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What is the difference between yoga and pilates?

Before I began practicing yoga 4 years ago, I practiced Pilates.  I loved Pilates and still practice from time to time, but I feel more spiritually and emotionally connected to yoga. After I began practicing yoga, many people asked me: why did you switch? What’s the difference? Although from afar both practices look similar, (use of a mat, most exercises done on the floor etc.) they are actually very different. So here is the answer to the question ‘What is the difference between yoga and pilates?’

Yoga vs pilates

What is the difference between yoga and pilates?

The Origin

Yoga

The most obvious difference is the origin of the practice.  Yoga was developed thousands of years ago.  The practice has grown and changed over the years, with many different gurus adding and taking away from the whole of yoga.

Yoga is also more than just exercises. There is a philosophy behind yogaMeditationpranayama, chanting and mantras also play a large part in the practice.

Pilates

In comparison, Pilates was developed by one man named Joseph Pilates in 1883.  As a sickly child, Joseph promised himself that he would find a way to cure his ailments naturally. As he matured, he studied many different forms of exercise such as yoga, martial arts, and gymnastics. Eventually he developed the Pilates system which he not only used on himself but prescribed to those he taught.

The Aim

Yoga

The ultimate aim of yoga is to attain enlightenment. The secondary aim is to unite the mind, body and spirit. This is accomplished through a variety of asanas, breathing exercises, meditation, and diet.

Pilates

The aim of Pilates is overall health and vitality. The exercises, often performed with breath control, are meant to strengthen, tone and stretch – bringing overall balance to the body.

The physical practice

Yoga

The physical poses and practice of yoga varies greatly depending on the type of yoga studied. Some forms, such as Hatha and Iyenger, make use of props like straps and blocks. Other types, such as Kundalini yoga, do not typically use props.

Regardless of props, yoga is always performed on a mat on the floor. The asanas, or poses, require the body to stretch and hold in unique ways-always using the body as resistance. The poses, although strengthening, are often aimed more towards flexibility and stretching.

Pilates

Pilates is known for its use of exercise machines developed by Joseph Pilates. Although, one does not need to use machines to practice Pilates. Aside from Pilates machines, the remaining practice is done on a mat on the floor.

Pilates focuses on strengthening the core, or abdominal muscles.  Through precision of movement, Pilates aims to teach the body new ways of moving in order to strengthen and tone muscles not often used. Although the practice encourages flexibility, it is more aimed towards strengthening the body.

Pilates is popular among dancers and athletes for its amazing ability to strengthen, stretch, and tone the entire body.

Conclusion

There are several similarities between yoga and Pilates.  The two practices even share some poses in common – such as cat cow pose, plank, cobra (called swan in Pilates), and chaturanga dandasana.

But aside from the similarities, Pilates and Yoga are very different practices.

The next question on the beginner’s mind: which is better?

The answer is neither.  Each has it’s own unique benefits, and because of this many people choose to practice both.

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