Nearly 20.4 million people were practicing Yoga in the U.S. in 2012, according to The Huffington Post, and those numbers are likely even higher now as yoga is at an all-time height of popularity.
Pilates, too, is rising in popularity. Yoga may have a bigger following right now but with celebrity Pilates teachers like Tracy Anderson and participants such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Madonna, and Jennifer Aniston, yoga may have some competition.
The good news is that you don’t have to choose between the two. A lot of people practice both yoga and Pilates to get just the right balance of benefits.
The Breakdown: Yoga Vs. Pilates
Part scientist, part mechanical genius, and part anatomist, Joseph Pilates paired his method with a variety of equipment that he referred to as “apparatus.” Yoga in the West has also recently adopted the practice of using equipment such as straps, blocks, bolsters, and eye pillows. While it’s possible that Pilates may in some ways inspire yoga, yoga certainly inspired Pilates. Pilates himself studied yoga, and his writing indicates that it was his intention to unify mind, body, and spirit, and as a result, many of the benefits of the two technologies are similar.
Both Pilates and yoga offer stress-relief, flexibility, strength, control, and endurance. The biggest difference between the two is the emphasis on the spiritual component in classes. Outside of Yoga-laties, most Pilates classes don’t offer an obvious spiritual experience, however, Pilates may be a great starting point or compliment for a yoga practice. The slower pace of a Pilates class can be meditative and stress relieving.
Pilates: Pilates classes focus on strength, muscle toning, body control, and flexibility, with the main emphasis being core strength. Pilates is a disciplined practice that needs to be done on a regular basis to provide benefit. If you like a more structured workout without the cardio component, chanting, OMing, or complex postures, this could be the workout for you.
Yoga: On the other hand, yoga focuses on flexibility and broad muscle groups. It offers balance, endurance, strength, spirituality, and some really physical movement. Classes can range from gentle and nourishing to challenging and sweaty. With all the variety, there is always a class and a style for everyone. If you like to move and you’re a go-with-the-flow kind of person, yoga might just be your ticket.
The Perfect Combo
The question remains—should you practice yoga or Pilates? Why choose a practice when you can have the benefit of both? Although I practice some form of yoga almost every day, I also incorporate one or two Pilates sessions into my workouts each week. I enjoy the flexibility, freedom, and challenge of yoga, as well as the attention to detail and ab work that Pilates provides.
Consider your fitness priorities and level, and build your practice from there. If you’re in great shape and want to burn extra calories and work on endurance, a Hatha, Vinyasa, or Anusara yoga class would be ideal. If you’re a runner and need to fine-tune your core strength, then Pilates may be the best choice. The main thing is that you want to pick a practice that you enjoy and that you can do on a regular basis.