What is right for you?
Simply put, the difference between Yoga and Pilates reflects the difference between Eastern and Western cultures. Both systems build strength and flexibility; the difference between them is not only physical, but also philosophical.
Let’s take yoga first. Yoga is based on the Eastern idea of moving energy through your body. The more freely the energy flows, the more energetic and centered you feel. Physical tension hinders this flow and may result in areas becoming tight, more rigid, and even painful. The physical goal of yoga is to keep the body supple and strong through controlled strengthening and stretching. There is a far more powerful dimension to yoga that is often overlooked. Yoga began as a spiritual discipline with its roots in Eastern forms of meditation. The physical postures do condition the body but, combined with proper breathing, are aimed at calming the mind. Yoga participants learn to stay calm and control their breathing while holding challenging physical postures. When these principles of yoga are incorporated into your lifestyle, they lead to an overall awareness of your body and a tool to achieve inner and outer balance.
Pilates, on the other hand, is physical conditioning first and foremost — and there’s nothing quite like it.
Pilates’ uniqueness lies in the fact that all movements originate from the commonly overlooked “core muscles” that lie deep in the abdomen and surround the spine. A beginner Pilates class often focuses on isolating these muscles in order to engage them effectively.
Pilates is a highly effective way to improve body awareness, posture and promote graceful, fluid motion. Machine-based Pilates actually has more in common with weight training than with yoga as it involves moving against resistance, provided by springs. However, pilates focuses on strengthening without the constant shortening of muscles that occurs with most weight lifting sessions. This results in the development of long, lean muscles without added bulk.
Generally speaking, although both yoga and pilates provide many benefits, yoga’s focus is about how it makes you feel, with the added benefit of stretching and strengthening muscles. Pilates’ main goal is to tone muscles effectively, affecting the way you look, carry yourself and move. If you are looking for a limbering, rejuvenating workout that will provide as much of a lift for your brain as your body, I’d recommend yoga. If you’re interested in a more dynamic system of muscle conditioning, and want to improve your core strength, Pilates may be the answer.
It doesn’t have to be an either-or choice…thank goodness.
My best recommendation is to try everything. Experience it all — and see what works best for you. East or West, the important thing is to explore!
By Dr. Laina Shulman