I am often asked “so what exactly is Pilates and is it similar to Yoga?” so I thought that this month I would try to explain the similarities and differences of the two disciplines …

Yoga means “union” in Sanskrit, and refers to the union of body, mind and spirit. In the same way, Joseph Pilates named his method “Contrology”, the complete coordination of mind, body and spirit. Both focus on the complete person.   Yoga and Pilates are both low impact and can be performed anywhere, all you need is a mat!

Now let’s look at the differences …

1-. Origin: Yoga is an ancient Indian discipline while Pilates is a training system created in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates, who incorporated yoga and other disciplines, such as martial arts and bodybuilding, to develop his method.

2-. Breathing: in both is fundamental, but Yoga uses abdominal breathing and is a guide for the mind when approaching each position, providing a more relaxing effect but in Pilates the breathing is thoracic and with this, activation of the core is key.

3-. Objectives: Although both practices work to correct posture, muscle elongation and physical and mental well-being, Pilates exercises are directed more at strengthening the body and improving muscle tone, whilst Yoga´s positions are more focused on relaxation and mental tranquility.

4-. Dynamics of practice: In Yoga positions are constructed first from the extremities (hands, arms, feet, and legs) then towards the center but in Pilates all moves are generated from the central powerhouse (abdomen, buttocks, and thighs) towards the extremities.

5-. Focus: Yoga practice encompasses the spiritual component of the person through physical positions and is a way of life and a philosophy. With Pilates, the mental component is a consciousness of one´s body and is purely a physical awareness as we remember the principles of breathing, control, center, precision, concentration, and fluidity.

Both Yoga and Pilates combine body and mind to achieve relaxation and physical well-being. And the best thing is that they are two activities that everyone can practice, regardless of their age or physical condition!

The main physical benefit of Yoga is to increase flexibility, while if you practice Pilates you will also strengthen and tone your muscles, as well as correcting body posture.

Pilates is more of a cardiovascular or physical discipline that will protect you from possible injuries and future illnesses such as osteoarthritis and osteoporosis and can help maintain your range of movement in your daily life. The exercises are much more intense and positions are not held for as long as in Yoga.

On the other hand, with Yoga you will achieve a tranquil state of mind and relaxation that will help you to get rid of stress and connect the mind with the body through meditation.

Both activities are interesting and which one you choose will depend on your personal preference and abilities. Most important of all though is to find a qualified and professional instructor to ensure you are doing it correctly so rather than aggravate any existing conditions, you improve your wellbeing.

Gabriela Auzoberria Calvo

Pilates Teacher – Mat and Reformer

Personal Trainer

Fitness Coach

Bodybuilding Instructor