What then are the main differences and how do you choose which is best for you?
To start with, one of the main differences, is the history or lineage for each practice. Yoga is thousands of years old (about 5000) with a rich history of culture, religious beliefs and practices passed down through gurus (Swami Monks), books (scriptures) and schools (ashrams). Yoga is a way of living your life it is not just an exercise class. Yoga translated means ‘join or unite’ the mind, body and spirit through exercise, breathing, relaxation, diet and positive thinking (meditation). For most, it is the physical exercise (Asanas), Postures and Poses of Yoga which are most popular. It is the Asanas that will build strength, improve flexibility/agility and harmonise the mind and body.
Pilates in comparison is very ‘modern’ just over 100 years old. Created by Joseph Pilates (a German national) who emigrated and opened a studio in New York City in 1926. The Pilates system of exercises (moves) were originally called ‘Contrology’ and were popular with dancers wanting to become stronger or to aid recovery after injury. Pilates is taught as a sequence of controlled moves harmonising the mind and body with fluid movements and breathing.
Pilates incorporates six original principles: Breathing, Centring, Concentration, Control, Precision and Flow.
Breathing: Joseph Pilates said ‘breathing is the first act of life, and the last . . . above all, learn to breathe correctly.’ Using the correct breath with movement (exercise) it will focus the mind, connect the deep abdominal muscles (diaphragm and pelvic floor) and enhance performance.
Centring: This is to exercise your abdomen, lower back and pelvis and is essential to provide strong, stable and efficient functionally.
Concentration: Focus your mind and body on exact movement, how you move, where you will move.
Control: Execute every movement with control. By controlling your movement your performance will improve.
Precision: Be precise, it is by working on the minute detail that improvement will be achieved
Flow: Flow will enhance the cohesive, seamless, articulation of movement.
How will the classes (exercise sessions) differ?
This again is difficult to answer as one yoga class will be very different from another yoga class and to compare this discipline to that of Pilates is like comparing chalk and cheese!
A yoga class should follow a traditional sequence of postures and poses, starting with breathing, relaxation and mobility. This will be followed by a sequence of poses called ‘Salute to the Sun’. After which a number of postures and poses will be taught. These are ‘generally’ held still. The class will end with more relaxation and sometimes meditation. A yoga class incorporating Asanas (physical movement) will work the whole body. It will strengthen, stretch, and mobilise every limb.
A Pilates class will start with a prep phase, breathing, mobility, stretching and sometimes small practice moves for the main class to follow. The main phase will be a programme of moves the teacher has planned. The moves themselves may have been adapted and changed to add creativity to the class. The focus for each move will be correct posture, alignment, deep activation of centre (core) muscles, breathing and control. This is key, as all Pilates moves move! Whereas Yoga poses are often held still. In Pilates the focus may change but it will always incorporate posture and alignment of the spine and is highly recommended for back care.
Breathing in Yoga can be taught as a discipline on its own (called Pranayama) this is without physical movement other than hand gestures (Mudras), closing and opening one nostril at a time. It is taught as a method to cleanse the lungs, digestive system and mind. Breathing is also taught for each pose, you will be instructed when to inhale and when to exhale. All breathing is through the nose, both on inhalation and exhalation.
Breathing in Pilates is taught with movement, even small movements. Breathing and breath control is used to enhance/assist the move and help focus the mind. You will be taught to breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. The outward breath is often used with effort (when a force is required to be exerted).
Compare and decide
The best way to compare and decide what is the right choice for you, is to firstly ask what your goals are, what are you looking for and what do you want to achieve. Then review the benefits from each practice and relate that to your preferences.
Your final decision will most likely come down to the teacher; can you relate to them, do they make you feel comfortable and do you find attending the class a positive experience. If the answer is yes, you have found the answer.
I hope this helps you and would love to hear your feedback or comments.
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