“What’s the difference between Yoga and Pilates? And which one is better?”, I get asked quite a lot. Totally understandable, as they are often thrown together as if connected in some way, and perhaps they are, but perhaps not as directly as many may think.
So I thought I would use my blog space this month to shed some light on and hopefully demystify the differences (and similarities) between the two practices. In my view, nether is “better” and what I have noticed is that for some people Pilates clicks and for others Yoga really does. I think it’s a question of trying it and seeing what you like as they’re both great, although of course, I have to admit, I am a teensy bit biased towards Yoga…
In summary then, Yoga is a holistic practice based upon the teachings of the Vedas and other texts out of India and has been a round for a very long time indeed – thousands of years in fact. By comparison, Pilates is a baby of a practice having been created and systematised by Joseph Pilates in the early 20th century. Both of them have a physical aspect and involve controlled movement to work the body, in Pilates particularly the core, to build strength and flexibility, but the focus in Pilates is purely physical.
Perhaps the biggest link between the two is the emphasis both systems place on using breathing as part of the practice to help with this. However, in Yoga the practice, including the breath work, is part of a holistic system designed to connect mind and body - it has a strong spiritual component. That’s not to be confused with a religious dogma – I’d highly recommend checking out what Gabor Mate has to say on secular spirituality and connection to “self” if you’re interested in this further. In short, Yoga goes beyond the physical. Intentionally. Whereas, Pilates does not.
Another way of putting this is to say that a main aim of Yoga is to calm and quiet the mind, as well as strengthen to the body. The ancient Yogis needed to be strong in both to sit and meditate for days on end. That’s not to say that Pilates does not also have this benefit: all exercise, to an extent, supports a better sense of mental wellbeing. But in Pilates this is not a primary purpose and you will not find the opening and closing meditations in a Pilates class that are common in most Yoga classes.
And that is it in a nutshell. There is a great deal of crossover and even some of the postures (asanas in Yoga) may appear similar, and there is some evidence that Mr Pilates borrowed from the extensive repertoire of Yoga postures on which Yoga does not have a monopoly either. The human body moves how it moves afterall and IP rights are a modern Western concept, but the intention and origins of the two are not in anyway directly connected. In Yoga, you will find a whole life outlook if you wish to and it resonates with you. My suggestion is to try both and see what you like. Hope to see you on the mat soon. Peace and Namaste.