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Pilates vs. Yoga - What's Best for You?

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Pilates vs. Yoga - What's Best for You?

Pilates and yoga are both low-intensity and low-impact forms of exercise. They focus on increasing the resistance of your body. Practicing either of them helps to improve overall health, and increase the quality of your life. But despite those similarities - there are also a lot of differences.

And if you're looking to take up either yoga and Pilates (or perhaps both!) - it's important to know the basics of the exercises, how do they differ, and what are they good for.

In this guide, we will take a look at pilates vs yoga. We're going to compare pilates and yoga, see their similarities, differences, training methods, and help you decide which one is better - and for what.

Let's begin!

What is Yoga?

The exact time of yoga's inception is not known, but the earliest instances of it date back to over 5,000 years.

It combines physical exercises (such as stretching into poses), mental, and spiritual disciplines into one exercise.

Meditation, correct diet, exercise, breathing, and relaxation are all vital parts of yoga. It's much more than just doing a list of stretches - it's a lifestyle.

And that lifestyle seems to see a fair amount of benefits. There are various studies, conclusively linking yoga to treating depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, and even having a positive effect on multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, and type 2 diabetes.

What is Pilates?

Pilates is an exercise focused on core strength. Developed in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates (hence the name), it's widely used as a means of rehabilitation for people with long-term injuries, such as wounded soldiers.

When done correctly, it should increase muscle strength, endurance, balance, and flexibility, and help reduce joint pain.

There are some studies linking Pilates to helping people with joint injuries, arthritis, and back pain.

Differences and Similarities between Pilates and Yoga

Some people may use the terms "yoga" and "Pilates" interchangeably. And yes, while there are a lot of similarities between the two - there are also a lot of the differences. Let's see both of those things in detail.


  1. Ultimate goal. Yoga is all about increasing the overall quality of life - and that extends way beyond the workout itself. It's stress relief, it's breathing, it's relaxation. Meanwhile, pilates focuses much more on the body itself.
  2. Flexibility vs. muscle strength. Yoga is more focused on improving the body's flexibility. Over time, the joints should be much more flexible than they were before yoga. Meanwhile, pilates aims to relax the tenser muscles and strengthening the ones requiring some extra help.
  3. Injury rehabilitation. Pilates is a very popular muscle rehabilitation option because it helps to restore a muscle balance, and includes fairly subtle, slower movements. Yoga, on the other hand, focuses on flexibility, and a person recovering from an injury or experiencing pain may not be able to follow yoga as well.


  1. Similar exercises, different names. Those who have gotten a chance to compare yoga vs Pilates, have certainly noticed that some of the exercises are very similar to one another. The yoga downward dog is very similar to Pilates' elephant. Pilates has various types of flexion and one of them is essentially yoga's cat pose. And yoga's Phalakasana...Well, in the Pilates world, that's called a plank.
  2. Breathing is key. Breathing is one of the key principles of yoga. It's also one of the key principles of human life - so it's no surprise to see pilates focus on that as well. Both Pilates and yoga require correct breathing techniques - diaphragmatic, meaning breathing deep into your belly. When taking up both yoga and Pilates, prepare to spend a lot of time mastering the art of the right breathing.
  3. Plenty of types to choose from. Yoga comes in several different types, such as Anusara (combining Hindu spirituality with health benefits), Bikram (hot room), Restorative (helpful for relaxing and regaining lost strength), and so on. Pilates also comes in Classical (set order of exercises), Mat (using a yoga mat), Reformer (using a machine with springs), and so on.
  4. Adjustable for different skill levels. You don't need any prior athletic training to take part in either pilates or yoga. The practice levels are scalable, and the same type of practice can be done by both a seasoned athlete and a complete beginner with only slight adjustments.
  5. Can be done with minimal equipment. While Reformer Pilates requires a special training machine, it really is an exception to the rule. Both yoga equipment and Pilates equipment are fairly minimal. A yoga mat and a pilates band (often also marketed as a resistance band) are both very affordable and lightweight. With just those two things, you can do some very advanced workouts.

When Should You Choose Yoga?

Yoga benefits are not only physical - they're mental as well. That's the main difference when comparing yoga and pilates. So choose yoga, if you're trying to exercise not only your body but your mind as well.

Yoga exercises will often combine physical activity and meditation. And the result of that is simple - yoga training reduces the resting heart rate, blood pressure, and eases breathing.

Not only that. There are various relaxation methods used during yoga. The combination of breathing, visualization, and progressive muscle relaxation helps reduce anxiety - something we all could without in today's modern world.

But even then, yoga is still a solid workout option, not only a one-way trip to your happy place. If you pick yoga, prepare to leave more flexible, tired, and drenched with sweat.

Choose yoga, if you're looking for both a physical challenge and a mental escape.

When Should You Choose Pilates?

Pilates is slightly more focused on muscle training and weight loss. If you're looking to tone your body, both yoga and pilates will do the job - but on average, pilates will do it ever so better.

Choose pilates especially if you're trying to lose weight. Pilates benefits include having a wider array of features, solely focused on that. For instance, some Pilates exercises include machines, that add some cardio on top of the poses, making it a great combination of the two.

Comparing yoga and pilates, the latter is also better when it comes to rehabilitation after injury, due to it often being slower-paced and less focused on flexibility. But either way, consult your physician before taking up either of them. "No pain, no gain" won't apply to you, so you'll have to be very cautious when proceeding.

Yoga and Pilates take away

Both yoga and pilates are fairly similar in their nature. They're slow, no-contact exercises focused on breathing. Most poses can be done with no equipment at all - or only with a couple of inexpensive loop bands. They even share some of the same poses!

But there's also a solid difference between pilates and yoga, which will make people swing one or another way when choosing their preferred technique.

Yoga is more focused on combining mental wellbeing with the physical one, as well as flexibility. Pilates is focusing on muscle toning and weight loss - it's also usually more suited for injury rehabilitation.

Overall, the choice is yours. Both techniques can yield great results, and anyone can get started quickly, with very minimal investment. Whichever one you choose - good luck with your fitness journey!

Katherine Holden

Katherine Holden

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