Pilates vs Yoga: Is there a difference?

In the past decade or so that I’ve been involved with Pilates, I have definitely noticed that more people have actually heard of it. Back when I started my Pilates journey, it was something that “made Jennifer Aniston’s arms look really good” and what made my dancer friends suddenly acquire a new type of strength in their bodies. What hasn’t changed is the, it seems, eternal question: Is Pilates like yoga? Well, yes and no.

What both of these practices have in common is how important is the connection of the mind with the body. You can’t do either of these exercises correctly and well without connecting one to the other. For some people it’s easier to find this connection, and for most once they do, the whole experience of the exercise changes. 

Now, yoga is thousands of years old, and it focuses on the spiritual aspect, while Pilates doesn’t at all. Pilates was invented “only” about a hundred years ago as exercise to help the body recover from injuries. Another major difference is that Pilates, both classical and contemporary, uses different kinds of apparatus with springs (bring on the “torture chamber”jokes, we’ve heard them about a gazillion times) to achieve the correct movement of the body.

When talking solely about Pilates on the mat, it’s clear where the confusion comes from. Both of these are low-impact exercises using the weight of the persons’ own body. There is also a specific sequence to the exercises, especially when it comes to classical Pilates, and classical yoga (Ashtanga). They are both beneficial for improving strength and flexibility, and breath plays an important part in both yoga and Pilates. Yoga, however, generally gets you into a pose and keeps you there for a bit, while Pilates challenges the core muscles by moving the arms and legs. The more advanced you become in Pilates, the more flow there is to the exercises. 

I love both Pilates and yoga, and for me personally they are very different, and achieve different things. Even though I teach Pilates, when it comes to my personal workout, I choose based on my mood and how my body feels on that given day. I feel that the difference between these two practices can be felt more than it can be explained. I invite you to try Pilates for yourself, and see the difference 🙂

written by Evgenia Ilienko