Yoga or Pilates? We choose both!
Many studios offer both types of classes so it can be tricky to decide which class is for you. Here we will look at what the key similarities and differences are between yoga and pilates to help you to come to a decision?
Types of Yoga:
There are many different types of yoga (asana or posture practise) ranging from the athletic to the pure chillout.
Ashtanga Yoga: This is fairly fast paced and includes a sequence of postures to be practised in order, mastering one level before moving on to the next. It is an athletic full body workout but the repetition of the same sequence each class can help you to find a rhythm and meditative state. Most Vinyasa Flow or general yoga classes have derived from this sequence however not practised so strictly.
Hot Yoga: A sequence of posture practised in a headed room often by infrared heaters reaching up to 40 degrees! It is as described- Hot! So expect to sweat, but feel rejuvenated and detoxed afterward.
Restorative yoga: The complete opposite of all fore mentioned yoga types. This class uses many props, cushions and blankets to make you comfortable in each posture which can be held from 5-10 minutes and sometimes more! Fear not though it is blissfully relaxing and completely calms you, so much so you will be struggling to stay awake.
Yin yoga: Influenced by Chinese medicine postures are aimed at activating different meridians and cleansing energy in the body. Postures are held for long periods of time in this slower paced class where you can expect a deep stretch all round.
There are many other types of yoga including power yoga, Iyengar yoga, Hatha yoga, Vinyasa flow and many more.
Yoga posture practise (asana) aims at moving the whole body in a low impact way, linking movement and breath together.
Pilates originated from Joseph Pilates who was an anatomy and movement expert. Movements are targeted and specific areas of the body using discipline and focus to achieve greater flexibility and strength.
There are not as many different types or trends of pilates as yoga ( which is ever evolving sometimes to the weird and wonderful). It has mostly followed the same structure and style with only a few varying elements. Most pilates classes are mat based, however some types use various weights and equipment. For those wanting a more tailored one to one approach reformer pilates uses large machines that create resistance for the body to work with. (You won’t find reformer pilates in all studios as the machines are very large and expensive). One more place you can find pilates is at the barre (no not bar! The ballet barre) This style merges movements from ballet and pilates that creates a full body work out!
The benefits of each:
Yoga and Pilates have many similar benefits including developing core strength and balance. Both yoga and pilates use your own body’s weight to work the muscles all over the body.
Pilates does tend to focus more on core strengthening but also aims to lengthen and strengthen the whole body, giving you toned yet flexible muscles
Yoga also works on developing strength, but the way you move your whole body and spine in all different ways, from standing to seated postures it has the added benefit of keeping your joints well lubricated and supple.
Pilates can often be mostly practised on the ground with lots of floor based postures, therefor good if getting up and down of the floor is a challenge for you, get flow based yoga classes move through different levels from the ground up, then back down again, building heat and cardiovascular fitness.
Pilates is said to be great for rehabilitation especially if suffering with back pain, yet yoga is great for training athletes of any level to deep stretch tight and tired muscles.
Beyond the Physical:
Yoga has a rich history of being beyond what we practise on the mat. Often teachers will introduce philosophical teachings during the class that stem back thousands of years. Students often go away with a little more than they intended and start to question how they can live a more fulfilled life.
Both yoga and pilates encourage you to slow down and listen to what your body needs, which can be very different to other exercise forms. In this slowing down it calms your nervous system and reduces stress. Lets face it we all need a little more of that!
Yoga teaches meditation and mindfulness practices, along with pranayama ( breath exercises) which encourage us to be in the moment more and less in our heads!
Pilates also focuses on movement and breath linked but don’t expect to sit in meditation or learn chanting, it is mostly focussed on the physical.
Both have many physical and mental benefits to us, even if that is simply to take an hour out of our days to focus on us! If you are looking for a core strengthening, body toning class that leaves you feeling relaxed and renewed the pilates is a must. If you want a full body work out, or the option of a more gentle restful class that links, breath with movement and starts to teach you more spiritual and contemplative practises then Yoga is for you!
My opinion- I say the winner of all is to practise both together and mix it up then you get the best of both worlds!