Yoga and Pilates are quite similar in several ways. For one, both of them are low-impact exercises that often involve the use of mats. Moreover, both yoga and Pilates provide similar health benefits, such as stress relief, a stronger core, better endurance, and improved flexibility.
But even though yoga and Pilates look very similar, they are inherently different. This brings us to our main question: what is the difference between Pilates and yoga? And, more importantly, which is better for you?
In this article, we will talk about the differences between yoga and Pilates, as well as which discipline is better for certain goals, such as reduced back pain, weight loss, increased flexibility, and more.
Let’s dive right in!
What Is The Difference Between Pilates and Yoga?
Yoga and Pilates are both very popular exercises among those who want to achieve fitness through gentler exercises, in comparison with traditional aerobic workouts. To understand the differences between these two disciplines, we must know their definitions:
What Is Yoga?
Yoga is a holistic discipline that originates from ancient India. The main goal of yoga practice is to unite the body, mind, and environment. It is a holistic system of physical, mental, and spiritual development that is derived from ancient yoga practices.
There are two main types of traditional yoga: Hatha yoga and Ashtanga yoga. Ashtanga yoga is a style that involves the eight parts of the yoga path (abstinences, observances, yoga postures, breath control, withdrawal of the senses, concentration, meditation, and absorption). Hatha yoga, on the other hand, is a branch of yoga that is characterized by slower pacing, focusing on breathing, stretching, and controlled movements.
Today, there are many different variations of yoga, and some of them combine traditional techniques with more modern ones. Nevertheless, many variations of yoga are rooted in traditional styles.
Aside from these two traditional types of yoga, there are many other styles of yoga that you can choose from, including vinyasa yoga (faster pace), Iyengar yoga (involves the use of props), hot yoga (done in a heated room). There are even unconventional types of yoga classes that you can try, like beer yoga and laughter yoga!
What Is Pilates?
Pilates was created by Joseph Pilates, an anatomist from the 20th century. Joseph Pilates was a German physical trainer who set up the first Pilates studio in New York City after World War I. Using his deep understanding of the human body and his experience with devising apparatuses for the frail and ill, Joseph Pilates developed the discipline into how we know it today.
Pilates is a full-body exercise that provides an array of physical benefits, including increased core strength, improved flexibility, better posture, and increased mobility, among others. Do note that a standard Pilates class will tend to focus on the core, but other parts of your body are engaged as well.
Compared to yoga, there are fewer variations of Pilates that we know of today. A typical Pilates class will last about 45 minutes to 1 hour and can be done with or without equipment. Some forms of Pilates involve the use of resistance bands, weights, barrels, Pilates chairs, and other types of equipment. However, most traditionalists say that classical Pilates done on a mat is Pilates in its truest form.
Although both yoga and Pilates can provide mental health benefits, the latter is not grounded in spiritual philosophy, which is perhaps the biggest difference between the two. Nevertheless, Pilates can give you a mental health boost by increasing your concentration and helping you control your breathing.
Yoga vs Pilates: Which Is Better For Beginners?
Although they may look intimidating at first, both yoga and Pilates have simple poses and exercises that beginners can start with. With that being said, there is really no “better” discipline for beginners. If you are just starting out, look for a beginner Pilates or yoga class that will help you build up your strength, flexibility, and endurance from wherever your starting point is.
In most cases, Pilates is safe for seniors, children, and pregnant women. On the other hand, yoga may be more challenging or risky to these groups. To be safe, consult a doctor if you are pregnant, a senior, or have certain health conditions that might put you at risk, such as high blood pressure, eye problems, osteoporosis, menopause, or balance issues.
Also, let your Pilates instructor or yoga teacher know if you need certain accommodations. For instance, if you cannot do a certain pose, your instructor should help you modify the movement or pose accordingly. Forcing your body to go beyond its limits can lead to pain–or worse, an untimely injury.
Yoga vs Pilates: Which Is Better For Back Pain?
Yoga and Pilates involve poses that can help alleviate and prevent back pain. For instance, some yoga poses can relieve tension from the back and help reduce some of the pain. Pilates, on the other hand, can help strengthen your back muscles, which, in turn, can reduce back pain and prevent it from coming back.
However, not everyone has the same response to either of these exercises. That said, you will have to try both in order to determine which one helps alleviate your back pain the most. For many people, a workout that targets the back muscles work the best.
Nevertheless, practice proper care whether you are doing yoga or Pilates. If you have an existing back problem, do not overexert yourself to avoid making your pain worse. Better yet, try to do poses or movements that put the least pressure on your back.
Pro tip: use a yoga block for back pain to provide proper support to your back while performing poses. A yoga black can also give you additional stability if you are having trouble with your balance.
Yoga vs Pilates: Which Is Better For Weight Loss & Toning?
Both Pilates and yoga can provide amazing results for better muscle tone. Yoga requires you to hold poses for a certain amount of time, helping increase the strength in your muscles and thereby toning them in the process. Pilates, on the other hand, is done with small movements focusing on different parts of your body, which provides similar results to yoga when it comes to muscle toning.
However, there is not much difference between yoga and Pilates with regard to how much weight you lose. Both of these disciplines involve movements that can help you burn calories, but how many calories you burn will depend on the type of workout you’re doing. For example, doing yoga in a hot room will help you burn more calories than doing classical Pilates. Alternatively, participating in an intermediate-level Pilates class with equipment can help you lose weight faster than doing Hatha yoga. For more insights, check out our article: is yoga effective for weight loss?
Pro tip: to lose weight faster, complement your yoga or Pilates routine with a high-intensity exercise. Of course, it is also highly recommended to tweak your diet so that you are eating more healthy foods (e.g. whole grains, lean meats, vegetables, fruits) than “unhealthy” foods (e.g. processed carbs, ultra-processed meat, fast food).
Yoga vs Pilates: Which Is Better For Flexibility?
Can yoga improve flexibility? Yes. Can Pilates improve flexibility? Also yes, albeit to a lesser degree.
You can effectively increase your flexibility by doing either yoga or Pilates. However, most people find yoga to be better at improving flexibility. This is mainly because many poses in yoga aim to increase the flexibility of your joints, whereas Pilates tends to focus on relaxing tense muscles and strengthening them.
That said, if you want to gear your workout towards building flexibility, we recommend doing yoga more frequently than Pilates for a few weeks–or until you achieve the level of flexibility you want. However, keep in mind that you need to practice yoga regularly to be able to improve both your flexibility and range of motion. It also helps to practice proper posture and stretch regularly, especially if you sit all day at work.
Yoga vs Pilates: Which Is Better For Recovery?
Exercise is an essential part of most recovery plans. If you are healing from an injury, both Pilates and yoga can help your muscles recover from trauma and pain. However, Pilates may be better at relieving chronic pain and injuries as it involves targeted movements that aim to help reverse impaired movement.
Yoga, on the other hand, is beneficial for preventing sports injuries, which makes it a great workout for people who run or play a lot of sports. In addition to that, yoga provides the benefit of mental recovery because of its focus on breathing techniques and meditation. This can help individuals recover and manage trauma, depression, anxiety, and other mental ailments.
Pilates vs Yoga: Final Verdict On Which Is Best For You
At first glance, yoga and Pilates might seem similar. But as we have proven so far, they are inherently different. Pilates focuses more on strengthening your core and involves range-of-motion exercises. Yoga, on the other hand, has a more holistic approach; it aims to improve one’s emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual well-being, something that many people might not find in Pilates.
Still, it can be difficult to determine which discipline is best for you. If you want to increase your strength and flexibility, both options can help you achieve that. Pilates can provide wonderful results for your core strength, which will help you build endurance in other parts of your body as well. Yoga provides similar effects, but with the added benefit of improved mental health.
All that said, the “best” workout for you will depend on your personal preferences, goals, and level of fitness. To determine which one is better suited for you, we highly recommend trying both.
And whether you are doing yoga or Pilates, it helps to have the right cork yoga mat for every session. Keep in mind that not all yoga mats are made equal, and you definitely want a yoga mat that will keep you clean, cool, and comfortable throughout your entire workout. If you need extra support and stability, don’t forget to throw in an organic yoga block, too!