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One mat, two movement system - Pilates vs yoga

pilates versus yoga

Pilates versus Yoga

Low-intensity and mindful movements have been on the rise for some years, of which Pilates and yoga being the sexiest. If you are hesitating which of the two would fit your body and your soul the best, here you are some tips to help you decide.

To start with, I would say all depends on your goals. Are you looking for strengths, flexibility, or both? Or rather injury prevention, stress-reduction or weight-loss? Both Pilates and yoga have major benefits to offer.


Pilates was originally invented to become the every-day sport for the general public, in an era when working out was rather just the privilege of athletes and professional sportsmen. Joseph Pilates visioned that his regime of exercises should be integrated into the daily life of everyone and serve as a tool to reach a healthy body and healthy life. He as an accredited boxer studied various disciplines during his trainings, like – but not limited to – yoga, martial arts, weight lifting, etc. and integrated many of their benefits into his workout. Only when his method had proved to be very successful amongst I-World War-interns that he was asked to work with injured and bed-ridden people, did the method take a direction also towards rehabilitation. This was also the start of the rise of the famous Pilates apparatus and working the muscles against spring resistance, which takes today a prominent part of the method.

Over the decades the Pilates method has evolved in various directions as Pilates himself always taught the body in front of him. Therefore, also those taking over his legacy could often disagree on the ways of how exactly to teach his exercises. Now the range stretches from the super classical to the very contemporary, in which latter you would even have difficulty to find any of the trace of the traditional exercises, or from the fitness-like versions to injury rehabilitation. We recommend you therefore to always ask your instructor if the way of her teaching corresponds to your personal objectives.

No matter, however the direction, the major benefits of the Pilates method are rather common:

  • Pilates aims to exercise the body as an integrated whole from head to toes. The practice helps the balanced development of all muscles, while respecting the healthy range of movement in the joints.
  • Muscle strength and flexibility walk hand in hand here as the method prefers that the muscles contract while elongating.
  • The balanced exercising improves the posture as deep muscles get just as much attention as surface ones, to get a stable trunk as a stable basis for free movement.
  • The training is highly adaptable to any needs and fitness levels as the quality of the movement counts instead of its quantity.
  • Precision is key to respect the anatomy and physiology of the body, but it also directs the mind to connect better to the body. This aspect also helps with stress reduction and brings Pilates towards the mindful range of sports.


Yoga may have taken some millennia to evolve into the current western phenomenon, ranging from soft yin yoga to the more hardcore ashtanga, or the various versions practised in heat. As the market has become more commercialised, more and more yoga classes offer to burn calories and sculpt the bodies. But to oppose this trend there are more and more teachers on the rise, too, who are committed to yoga`s traditional spiritual principles. It was originally practised to focus the mind and connect with a higher, universal consciousness and find compassion through the repetitive movements. Ultimately it aims not only to improve your physical health but your emotional and spiritual well-being, too. In addition to being therapeutic, the movements allow to gain flexibility, strength and stability in the body.

The similarities and differences – as we have experienced them

Both yoga and Pilates are low intensity, low impact and inclusive forms of exercises, and consider the body as a whole. They can increase flexibility and strength, and reduce stress through breathing and conscious movement. They both urge to create space in the body and target muscles groups that you won`t access in many other forms of exercise. To practice any of them your general fitness level is irrespective.

The greatest difference lies in the ultimate goal of each practice: while Pilates uses mindfulness to connect to the inner workings of the body, yoga uses the body to connect with the mind and inner self through movement and breathing. The original form of yoga is first and foremost a meditative practice, while Pilates was designed as a common physical exercise routine principally for physical well-being.

Though some of the Pilates exercises may resemble to certain yoga poses, the focus of each exercise is not that we reach and hold the final „pose”, but rather the way of how we perform the exercise. In Pilates quality matters the most; through conscious movement we explore the limits of the physical body but without compromising its current capabilities, range of motion or anatomical specificities. Body alignment and correct muscle contraction are the keys while moving and they are helped by enormous mental focus and breath.

Pilates is mostly dynamic, it does not really hold out poses like yoga. The goal is to move and teach the body the correct form of movement through repetition, which it can then integrate into daily movement patterns through automation.

So, base your choice on your personal objectives. But as they are rather complementary than competitive forms of movement, actually you do not need to choose. Rather try to combine Pilates with yoga for an amazing way to transform your body and mind.