Yoga VS Pilates: Which Is Better?

By Marisa Ramiccio. May 7th 2016

The terms “Yoga” and “Pilates” are often used interchangeably, however, they shouldn’t be mistaken for one another. There are some key differences that set yoga and Pilates apart, and it’s those differences that make each practice appealing to its respective followers. In this guide, you’ll find out what makes yoga different from Pilates and which one is better for you.

How Yoga And Pilates Differ

Yoga and Pilates differ in many ways, beginning with their origins. Yoga was first practiced in India more than 5,000 years ago and since then, has evolved into many different branches including:

  • Anusara – This allows self-expression through different positions rather than doing a structured routine.
  • Yin – This type of yoga is meant to relax the body and mind and lengthen the muscles. It’s also complementary to other types of yoga including Anusara.

[Related – A Complete Guide To The Different Types Of Yoga]

Pilates has also evolved into several different branches such as:

  • Stott Pilates – This type of Pilates emphasizes contemporary techniques.
  • Power Pilates – This is a classic type of Pilates that emphasizes strength and healing.

Like yoga, Pilates has evolved over the years, but unlike yoga, Pilates isn’t centuries old. Pilates actually began in the mid-1900s. It was created by Joseph Pilates, an athlete who came up with the practice as a way to strengthen and rehabilitate the body.

[Related – A Guide To Pilates Exercises For Beginners]

Of course, the origins aren’t the only thing that makes yoga and Pilates differ from one another. Here are some other differences between the two:

  • Yoga focuses on spirituality through the use of meditation and focuses on the mind/body/spirit connection whereas Pilates focuses on the mid/body connection.
  • Pilates workouts aren’t always done on a mat. Machinery may be incorporated into the routine, depending on the class and instructor.
  • Pilates classes also tend to be more structured than yoga classes.
  • Yoga puts more of a focus on breathing than Pilates. In yoga, meditation and deep breathing are emphasized while breathing in Pilates usually consists of breathing through the nose and mouth.

Pros And Cons Of Yoga

To figure out whether yoga or Pilates is better for you, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of both. For yoga, the pros are plenty. To begin with, yoga is considered to be therapeutic because many people are able to find harmony, inner peace and healing while practicing it. Here are some of the other benefits of yoga:

  • You can boost your flexibility – Studies show that those who practice yoga at least three times a week for eight weeks can improve their body’s flexibility.
  • You can also increase your strength – Studies also show that body strength can be developed through regular practice of yoga.
  • You can develop better stamina – Yoga can also increase stamina, which is particularly important for athletes.
  • It can be done virtually anywhere – Since yoga really only requires a mat, it can be done almost anywhere.

[Related – 10 Amazing Health Benefits Of Yoga]

Yoga can also relieve back pain and the symptoms of arthritis, and it can reduce the frequency and intensity of hot flashes by up to 30 percent. However, yoga has a downside as well. Here are the cons of yoga:

  • You can overstretch your muscles – This can lead to pulled muscles.
  • Yoga doesn’t work your heart – Yoga isn’t a good cardio workout, so if you want to exercise your heart, supplement it with jogging or running.
  • Yoga won’t help you lose weight – You only burn about 150 calories per one-hour yoga class, or 250 calories if you’re doing power yoga. Unfortunately, that’s not enough to shed the pounds. However, studies show that those who practice yoga are less likely to gain life during their 40s and 50s.

Pros And Cons Of Pilates

Pilates doesn’t offer the softer side of working out that yoga does. Since it doesn’t emphasize the spirit connection, meditation and finding inner peace aren’t part of the workout. Instead, Pilates often incorporates the use of machinery and rubber balls to work certain muscle groups and is generally better liked by type A personalities. Here’s why:

  • You can work on your abs – Pilates focuses on strengthening your core and is more than 300 percent more effective than yoga at targeting the oblique muscles.
  • It will improve your posture – Because Pilates strengthens the abs and the muscles in the back, it can improve your posture, making your body look taller and leaner.
  • It can give your heart a workout – Advanced Pilates classes can boost your heart rate comparable to speed walking. However, beginner classes don’t get the blood pumping as much.
  • Pilates workouts can be sport-specific – This is good news for athletes who need to target certain muscles groups in order to improve performance in their sport. It can also correct strength imbalances that many athletes develop.

Of course, Pilates has a downside, too. Here are some of the cons:

  • Pilates isn’t a good way to lose weight – It would take a lot of work – hour-long advanced sessions for four days a week – to lose weight or maintain your weight.
  • It doesn’t work the whole body – Yoga provides a better body workout than Pilates, which focuses on working certain muscle groups.
  • It won’t lengthen your muscles – Pilates may strengthen certain muscles groups, but it won’t lengthen your muscles, as some people claim.

The Verdict

So which provides the better workout? Pilates or yoga? The answer actually depends on what you’re looking for. If you want an all-around workout that exercise every part of your body, yoga may be better for you. However, if you’re an athlete or want to target certain muscles, Pilates is probably your best bet. But the best way to figure out what works best for you is to try both yoga and Pilates and stick with the one that you prefer. You may even find that you like to do both. You’ll get the best of both worlds because yoga and Pilates complement each other


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