“Aren’t yoga and Pilates basically the same?”
Pilates instructors get this question frequently. As a student and teacher of Pilates and Yoga, I’ve had ample opportunity to consider this question. There are many similarities and differences between the two practices, a number of them stemming from individual teaching styles or ‘schools’. I’d like to discuss the two main differences from my personal experience: the purpose of the practice, and the use of equipment.
There are a finite number of movements that a body can perform so naturally there will be overlap with Pilates and yoga. In the end, they are more similar than different. Both practices emphasize breath and physical control as well as smooth flowing movement without strain or tension. Correct alignment is key in each as this leads to improved physical fitness, which supports the purpose of each practice: yoga’s purpose is preparation for meditation (i.e. stillness) while the purpose of Pilates is improved ability to perform daily life activities. (i.e. movement).
Thus, a yoga class may incorporate moments of stillness, perhaps during a specific posture such a Child’s Pose, and definitely at the end of class in Corpse Pose. These pauses are an opportunity to practice calming the body by encouraging the parasympathetic nervous system (the rest-and-digest system) to engage, and by focusing the mind in preparation for meditation. The yoga postures stretch and align tissue, and warm the body in order to sit still for long periods.
Pilates prepares your body for functional movement in daily life. So, a Pilates class will generally have you:
In addition, being able to perform these movement with control will enable you to have better seated and standing posture. Yoga incorporates all these motions too, however, more time is allotted for reflection and checking in with the mind, heart and body.
Mix up your Pilates practice and incorporate a little yoga – try our Yoga and Reformer Combo small group training!
Read more on Pilates and yoga in Spring Resistance: The Pilates Secret Sauce