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Pilates vs. Yoga - which one is best for you?

Pilates vs. Yoga - which one is best for you?

Pilates and Yoga are often classed together but in fact are quite different workouts. In this blog we will start off by having a look at Pilates and Yoga individually. We will then see what differences there are between the two and then see which one you may be suited to.



What is Pilates? Pilates is a form of exercise whose aim is to strengthen your body evenly and improve your overall fitness and your well-being.

Pilates exercises are undertaken on a mat and/or with resistance and support equipment. You can choose a class depending on your fitness goals.

Pilates with equipment can support those new to Pilates, those with medical conditions and also can add extra resistance for those wanting to push their bodies further. Pilates equipment typically constitutes the use of hand weights, resistance bands, gym balls and foam rollers.


Who is Pilates for? Pilates is for exercisers of all ages and ability levels. You can be a beginner or a world-class athlete. Classes are normally 60 minutes long and are usually taught in a group or on a one-to-one basis.


Is there a risk of injury doing Pilates?Pilates is considered to be low-impact and so injuries are not usual. It is important that you exercise with a qualified teacher who caters to your fitness needs. If you have an existing injury, some of the Pilates exercises may not be appropriate.


What are the benefits of doing Pilates?  

  • Pilates aims to improve your balance as well as your posture.
  • It also enables you to increase your joint flexibility.
  • If you take part in a Pilates session regularly, you can help to increase your muscle strength and tone.
  • It is believed that by doing Pilates with equipment it can offer support to people who have aches and pains.    
  • Pilates can support exercisers in their training by helping the body to develop strength and flex, which in time can lessen the chances of injury.
  • Pilates can also help to alleviate stress and tension.



What is Yoga? Yoga is an exercise that focuses on breathing, strength and flexibility. The aim is to improve mental and physical health. Yoga consists of breathing techniques and a number of ‘postures’, which are movements that help to increase strength. There are many different types of Yoga that have individual benefits, for example Birkham Yoga is performed with an elevated room temperature to help the body to sweat and detox.


Who is Yoga for? People of all ages and ability levels can do Yoga. Classes typically last 45 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes.  A longer class can help you to work on your breathing and relaxation techniques, and will give the teacher time to work with your individual needs.

You can also partake in Yoga at home but it would be better to join a class first to learn how to do the poses and breathing techniques correctly.


Is there a risk of injury doing Yoga? Yoga-related injuries are unusual. It is important that you learn from a qualified teacher and choose a suitable level so you prevent the risk of over-stretching or over-straining.  


What are the benefits of doing Yoga?

  • Yoga is a non-strenuous strengthening exercise.
  • Yoga is a gentle way of getting more flexibility.
  • It is also tries to get you beyond your normal range of movement, which may in time help with mobility difficulties.
  • Yoga is a safe way to increase physical activity.
  • Yoga is said to improve balance and coordination and lower the chance of having a fall. This is because Yoga often focuses on the lower body such as your ankles and knees.
  • It is believed that taking part in regular Yoga sessions can be beneficial for people with aches and pains.
  • Yoga is a calming and relaxing activity and can help you to feel at ease during stressful times.  


What is the difference between Pilates and Yoga?

Pilates: offers a full body workout with a focus on strengthening the core. You will become more flexible and become stronger from a Pilates workout. Often the workouts include mat work where you use your body’s resistance to get results.

Yoga: incorporates many movements that are performed on a mat and the body weight is used as resistance for each exercise. The changes between movements or ‘postures’ are fluid and aimed to suit the needs of the exerciser. The aim is to work out every muscle in your body in equal proportions. The ‘postures’ are always used with a counter-‘posture’ to help to create balance in your body. Core strength is important but it is simply part of Yoga rather than the focus of Yoga.

Pilates: aims to focus on breathing techniques by where you inhale in through the nose and exhale out through the mouth. The breath is used to give the muscles energy to exercise well. You work on managing the level of oxygen coming into your body and travelling to the muscles to help them become more relaxed.

Yoga: depending on the type of Yoga, you may breathe in and out through the nose, whilst linking these breaths to ‘postures’. Yoga classes often have a part of the class focussing on breathing techniques to help to achieve relaxation. It is important to concentrate on how the breath is used. Breaths are sent to muscle groups, which are stressed or tight to help relax them.

Pilates: classes tend to be structured. You can know what to expect when you start working out.

Yoga: tends to be more flexible in structure and many different patterns and postures are joined to make up a routine. Meditation is often added into the routine.

Pilates: believes there is a connection between mind and body, which can be used together in exercise.

Yoga: believes that the body, spirit andmind are linked. Spirituality is supported by meditation. Yoga is seen as a way to help the body to recover and find mental calm.


Pilates: started half way through the twentieth century by a physical trainer named Joseph Pilates. He created Pilates exercises to help rehabilitate and strengthen athletes. Joseph believed mental and physical health is closely connected. Influences include influenced gymnastics and even boxing!

Yoga: has evolved from India over the last 5000 years! As a result there are many different types of Yoga that you can practice, such as Ashtanga and Sivananda. Some styles are more exertive than others. Some may have a particular focus such as breathing or posture. The key is to choose a class appropriate for your fitness level and exercise goals.


Pilates versus Yoga - which one is best for you?

Pilates and Yoga develop balance, flexibility, posture, strength and breathing techniques. The difference is the ways to achieve these techniques!


Flexibility - Yoga can be used to improve the flexibility of the body and increase the flex in your joints. This is another way that Yoga varies from Pilates. Pilates focuses on getting you to relax tense muscles and also to give strength to many muscles across the body.


Equipment - Yoga requires no equipment and places emphasis on meditation and relaxation. Pilates is done with equipment and mats and with a flow of movement. You do not tend to see the stationary postures that occur in Yoga.


Abdominals - Yoga and Pilates have movements that are designed to tone the abdominal muscles. However, Pilates exercises are seen as more intense and therefore results are more quickly achievable than in Yoga. Obviously exercise needs to be taken regularly for results to be seen.


Pain relief - For people who suffer with aches and pains, both Pilates and Yoga workouts can help you to achieve stronger and more supportive muscles. However, with Yoga, more care is advised as some of the postures could exacerbate problems. Your Pilates or Yoga instructor should be able to provide you with advice if you suffer from pain.


Weight loss - both Yoga and Pilates are great for toning up your body and strengthening the muscles in your body. Both exercises have weight loss advantages but there is no great difference between the two for more weight loss. You could try Pilates with a Pilates machine to add cardio to your Pilates workout. This could help to burn additional calories. Common advice is to do Yoga and Pilates classes whilst eating a balanced diet and doing an aerobic exercise too such as cycling, swimming or walking.


In Conclusion

When deciding whether you should have a go at Pilates or Yoga, you need to choose depending on what results you are hoping to achieve.

If you have decided that you want a more spiritual practice and want to help balance your mind and alleviate stress, Yoga tends to be the more preferred option.

If you would prefer to focus on your core strength then Pilates tends to be more suited.

Both Pilates and Yoga are an enjoyable way to get your body into better shape, create more flexibility, relieve stress and strengthen your muscles. You could have a go at both and then see which one you prefer, enjoy, and benefit from the most.



Have you tried either Yoga or Pilates (or both perhaps)? What are your thoughts?


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