A quick scroll through any fitspo’s Instagram feed will probably bring up loads of yoga and Pilates pics that make you instantly wish you were more flexible/calm/in control of your life. It’s easy to make the mistake of thinking these classes basically just involve laying on a mat and breathing deeply for an hour or two, but they’re surprisingly hard work. What actually is the difference between Yoga and Pilates though? We checked in with some pros to find out.
'Tempted to try yoga? Water yoga might be your dream workout:'
Pilates is a training method created in the 1920s by Joseph Pilates (hence the name) and focuses on improving your posture and alignment.
“Although Pilates is renowned for core strength it is actually a vigorous full body workout," says Natalya Sebastian, Pilates Manager for Equinox Yorkville. "No muscle is overlooked in Pilates, which brings balance to the entire body so that it can function optimally. A Pilates practice focuses on control, breath, precision and ultimately strength.
“A Pilates group class will have flow similar to a yoga class, however the movements are calisthenic with a focus of precision of movement, strength and stability.”
You’ve probably seen photos of people in a Pilates studio on some crazy-looking pieces of equipment, but don't worry - Natalya can assure you it’s not some weird form of torture. Some Pilates sessions add equipment to certain moves, like if you were adding a barbell to a squat in the weights room.
“Some of these pieces of equipment include the Reformer, Cadillac, Chair and Ladder Barrel. Pilates utilises spring resistance to challenge muscles and build strength but also to provide assistance to movements that are challenging."
“Simply said, Pilates is a movement method which trains the body and mind. This is why it is often referred to as the intelligent form of exercise."
“Yoga has been around for over 5,000 years and its principles are deeply rooted in ancient Indian philosophies and traditions," says Jen Harvey, owner of Oceanflow Yoga. "It could be said that yoga is more holistic than Pilates as it brings in many spiritual practices, such as meditation and breathing techniques, in addition to the physical exercises that work on many levels with the body, mind and spirit.
“There are so many styles of yoga classes now available to us - anything from a dynamic strong physical class with handstands and dance music, to gentle restorative postures, chanting and deeply relaxing meditation. Depending on the teacher, they may share with you some of the ancient yogic texts or share tips with how to deal with today’s stresses and anxiety. The best way to get into yoga is to try it out! There is a teacher and style out there for everyone.”
"The benefits can include an increase in overall strength, as well as core and back health, flexibility and mobility, a sense of connection with your body, healthier habits and routine, a clearer and calmer mind, the ability to deal with stress and lessen anxiety, to boost mood and overall health and vitality."
There you go! And if you want to try either yoga or Pilates out? Find a class you’re interested in and ask the instructor about the style of the class, so you know what to expect – particularly if it’s yoga, as there are so many different styles. There’s no point in signing up for something until you know it’s right for you.
Once you’ve decided on a class, explain to the instructor that you’re new to it and follow any modifications they advise for your level. Most importantly though, enjoy it! Now go forth and be awesome.
'Words by Natalie Roberts'