Pilates vs. Yoga: The Real Difference, Explained


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There’s also a wide body of research on the physical health benefits of yoga and, well, it’s impressive. For example, a regular yoga routine has been tied to reduced back pain, increased bone density, and even lower blood pressure and reduced insomnia due to its relaxation benefits.

What are the key differences between Pilates vs. yoga?

Again, the main difference between the two goes back to their origins. “The main difference is that yoga is a spiritual practice,” says Brandenberg. “We’ve westernized it and turned it into a fitness concept, but that’s not its origins or why it was created at all.”

But generally speaking, yoga is more of a full-body, balanced workout with a lot more standing postures, Soulis says. In Pilates, it’s really about that Powerhouse. “Your limbs are involved, but they’re really there to lend strength and stability to that central core,” she explains.

Another key difference is that yoga often involves holding certain poses with gravity helping you out, Brandenburg says, adding, “There’s a lot of opening and yielding in yoga; in Pilates, there isn’t really a second to relax.”

If you’re really trying to decide Pilates vs. yoga? “Between the two, if you’re looking to strengthen your core, improve your posture, and your overall fitness level and strength, go for Pilates,” Brandenberg recommends. “If you’re looking to increase your flexibility, find more peace of mind and that mind-body connection, I would go with yoga.”

What do yoga and Pilates have in common?

The seven principles of Pilates are: concentration, control, centering, breath, flow, precision, and alignment. If that sounds a lot like yoga, you’re not wrong.

Both share a lot of the core principles. One major one: “They’re both practices that emphasize focus and being present in one’s body and the connection between body and breath,” says Sabulis. “Those are big ways that they’re similar.” Both are really about “listening to your breath and moving from the right place so your alignment and form is on track,” McGee says.

The emphasis on deep breathing techniques also makes them both meditative and stress-relieving workouts. “We talk about the mental health benefits of yoga, but we don’t always give Pilates the credit it deserves in this area,” Soulis says. “Because it is a very repetitive, low-impact class where you are asked to really pay attention and be precise—that’s one of the pillars of Pilates, precision—so when you do that and are fully living in the moment of this incredibly small movement, there is a connection that’s achieved.”

While there are a ton of variations of both that incorporate weights and even machines, they each can be done with just a mat (and if you choose, a few props). They are also both low-impact workouts, meaning that unless you go to a hybrid class incorporating cardio you won’t be doing any jumping or anything too hard on the joints. In other words, they’re great for all ages.

While there are unique benefits of each, overall the advantages will look similar: strength, flexibility, and mobility, Soulis says. “With both practices, there’s such a great benefit off your mat,” McGee adds. “If you start to really connect to your core in Pilates and realize how you’re supposed to be holding yourself, throughout the day you’ll stand a little taller, you’ll find your core muscles engaging. And with yoga, when you’re on the mat and really intent on where you’re moving from and your mind and body are connected to your breath, in your real life you find ways to be more mindful.”

Should I do yoga or Pilates first?

A common question a lot of Pilates and yoga teachers get—besides where to find the best affordable workout clothes—is: “Which is harder, Pilates or yoga?” While the answer is subjective, and both can be great for beginners, it may be beneficial to start with yoga first to build a foundation.

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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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