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Yoga vs. Pilates: Which One Works Best for You?

Yoga is an ancient practice that originated in India and is based on the belief in the union of the mind, body, and spirit. It includes a variety of physical postures, breathing exercises, and meditation techniques. The purpose of Yoga is to improve physical strength and flexibility, as well as to promote mental and spiritual well-being.

Pilates is a form of exercise that was developed by Joseph Pilates in the early 20th century. It is a system of exercises that focus on the core muscles of the body, including the abdominal, back, and hip muscles. Pilates emphasizes controlled, precise movements and proper alignment to improve strength, flexibility, and balance. It also aims to improve posture, breathing, and overall physical and mental well-being.


Why Should You Practice Yoga and Pilates?

Yoga and Pilates are popular for good a reason. Here are their main benefits:

  • Flexibility: Yoga and Pilates focus more on stretching than other physical practices. This improves your muscle stretch and joint flexibility;
  • Endurance: Believe it or not, Yoga and Pilates DO count as physical exercise although they’re not nearly as demanding as other sports;
  • Balance and coordination: both practices include many balance and coordination exercises that can improve your posture too (a key benefit for seniors);
  • Improved mental health: Deep breathing and relaxation techniques in Yoga and Pilates reduce stress and promote the production of dopamine, your “feel-good” hormone.

The best part? Yoga and Pilates are low-impact and adaptable to all fitness levels. Low-impact exercise can help people with injuries or chronic pain, as well as the elderly.

Photo Credits By Envato Elements

How Does Yoga Work?

In short, Yoga is an ancient practice that combines meditation, breathing, and stretching, among other techniques. Physical postures are very important too; for example, Asanas improve flexibility and strength, while pranayama regulates breath and calms the mind.

Yoga sessions typically include standing, seated, twists, backbends, and inversions. Warm-up exercises and meditation usually start and end each session.

Of course, Yoga styles, paces, and intensities vary depending on your experience, physical training, and other factors. For instance, Hatha Yoga emphasizes alignment and longer holds, while Vinyasa Yoga is faster and involves flowing movements between poses. Sounds overwhelming? Don’t worry – I’ll explain more below!

All in all, you can practice Yoga in groups or alone at home if you’re not that much of a chatter. Online Yoga classes or videos can also help you practice – and they’ve been trendy since the pandemic! Regardless of your choice, one thing’s for sure: Yoga practice calms, centers, and balances many people.


What Are The Benefits of Yoga?

Yoga has many health benefits, both physically and mentally. Here are the main perks you can get too even as a beginner:

  • Relaxation: from deep breathing to meditation and just sitting for a while in silence, every aspect of Yoga can reduce stress and anxiety;
  • Balance: Stretching and holding poses for as long as you can is a great practice for your balance regardless of age;
  • Cardiovascular health: Many poses in regular Yoga require strength and endurance, which improves your blood circulation;
  • Oxygenation: Yoga’s focus on breath control enhances lung capacity and oxygen concentration in your blood;
  • Sleep quality: Yoga’s relaxation and stress reduction can improve sleep quality and reduce insomnia.

In addition, research also found that lower back pain, headaches, and carpal tunnel syndrome can be alleviated with Yoga.

Now, as I promised, it’s time to explore the main types of Yoga. Each one has its own benefits, techniques, and difficulty level, but they all share the same goal: improving your well-being. Let’s check them out!


Which Are The Main Types of Yoga?

Each yoga style has its own focus and emphasis. These popular styles may suit certain needs:

  • Hatha Yoga: This fancy term refers to any type of Yoga that emphasizes physical postures. Hatha Yoga is slow-paced and emphasizes alignment and holding poses.
  • Vinyasa Yoga: Also known as flow yoga, this practice links movement with breath and is more vigorous. It boosts cardio, strength, and flexibility.
  • Kundalini Yoga: This yoga style awakens the energy at the base of the spine through physical postures, breathing exercises, and meditation. Plus, it boosts spirituality and energy!
  • Iyengar Yoga: This style emphasizes proper form and the use of props like blocks and straps. It’s recommended for injury recovery, chronic pain, and alignment.
  • Restorative Yoga: This option is perfect for stress relief and relaxation. It supports passive poses with blankets and bolsters.
  • Yoga for specific conditions: Prenatal Yoga, Yoga for cancer survivors, Yoga for seniors, etc.

Still not sure which option suits you best? In that case, you can always opt for a Yoga class or contact a guide in your area. Our guide on The 8 Best Yoga Towns in the US includes Yoga studio recommendations for all levels, so that may help!

senior woman doing phisycal rehabilation and pilates with her coach in the sport centre
Photo Credits By Envato Elements

What Is Pilates?

Pilates has skyrocketed in popularity recently, but this practice is nearly 100 years old! In fact, Joseph Pilates invented Pilates in the early 1900s. This practice targets the core muscles—abdominal, back, and hips — with various exercises.

Pilates workouts usually require mats or specialized equipment like the Reformer, Cadillac, and Chair. “Plank,” “The Hundred,” and “Single-Leg Circle” are definitely the most popular Pilates exercises. Small, controlled movements that work deep muscles are key to these techniques. Nevertheless, Pilates also includes larger, flowing movements that work the whole body.

Much like Yoga, Pilates classes vary in style, pace, and intensity. Some classes emphasize flexibility and balance, while others focus on strength and muscle tone. Many classes also include cardio and stretching exercises.

Just like Yoga, you can practice Pilates alone with videos or instructions. However, many people (me included!) love Pilates classes for their wide variety of participants.


What Are The Benefits of Pilates?

Pilates CAN work wonders for you regardless of your age, fitness level, and other factors. Here’s why:

  • Stronger Core: Pilates strengthens the core, which improves posture, mobility, and stability;
  • Increased Flexibility: Pilates moves can help you move more freely and without pain;
  • Improved Coordination: Most Pilates exercises require you to use your whole body. This especially helps older people and those with balance issues;
  • Reduced Tension: Pilates’ controlled, mindful movements and breathing techniques can reduce stress;
  • Better Posture: Pilates can improve your posture by strengthening your core, balance, and flexibility, reducing your risk of injury and improving your appearance.
  • Increased Energy: Pilates engages your entire body, which can boost your energy.
  • Improved Mental Clarity: Pilates helps you focus on your movements and breath as a mind-body exercise, which can reduce anxiety and stress.

In other words, Pilates and Yoga have many benefits in common. There’s no right or wrong: both practices can give you long-term perks!

However, the actual practice of Pilates is different than Yoga as you’ll see next:


Which Are The Main Types of Pilates?

Pilates can be practiced very differently depending on your fitness levels and goals. Let me explain the main types of Pilates briefly:

  • Classical Pilates: Joseph Pilates invented this form of Pilates. It involves mat exercises and reformer, cadillac, and chair workouts. Classical Pilates improves posture, core strength, and mind-body awareness.
  • Contemporary Pilates: this one is basically classical Pilates with modern exercise techniques and equipment. Contemporary Pilates emphasizes body movement and is more flexible and personalized.
  • Power Pilates: This intense version of classical Pilates uses faster movements and more repetitions. Power Pilates is ideal for those who want a more challenging workout;
  • Clinical Pilates: Doctors recommend clinical Pilates to treat injuries and chronic conditions like back pain. Clinical Pilates addresses imbalances to improve function and reduce pain.
  • Stott Pilates: developed by Moira Stott-Merrithew, this option emphasizes anatomical precision and detail. Stott Pilates emphasizes spinal alignment and pelvic placement to relieve pain and improve posture.
  • Polestar Pilates: Classical Pilates with a holistic approach to health and wellness.


How to Choose Between Yoga and Pilates?

Both practices have physical and mental benefits, making it hard to choose one.

First, let’s remember what we already know about each practice:  Yoga is a centuries-old practice. It includes meditation, breathing, and various postures with deep spiritual meaning and history. In the meanwhile, Pilates was developed in the 20th century, so it’s much more recent.

Now, you have to consider your goals when choosing yoga or Pilates. Yoga may be better for stress reduction, flexibility, and spirituality. Yoga’s breathing and meditation exercises can calm you and allow you to focus on your inner self. It includes postures to improve flexibility and balance.

On the other hand, Pilates is better for toning, posture, and core strength. Pilates exercises target the core and the whole body. This improves your muscle strength and endurance.

Fitness is another factor. Beginners can benefit from Yoga as it’s generally light in terms of physical moment. Of course, m any yoga classes offer modifications for different levels. Pilates is harder, especially for beginners, but it’s great for those who want to push themselves a bit so you shouldn’t ignore that!

Furthermore, you might consider the environment you want. Yoga classes can be relaxing or intense. For example, hot  yoga classes increase flexibility and your heart rate. Pilates classes emphasize controlled movements and form because they’re more structured.

If you’re still undecided, I highly recommend you to try a few classes of each if you have the time.

Are you already practicing Yoga, Pilates, or both? If so, make sure to tell us your experiences or any useful advice in the comment section below!

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Passionate about cognitive psychology and data research, Tudor aims to highlight the importance of prioritizing self-care regardless of age, gender, or nationality. For over two years, he has been prioritizing extensive research in mindfulness and meditation techniques delivered to everyday people in a simple, meaningful manner.

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