BY KAREN REED

published in Positive Health Wellness on November 7, 2016

Exercise is important in your life. You need to get some sort of activity, and for those who are unable to move too much, yoga and Pilates are often spouted as two of the best options. There’s no denying that they’re low-stress options and do offer a multitude of benefits.

But what do you really know about these two types of workouts? Are they that beneficial for you and safe for you to do?

Yoga and Pilates are not the same exercises. They are often misconstrued as the same, but there are fundamental differences that you need to know. If you do choose to do one of them, knowing the differences will help you choose between them. Yoga tends to be the most favored, but Pilates is heavily on the rise.

And there’s no need to choose between the two. Plenty of people takes part in both exercises to make the most of their activity needs.

So, here’s a look at everything you need to know about the two workouts. This is a look at all things good and bad to help you make the best choice for your health.

Yoga vs. Pilates: What’s the Real Differences?

 

The two types of workouts have become confused together because they are very similar. There are claims that yoga is the inspiration for Pilates, it is also true to be the other way around. In fact, yoga now uses more and more apparatus, which was originally developed by Joseph Pilates for his workout needs.

But we must remember that Pilates developed his workout based on yoga. He had studied this ancient form of exercise, writing all about how the body and mind could connect while doing the workout. The two could also connect with the spirit. It was more than just exercise for the body; it was an exercise for the mind and spirit at the same time. Yoga is a way to relax, unwind, and become one with everything around you.

It shouldn’t be surprising then that the two are very similar in nature. It also shouldn’t be surprising that there are now combinations of the two workouts. Yoga-ladies is one of the most commonly performed combined workout.

After all, Pilates focused more on the strength, flexibility, control, and stress-relief. Yes, this is what yoga does, but there was also the spiritual connection that yoga could offer; something that Pilates couldn’t and still can’t do.

Starting with Pilates or Yoga?

Many people chose to start with Pilates rather than yoga. It is viewed as the easier of the two because it takes out the spiritual connection. There is more of a focus on the body and the fitness levels. For some, it is more enjoyable because there is more cardio involved and it tends to have more structure to the workout.

Pilates aerobic instructor woman in trap table fitness exercise.

 

There is muscle toning, strength exercises, and body control involved in the Pilates exercises. Most of the emphasis is on the building of the core muscles, which helps with many other areas of life. A strong core can even help to reduce the chances of developing a poorly aligned body and helps to reduce physical stress in the body.

However, people are more familiar with yoga. There are some excellent positions to help with posturing and core strength. And there’s also that benefit of the spiritual connection.

The downside to yoga for many beginners is having no idea where to start. There are just so many options out there. If you get the wrong one, you can be left feeling disconnected from the whole experience, so you don’t feel the spiritual and physical benefit to doing it. Some beginners are left feeling bored, so they end up looking for other types of workouts. It’s all about getting your mind in the same place as your body.

As you move on, you may decide that you prefer one type of workout over the other. Those who want structure and a great cardio workout can find Pilates more beneficial. Those who like more freedom and more flexibility can find yoga their preference. But you can always get a combination of the two.

Before you make your choice, let’s look at the two different options in more detail. That’s just what this article is for so you can make a better decision for your workout.

Pilates: Mat Classes, Classic Reformer, and More

Let’s start with Pilates. There are different types of classes that you can follow. Mat classes are the most popular option, but if you think you’re going to get a full body workout, then you need to think again.

Aerobic Pilates personal trainer in a gym group class in a row

Mat classes are a more modernized version of the original exercises. A few props have been added, and it is very different to the traditional yoga class. Your core and abdominal muscles are worked on the most. Sure, there is some work on the back, legs, and arms, but not as much as with yoga and some of the other types of Pilates classes.

This isn’t a beginner’s workout. Mat Pilates classes are extremely hard work.

If you want a beginner’s Pilates class, then you need to look at the classic classes. These use traditional exercises with the traditional equipment. You can have a class of people together or opt for one-on-one classes, and you get your full body workout.

There are lots of different exercises that you can do during these classes. In fact, you’ll likely find each class completely different from the last, meaning you’ll never get bored with this workout.

Finally, there are the power style classes, which have become the most popular in recent years. It helps that celebrity trainers have started using them to get fit and help their clients.

The classes take the original exercises but create a new reformer style. There are usually larger classes, and everything is done at a faster pace. This is your faster-paced workout, giving you the cardio and strength workout that you’ve been craving.

Those who are used to the classic exercises or have done a few in the past will barely recognize Pilates in the power form. This isn’t something that you can just jump right into in the middle of a class. It’s best to find someone who has taught the classes in the past and knows the best exercises for getting started.

However, if you have exercised in the past, this could be a great start. It’s especially a great start if you love high-powered exercises.

Yoga Classes: Hatha, Vinyasa, and More

Like Pilates, yoga classes come in different forms. There are some more energetic options, but there is much more of a focus on spirituality, posture, and flexibility. People tend to find that certain yoga’s suit their personalities and wishes more than others.

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Hatha yoga tends to be the easiest one to start with. It works in exercises from different types of yoga and gives you the starting block to move onto harder and tougher exercises.  Because it is so popular, most yoga studious will have Hatha classes, and you’ll find that breathing and poses are mostly worked on.

For those who want something with a little more intensity, Vinyasa is yoga to take up. It’s extremely popular with those who love a high-intensity interval training workout, as there’s a dance element to this. While you’re taught different poses, don’t expect to hold them for too long. You’ll also usually have high beat music to keep encouraging you to move.

When you prefer more attention to detail, it’s worth considering Iyengar yoga. This is also great for those who want to improve their body alignment. You’ll use a range of props, including blocks and straps to get you in the right positions. If you love the detail and the focus on the positions, this is the yoga option for you. However, you’ll want to try a couple of classes before you completely set your heart on it. This is a major muscle workout, and you’ll feel it the next day.

You may have already heard about Ashtanga yoga, which tends to be the second most popular option. It’s also one of those recommended for beginners. Ashtanga gives you a series of six sequences poses so it can be a little repetitive for some. The repetition is why it’s often so great for beginners. You’ll go through the same poses with each class, and there is a focus on holding them and gaining strength and flexibility. There are strict guidelines to follow with this, so if you don’t have that mindset, then this isn’t for you.

Yin Yoga is a slower paced option that involves holding poses for several minutes at a time. It’s the meditative yoga, which helps you find balance and relax, getting rid of the stresses of the day. There is much more of a focus on flexibility than just strengthening your body. Not everyone falls in love with this on the first try, but go for a few classes before you decide. If you are already flexible, you’ll need to watch out for the over stretching in this type of yoga.

How to Prepare for Your First Yoga or Pilates Class

While the two types of exercises are different, there are some fundamental similarities. Some of these involve what you wear and how you prepare for your first class.

group of smiling women stretching in gym

Let’s start with clothing. The instructors will need to see your body shape and positioning. Instructors want to help you improve, so they’ll want you to wear tighter fitted clothing. Don’t be too conscious about your size, because that isn’t something they’re interested in.

Before you go, make sure you’re hydrated and have eaten well during the day. Like with any exercise, you won’t want to eat 30-60 minutes before your session, especially if you’re doing one of the most energetic forms of yoga or Pilates. You’ll also want to make sure you have something to eat straight afterward to help your body repair and recover.

Take a water bottle with you. Even the most sedative forms of yoga will leave you feeling thirsty.

As you get more into your classes, you can think about changing other elements of your lifestyle. Focus on a healthier diet and consider taking up other forms of exercise in between the classes. You’ll find that these changes compliment your new exercises and will help with weight loss and strengthening efforts.

Doing Yoga and Pilates Exercises at Home

There are plenty of yoga and Pilates classes available at local gyms and community centers, but what about doing them from your home? Is it a good idea to grab a DVD or pull up a YouTube video and do it all at home?

People using large exercise balls

If you’re starting out with either of these, you’ll probably find classes with an instructor better, to begin with. The main benefit is that you get the right posture and shape. You’ll reduce the risk of injury or other damage, which can happen if you hold postures too long in the wrong position. At the same time, the instructor will also make sure you only hold the position for if you should avoid excess stress on the body.

As you gain more experience, you can start thinking about doing at home exercises. You’ll need some props to help you with the positions at home, including a mat to make your exercises more comfortable.

The benefit of doing your exercises at home is that you can often find more peace. It’s easier to relax, without feeling like other eyes to you.

Yoga and Pilates are not the same things, but there are some similarities. This type of exercise can seem easier to start with, but it’s important to choose the right type of yoga or Pilates for your needs and your personality. Decide whether you want intensity in your exercise program or want to focus more on the breathing aspects and you’ll find a form of exercise that you absolutely love.

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