Yoga vs Pilates: How are they different?

How to choose your ideal practice

difference between yoga and pilates

Though you may have heard people talk about yoga and pilates as though they’re one of the same thing, they are actually rather different.

Whilst pilates is a 20th century invention focused solely on the physical, yoga is an ancient practice created for spiritual purposes.

vinyasa yoga

Although the fact that yoga is a spiritual practice whilst pilates is not is the main difference between the two, there are a few other nuances that might help you to decide which class to sign up for.

In this post, we’re going to look at the differences between the two practices, how to decide which one is right for you, the equipment that you need to get started, and why, ultimately, it’s in your best interest to practice both… No, really.

The main differences between yoga and pilates

Yoga is a spiritual practice that, over time, increases flexibility in the muscles and can also improve movement in the joints. Yoga is all about using your body to improve your mental, emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing.

difference between yoga and pilates

Though, in the west, we often turn to yoga for its physical benefits, there’s a lot we’re missing out on if we never stop to appreciate the spiritual growth it has to offer us.

Pilates, on the other hand, is focused on the physical body. The practice is designed to relax tense muscles and improve the strength of the entire body, particularly the core. Pilates can be the better choice for people looking for more of a workout than a spiritual practice.

Both yoga and pilates are great options if you’re looking to add movement into your day as well as get to know your body a little better. Depending on the style of yoga that you choose to practice, both yoga and pilates can also offer a pretty intense workout!

How to choose between yoga and pilates

First, you need to know what you’re looking for from your new practice - other than a great excuse to treat yourself to a shiny, new mat!

Let’s start by considering what you need from a physical perspective…

The physical

If you need to recover from an injury, pilates may be the better choice as there’s less stretching and a bigger focus on strength. Whilst if you’re looking to prevent injuring yourself whilst playing sport, for example, yoga will help to keep your muscles and joints mobile and, therefore, less likely to get injured.

It’s also important to remember that there are many different styles of yoga. Whilst a vinyasa yoga is similar to a pilates class in that it will help to build strength, a restorative yoga or yin yoga yin yoga class are lightyears away from pilates.

difference between yoga and pilates

Yin yoga is the practice of holding deep stretches for prolonged periods of time in order to stretch the deeper muscle tissue. Restorative yoga is the practice of using lots of cushions, blocks, and bolster pillows to soothe your body into comfortable positions with the primary goal being to encourage relaxation of your body and nervous system.

So physically, what are you looking for?

Something to aid recovery or prevent injury? Something to help you relax deeply or strengthen your core? Asking yourself these questions is a great place to start in the search for the best practice for you.

The mental

After that, we need to look at what you’re looking for mentally. Faster paced yoga classes are similar to pilates in that they require you to believe in yourself! After all, these can be challenging classes.

difference between yoga and pilates

If you’re looking for something to ease stress that borders more on meditation, then yoga could be the better choice. However, moving your body in any way is always going to offer a heap of benefits for the mind.

If you’re looking to connect with spirituality and deepen your connection to your inner self, the universe, god, or whatever you want to call it. Then yoga is what you’re looking for.

Yoga is an ancient spiritual practice from India that was designed to unite the mind, body, and soul. Although it can also offer a wonderful workout, it was never designed as a physical practice that neglects the potential to deepen your spirituality.

What equipment you need to get started

Though similar, you’ll need slightly different equipment to get started in yoga or pilates:

What you need for

  • A mat
  • Two blocks
  • One yoga strap (not elastic)

What you need for

  • A mat
  • Two blocks
  • One elastic pilates strap

These are both very basic lists of the minimum equipment that you need to get started in either practice. Whilst it’s true that you can practice both yoga and pilates with just a mat, having a couple of blocks and a strap can really enhance your practice and make positions both more beneficial and more accessible.

The quality of your mat is also important as is choosing the right mat for your practice, be it yoga, pilates, or both! Here are some tips on how to choose the best mat for your needs and 11 of the best mats available on the market for every budget.

difference between yoga and pilates

If you decide to attend classes at a local gym or studio, they’ll have all of the equipment that you need. However, it’s always nice to have your own mat and investing in your own props means that you can continue to deepen your practice at home.

It could be argued that you don’t need any props, such as blocks or straps, to start yoga or pilates, and that is true! However, props are a wonderful way to ensure correct alignment, make poses more suitable for your body shape and flexibility, and, during pilates, can offer support and help you create a more intense workout.

Why you should practice yoga and pilates

Here’s the big secret… The fact that yoga and pilates are so different is exactly why you should do both!

When attending pilates regularly, you’ll build strength, endurance, and possibly begin to hate the phrase “just 5 more pumps”.

When attending yoga, you’ll gain flexibility and a more peaceful state of mind.

Bring the two practices together and you’ll be invincible. Well, at least in our opinion.

However, starting two new hobbies at once can be a little overwhelming and lead to you giving up on both of them entirely. And we don’t want that for you. We want you to reap the benefits of both of these incredible forms of movement! Which is why we recommend picking one practice and getting comfortable with it.

We suggest choosing the practice that calls to you the most and sticking with it for a couple of months before introducing the second practice.

So, we guess the only question left is… What’s it gonna be?!

The takeaway

Both yoga and pilates offer a variety of unique benefits that your body and mind are sure to love. Combine the practices and you’ll have started curating the perfect movement routine to soothe your mind, body and soul whilst increasing core strength and endurance.

Keira is a mother, certified yoga teacher (250h vinyasa +30h yin yoga), yin yogaand writer from the UK, now living in France with her partner and 3 year old daughter. She loves sharing yoga as a way to connect with your body and relax. 

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