What is the difference between Pilates and Yoga?

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What is the difference between Pilates and Yoga?

“What’s the difference between Pilates and Yoga” is a question that I am asked probably more than any other, so I am sure all teachers have been asked this many times as well. It is clearly something that many people do not understand.

It’s been a warm weekend in Barcelona. The weather has turned a little so whilst it’s still hot, there is a slight freshness that is reminding everyone that the heady days of summer are passing and that autumn is not so far away now. The children are back at school and there is the usual surge of people wanting to get back into their fitness and health before the next holidays at Christmas and New Year. I like this time of year. The oppressive heat is dying down, and many of the younger people have returned to their colleges or work, so the demographic of visitors here in Barcelona is older and calmer.

During the weekend I was working with some clients who have travelled to Barcelona from Germany and Russia for one of my wellness and fitness retreats, and yet again, the Pilates or yoga question was asked. I like to let the Universe direct me to what my blogs should be about, so the message at the weekend was clear: what is the best way to explain to people the difference between Pilates and yoga?

In my experience, it’s quite typical that many yoga and Pilates devotees are passionate about their chosen discipline, but it’s clear to me that many members of the public do not understand the differences and are therefore not in a good position to decide which is best for them (or of course decide to do both as I do). As people are so passionate about their chosen discipline, if you ask one of them you are unlikely to get an objective and unbiased opinion.

Some Pilates teachers incorporate elements of their yoga practise into their Pilates teachings and vice versa, so sometimes it could be argued that the lines get blurred (can’t resist a musical MTV reference to Miley Cyrus, our twerking Pilates fan!) I use some Kundalini in my Pilates system Pilates EVO, primarily as stretches and transition movements.

So what really and simply is the difference between yoga and Pilates? How do you describe it to your clients who ask?
Let us use as our starting point the following statements and go from there:

Yoga is an ancient practice that focuses the body, mind and spirit. The yoga lifestyle upholds more than just a healthy physical lifestyle by embracing good moral values such as honesty and tolerance. Its intention was to join the individual spirit with the universal spirit. Pilates is a modern school of exercise developed by Joseph Pilates as a way to improve core strength and spinal alignment. Pilates combines flexibility, core strength and body awareness to support physical rehabilitation.

Ancient yoga practices were passed down individually between teacher and student, so there are many schools and types of yoga. Each school of yoga combines a series of postures, breathing exercises and meditation to form different routines. The repetitive movement of yoga can be very therapeutic while also building flexibility and strength. Yoga has also developed popularity as a great way to relieve stress. Exercises are completed on a floor mat and need no special equipment to begin.

Pilates improves your body from the centre outward by strengthening your core and improving your posture. Pilates is considered a resistance exercise to build muscle and support for the body while aiding flexibility. The core and spinal cord are the central and most important part of whole-body strength and awareness. The cornerstones of Pilates exercises include concentration, control, centring, breathing, flow and precision. A floor mat and specialized machines may be used in Pilates practice.

Pilates reigns supreme as the key to a strong core and improved posture. Practitioners experience stronger abdominal muscles and those hard-to-target obliques from holding positions and using resistance. Pilates exercises will make your body appear taller and leaner. You will also see improved flexibility in your hamstrings and hips. Yoga will provide the most improvement in flexibility. Holding poses while focusing on breathing stretches the body and relaxes muscles, and certain poses will target certain muscles.

So do we all agree? If not, can we all agree on a definitive explanation to clearly explain the differences, or in your experience do you not think we really need one?

Chris is an international Pilates presenter and educator based in Barcelona, Spain. He is the creator of Pilates EVO©, bodyFUNC©, and CEO of Pilates Rehab Limited and Sport Core Strength.  He also organises Pilates Carnival and Fitness Carnival, conventions where all profits go to local children’s charities. For more information about Pilates with Chris in Barcelona, please click on Barcelona Bienestar. To learn more about Chris, please read Just who is Chris Hunt anyway? You can also subscribe by completing the form on the this BLOG to receive articles and special offers straight to your inbox.

Chris pays all profits made from this BLOG to his charity partners. More details can be found by clicking on www.chrishuntwellness.com and selecting the “charity partners” tab.


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