As Yoga and Pilates are both mind-body exercises, they are often confused with each other. This is especially true of people who aren’t regular practitioners of the two disciplines or those who aren’t Pilates teachers or Yoga instructors. However, there are various fundamental differences between these two. In this article, we’ll explain what these are.
Although Yoga and Pilates both have breathing as a fundamental aspect of their sessions, the way that breathing happens in these two disciplines is very different:
- Yoga practises Ujjayi breath. What this means is that you will inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. However, while you exhale you will slightly constrict the back of your throat so that you make a slight ‘sighing’ sound. (By the way, practitioners of Ujjayi breath also find that while they are engaged in this process they find that their stress levels are significantly relieved.)
- Pilates, on the other hand, teaches students to inhale through their nose and exhale – through an open mouth – during the part of the movement that requires the most energy. The theory behind this is that you need the most oxygenated blood flowing through your veins during the part of the movement that requires the most energy.
Another fundamental difference between Yoga and Pilates is the equipment that is used in each type of exercise:
- Yoga uses very minimal equipment such as a mat and wooden blocks to help with getting into positions such as downward dog and other inverted poses.
- On the other hand, Pilates uses a great deal of equipment during their sessions. The type of equipment will depend on the studio. Possible pieces of equipment that can be used are:
- Electric chair
Format of the class
Yoga practice is made up of a number of positions, or asanas as they are called in Sanskrit. They are performed in a particular sequence and are held for a certain amount of time. This is usually around five cycles of breath.
In Pilates, one movement is performed for a certain number of repetitions and is timed in accordance with the practitioner’s breathing. The movements are always very controlled and are extremely slight. The focus is on activating particular muscle groups and doing this properly.
With Yoga, there is a stronger mind-body connection that there is not with Pilates. Ancient practitioners of Yoga believe that we all emit vibrations and that the earth does as well. In order to feel at peace we need to make our own vibrations to be in tune with those emitted by the earth.
Yogis make this happen by chanting at the beginning of each session. The chant that is used in ohm. This doesn’t have any specific meaning but the frequency that it is at is the key. The actual Yoga session gives a full-body workout and helps with maintaining flexibility.
Pilates also gives a total body workout but concentrates on the ab powerhouse. With every movement that is made the practitioner is urged to keep their core engaged and use the power that is generated from this area of the body to help in the generation of the movement. Unlike Yoga, there is no underpinning philosophy that informs the practice of Pilates. It concentrates on achieving purely physical outcomes.
Yoga and Pilates instructors both have done extensive courses that teach them how to be the best possible guides for practitioners in these areas. Often, Yoga and Pilates instructors will go away on various retreats, after they’ve qualified, to make sure that they keep up with their skills and offer the best possible choices to their students. So while these two disciplines are fundamentally different they are complementary. If you’re interested in one, you may very well be interested in doing the other.