Sometimes it’s easy to choose between two workouts. Having the motivation to go for a long run is completely different from wanting to take a barre class. But other times, the fitness classes seem quite similar to each other, making it hard to choose between them. Example: Pilates vs yoga.
Pilates and yoga both involve a lot of core work and body strength. But they To do have distinct differences that set them apart – and those distinctions could help you figure out which workout to do on any given day. So what are they? Here’s an expert-backed primer on Pilates vs. Yoga that breaks down the differences and similarities between the two low-impact workouts so you can choose the best practice for you and your health goals.
Pilates vs. Yoga: The Basics
Before getting into the benefits of each, it helps to know exactly what Pilates and yoga are; it’s not as obvious as you might think.
Created by German trainer Joseph Pilates in the 1920s, Pilates “is a system of exercises using both mat work and special machines designed to improve physical strength, flexibility and posture, as well as to improve mental awareness,” says Lori Shipp, who is certified to teach. Pilates and yoga. According to the Pilates Method Alliance (PMA), a nonprofit trade association, there are two forms of Pilates today: the Reformer and the Mat, both of which involve low-impact exercises combined with focused breathing.
A Reformer Pilates class is usually centered around a Reformer, which is a machine that consists of a flat, padded, movable cart with shoulder blocks for comfort and stability. This piece of equipment is distinct from Pilates; it is not used in yoga. Mat Pilates, on the other hand, is perhaps a little more reminiscent of yoga, as it takes place on the floor and may involve a yoga block. But you can also perform the movements with other accessories, such as dumbbells, resistance bands and a small inflatable ball.
“Yoga is defined as a Hindu spiritual discipline, which includes breath control, simple meditation and the adoption of specific body postures (‘asanas’),” says Shipp. “It is widely practiced for health, flexibility and relaxation.”
The deep religious and cultural roots of yoga are a key difference between the practice and Pilates, according to Malak Sharaf, a certified yoga and Pilates instructor. “I think Pilates focuses on body mechanics and understanding how the body works,” she says. “But yoga is not just about movement, it’s about breathing, quieting your mind, and finding balance.”
In fact, there are eight “limbs” or components of yoga, and only one is connected to movement, Sharaf explains. Others focus on breathing, meditation, and even moral disciplines. Unlike Pilates, there are several different forms of yoga, ranging from gentle practices (eg yin yoga) to more physically demanding practices (eg Ashtanga yoga).
What benefits do Pilates and yoga have in common?
It’s important to note that both Pilates and yoga involve a lot of focus and awareness of your body as you progress through the movements, Shipp says. “Pilates has six principles which are focus, control, centering, flow, precision and breathing – and yoga uses many of these same principles as well.” Given these similarities, it stands to reason that the two practices actually share some of the same (or, at least, similar) benefits.
For starters, yoga and Pilates help increase flexibility and strength, Shipp says. In fact, a 2010 study found that people who performed one hour of Pilates exercises twice a week for 12 weeks had a significant increase in hamstring flexibility. Meanwhile, studies have also linked regular yoga practice to increased flexibility. These effects may be due to both workouts’ emphasis on stretching, although yoga emphasizes holding poses (thus stretching and, therefore, increasing flexibility) somewhat more than Pilates.
You can also expect a lot of core work in both workouts, which can help strengthen muscles and improve posture. For example, you could do a plank pose — a move that targets the abs, chest, and lower back — in your Pilates class on Mondays and during your yoga flow on Fridays. By targeting your core through this pose, you help stabilize your lower back and, in turn, keep you upright, said Amy Jordan, creator and CEO of WundaBar Pilates. Shape.
Continuing with the plank pose example: Not only does the move channel your core muscles, but it also strengthens your arms, shoulders, and wrists, as you need to use your upper body to maintain the position. It’s a way for Pilates and yoga to strengthen muscles all over your body.
What advantages do Pilates and yoga have that set them apart?
While both workouts can help relieve stress — like any type of exercise thanks in part to mood-boosting endorphins — yoga (vs. Pilates) is more about centering attention, reducing stress and increasing concentration, according to experts.
Compared to Pilates, yoga places more emphasis on breathing practices and meditation, says Sharaf — and both of these are known to calm and center the brain. But leaving you feeling more relaxed is just one of the mental health benefits of this workout: yoga (vs. Pilates) has also been shown to alleviate anxiety and depression by raising levels of a brain chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), according to Harvard Health Publishing. And studies suggest that regular yoga practice can also strengthen parts of the brain that play key roles in memory, attention, awareness, thought and language, helping stave off declining cognitive health. age related.
Unlike Pilates, yoga typically involves chanting, which “creates a beneficial vibration for both mind and body,” Sharaf explains. And research backs it up: Studies have shown that repeating the word (or sound) “om” stimulates the vagus nerve, which calms both the mind and the body.
When it comes to their physical effects, Pilates (vs. yoga) is a little more protective of the body, says Sharaf. This is partly because the movements in Pilates tend to be smaller, which decreases the risk of injury. “Some yoga poses are quite extreme and can be dangerous if someone isn’t willing to try them,” Sharaf explains. “When you see other people in a yoga class doing extreme poses, it’s easy to want to try them before you’re ready. That’s less likely to happen in Pilates.
Another remarkable advantage of Pilates over yoga? The tools used in the classroom allow for deeper work and reinforcement, says Shipp. “Using even the smallest of props, like the magic circle, Pilates has the ability to locate muscles and provide incredible strength and stability training,” she explains.
Pilates vs. Yoga: which is better?
So, which workout to choose? That’s up to you, and if you ask the experts, Pilates and yoga both deserve a place in your workout routine.
“I advise people that generally yoga is [best for] flexibility and stability, while Pilates is [best for] strength and stability,” says Shipp. That being said, you can experience both increased strength in yoga and improved flexibility in Pilates – maybe not as much.
Also, one is not a better workout than the other; they are just different. “They can both be low-impact, low-intensity, and all-body inclusive,” Shipp says. “They can also be ‘pushed up to 10’ and may require a high level of aerobic fitness coupled with extreme skill and strength. They may both be exactly what you need for your personal wellness goals.
If you absolutely have to decide between them, Shipp’s advice is simple: do what you love. “Pick the one that makes you feel the most joy in the movements and that you find the most fun,” she says. “Life is too short.”
This story first appeared on www.shape.com.
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