“Which should I do?” “Which one is better?” “What is the difference?”
Nearly every day I am asked these same questions regarding Pilates and yoga — and occasionally the others, too. My short answer is Pilates and yoga form a symbiotic relationship. Pilates strengthens your core improving balance so you can hold and move into deeper yoga poses. Yoga improves your flexibility enabling you to move deeper into Pilates exercises, further strengthening your core. And the relationship rolls on.
To help in your decision of one or both, let’s discuss the similarities and differences between the two.
The history of Pilates began in the late 1800s when Joseph Pilates developed exercises to overcome various diseases he had had since his childhood. Turning to exercise, Joseph took control of his illnesses, which led to 20-plus years studying yoga and ancient Greek and Roman methods for a balanced mind and body. From there began his system of floor exercises that were first called “Contrology” and later simply “Pilates.”
Being German, Joseph was sent to a British internment camp during World War I along with other German nationals. While in camp, he utilized his floor exercises to rehabilitate patients by attaching springs to hospital beds as resistance mechanisms aiding them to regain their strength. The spring concept led to his invention of Pilates equipment which puts the floor exercises onto a moving foundation, making the exercises even more challenging.
The concept of Pilates today remains the same as Joseph Pilates intended. It improves breathing, concentration, flexibility, strength, stability and body awareness via controlled, fluid and precise movement. Continued practice will tone, strengthen and lengthen the deep, supportive muscles of the entire back, abdominals, glutes and inner and outer thighs.
Yoga’s beginnings are somewhat vague. Historians first found the term “yoga” in ancient India’s earliest known scripts, known as the Vedas, between 3300 and 1500 BC. According to David Gordon White, professor of religious studies at University of California, Santa Barbara, “The term ‘yoga’ in the Vedas refers to a yoke, as in the yoke over animals, and at times a chariot in the midst of battle.” White also notes that early writings describe “a warrior dying and transcending into heaven, being carried by his chariot to reach the gods and higher powers of being.”
Between third century BC and fifth century AD, yoga developed into a central idea among Hindus, Buddhists and Jains where the ancient versions of yoga were primarily spiritual practices that centered around four core values. The first value was to understand the root of suffering and, through meditation, reach a higher level of being as the mind transcended the suffering. The second aimed to uplift or broaden one’s consciousness. The third involved using yoga as a path to transcendence and the fourth to enter other bodies and act supernaturally.
Fast forwarding to modern times, yoga was introduced to the US in the late 1800s, growing in popularity into the 1930s and ’40s. As Hindu spirituality became more popular in the 1960s, so did yoga. In the 1980s, yoga’s popularity continued as the health benefits from yoga became known.
Today Hatha yoga, the most common in the U.S., utilizes postures, breathing and meditation with that same goal thousands of years ago to achieve a sound, healthy body and a clear, peaceful mind. There is no question that yoga also improves breathing, flexibility, muscle strength and tone using body weight.
Putting yoga and Pilates side by side, the primary difference is that yoga reaches inward through meditation toward a peaceful mind and a healthy body. Pilates works physically from the center of your body outward toward improved body awareness, strength and balance. Their similarities are breathing, concentration and control improving strength, flexibility and developing a toned, lean body.
Understanding the similarities and differences between Pilates and yoga will help you choose which is best for you. The ultimate decision would be choosing both as their unique relationship will continually improve your practice in both.
Back to the other questions: I don’t like coffee, so tea is a default, and I wish the paper or plastic question was still a question.
Sherrie Hebert is a certified personal trainer and Pilates mat and equipment instructor at Gold’s Gym and her business, Performance Pilates. You may contact her at 208-317-5685 or email@example.com and visit her Facebook page, Performance Pilates.
“Pilates Origins,” Balanced Body.
“A Brief History Of Yoga: From Ancient Hindu Scriptures to the Modern, Westernized Practice,” Lecia Bushak.