many instructors incorporate spiritual Yogic language and history in their classes.Yoga is a spiritually based practice that began in India thousands of years ago, while Pilates was created by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s as a recovery program for dancers.

Why do yoga and Pilates seem similar?

Yoga and Pilates are both offered as fitness classes, often use a mat, and incorporate minimal props for modifications. Both yoga and Pilates are great fitness options for those over 50 as they can  prevent injury and improve strength as well as balance. These classes also seem similar because they both incorporate the body’s own resistance and movement to build strength.

Useful tip: If you’re new to fitness, try modified Pilates and yoga classes like chair yoga, beginner Pilates, yoga nidra, or classes designed for recovery. Both practices offer classes that suit a variety of abilities and include limited mobility options.

What are the benefits of yoga?

Because of the spiritual roots of yoga practice, there is a heavy emphasis on connecting breath to movement in every class. Many modern yoga classes exclude any spiritual references, but nonetheless still focus on helping students become more aware of your body. You may find yourself more aware of your body in space after yoga classes. The benefits of mindfulness and breathing in yoga have been shown to reduce stress, enhance mental clarity, and improve mood. 

The physical benefits of yoga include easing aches and pains, improved posture and flexibility, and injury prevention. Because of the long posture holds, yoga also helps build up the stabilizing muscles that reinforce balance and bodily alignment. 

What are the benefits of Pilates?

Pilates was created as a rehabilitation program, so it’s an ideal mode of exercise for people of varying abilities and ages. The benefits of Pilates include strength-building, better posture, easing of aches and pains, improved flexibility and balance, and stress reduction. Pilates helps to build a strong muscular core which supports the rest of the body. Think of it like a strong foundation for a house that the rest of the building can lean on. A strong abdominal core supports your spine, shoulders, and helps prevent falls.

Is Pilates better than yoga?

Choosing the best fitness regimen depends on your fitness and health goals. Yoga and Pilates are both excellent exercise options for aging adults.

If you’re spiritually minded and seeking ways to relieve stress, yoga might be a better starting place. Many yoga practices incorporate rest, spirituality, and meditation. Yoga classes generally end with a resting pose called savasana, and you may find class variations that are more focused on meditation. 

Like yoga, Pilates classes help build strength with low-impact exercise, but can be more effective in building core muscle. 

Join a Boomerang fitness class

You don’t need to choose between yoga and pilates. Why not explore a variety of classes to discover what you enjoy most?

Try out Boomerang’s Slow Yoga and Pilates Fusion class. You can explore a variety of online classes to see which exercises make you feel good. Try as many yoga and Pilates classes as you like with a 14-day free trial! Start a new wellness adventure today.

This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or its affiliates.

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