Friday, December 7, 2012

Spotlight: Pilates vs. Yoga

Yoga and pilates are similar, but have
different origins and purposes.
Image: SunshineNDaisy via LivLuvCreate
When I think about the best way to strengthen my core, flexibility, and body, my mind always goes to Pilates and Yoga. Though similar on some levels, the two practices are also quite different from each other. If you’re interested in getting into one or the other, here are a few differences you should be aware of before deciding which one is best for your body.

Pilates and Yoga have different origins and purposes. Whereas Yoga first began in India about 5,000 years ago, Pilates didn’t start until the middle of the 20th century. Yoga has many different forms, which have evolved as much as the place in which it began: Bikram, Vinyasa, and Ashtanga are just a few of the types you can find today. Pilates was originally created by Joseph Pilates as a way to rehabilitate and strengthen muscles. It blossomed into popularity after dancers began using it as an effective way to tone their muscles and become stronger.

Yoga practices the connection of mind, body, and spirit
Yoga classes differ greatly depending
on the instructor.
Image from Yoga Journal
Though both emphasize a connection of the mind and body, Yoga has an additional focus on the spirit. Meditation and relaxation is a large part of many Yoga practices, whereas Pilates focuses solely on the connection of mind and body in exercise and everyday life.

Yoga and Pilates classes are often structured very differently from one another. Because a Yoga class agenda is up to the teacher and style of Yoga being practiced, it can be difficult to know how the class will go. This flexibility is often not as apparent in Pilates classes, which tend to have a set plan for each class.

The workout you get from each will be different. Though both help you become more flexible and stronger, they do so in very different ways. Yoga usually focuses equally on each muscle rather than featuring one muscle group. The goal is finding total balance in the body, and core training is just one piece of that. Pilates, on the other hand, works the whole body while focusing specifically on exercises that strengthen the core and align the spine.

Pilates focuses on core and full body strength.
Pilates focuses on core and full body strength.
Image: Shutterstock
Finally, Yoga and Pilates have different methods for breathing. Yoga concentrates on very deep breathing and synchronizing breaths with movement, often dedicating entire segments of class to breath work. Pilates, on the other hand, simply maintains that breath comes in through the nose and out through the mouth.

As far as choosing a practice goes, those wishing to manage stress or make a complete mind/body/spirit connection often use Yoga. For those who simply want to strengthen back and core muscles, Pilates might be the better choice. And remember, there’s no harm in trying both!