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What’s the Difference Between Yoga and Pilates

What’s the Difference Between Yoga and Pilates

This is one of the most commonly asked questions in the Yoga world. The fact of the matter is that there is a huge difference between the two, and although there are similar poses, they are two completely different things. What’s the difference between yoga and pilates?

Both Yoga and Pilates aim to make people more flexible, but there is also so much more to both of these regimes. For starters, Pilates is more like exercise than Yoga. That’s not to say that you don’t exercise when you practice Yoga, but there is so much more to it, and fitness is not the end result, whereas with Pilates it often is. Yoga heals mentally and physically, while Pilates focuses more on gaining lean muscle and strong abs. Yoga concentrates on the body, mind, and soul, and the connection of each of these aspects.


Yoga means to bind or unite. It connects the body inside and out, helping to not only build muscle and flexibility, but also alleviate stress, digestive problems, insomnia, and overall physical health. It is an ancient practice that was developed in India to improve both spiritual and physical health.

There are numerous different forms of yoga, all of which are performed on a mat. All consist of a series of nposes (asanas) that combined create a full body and soul routine. The order in which each pose is performed is somewhat of a science, with each one counteracting or working with the one before. The sequences are often carefully thought out by the teacher or the founder of that particular type of yoga. A perfect example of this are the six Ashtanga Yoga sequences that were created by the late Pattabhi Jois. Breathing (Pranayama) is also a very important part of yoga and helps to ensure that one gets the most benefits from their practice.

Yoga is often connected to Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism, as it is a discipline that is exercised to attain a higher goal. In fact, it has been found in some very ancient Hindu and Buddhist texts. It is often practiced by sadhus and monks as a meditation technique as well as a spiritual ritual, and is often connected to mindfulness, tranquility, and enlightenment. Many of this has been lost in the west, though the mental and physical connection is still very much present in common Yoga practices today.

Yoga came to the west in the 1890s, though it wasn’t until recently that there has been a boom in this ancient practice throughout the world. This is particularly true in the States, where today it is believed that over 20 million Americans practice Yoga on a regular basis. It is being promoted by everyone from educational groups to health practitioners as a way to heal both physically and mentally.


Pilates is a relatively new form of exercise that was developed by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s as a form of rehabilitation. It is used to strengthen muscles, particularly the stomach muscles, which then improves posture and stability. Although it can be good for overall mental health, this is not the true focus of it. As well, Pilates is sometimes performed using a machine (reformer). Today there are around 11 million people in the world that regularly practice Pilates.

There is no religious undertones in Pilates, as Joseph Pilates designed it specifically for rehabilitation purposes at a time when little of this in Germany existed. Its main focus is on developing a strong core, which then improves posture, flexibility, and muscle development. Pilates exercises are often performed on a mat, using ones’ own body weight to strengthen and develop muscles. It can also be done unsing a machine, with the machine creating the stability that your body needs in order to heal, stretch, and develop muscles.

Concentration, control and precision are three of the most important aspects of Pilates, which are more important than the exercises themselves. When doing Pilates it is important to concentrate on what you are doing and to do everything with maximum control, using the muscles to work against gravity. Precision is needed in order to focus and get the perfect movement at the perfect pace.


Another major difference between Yoga and Pilates is the breath work. In Yoga, breathing is done only through the nose, while in Pilates the breathing is done through both the nose and the mouth.

Yoga breathing is called Ujayyi Breath, or Ocean Breath. It is a diaphragmatic way of breathing, where the air does not go beyond the diaphragm, keeping the stomach relaxed. In doing this, the body is able to move more freely. As well, it allows for a long inhale and a long exhale to match the continuous flow of any Yoga practice. It is a very controlled way of breathing that not only calms the body, but also creates internal body heat, regulates blood pressure, and brings oxygen to the lungs. It also helps Yoga practitioners stay grounded and aware during their practice

In Pilates, full breathing is important, which means using the stomach to breath, allowing it to contract with each movement. This will help to build core muscles as well as increasing oxygen, with practitioners breathing out on effort and breathing in on returning to a neutral position. Breathing is lateral, allowing the lower abs to stay close to the spine and the lower rib cage. It is a posterior lateral breathing technique, where breathing is done through the back and sides, expanding the ribcage and engaging the deep abdominal muscles.


Yoga poses are stationary poses that are held for a period of time before moving into the next pose in a continuous flow. There are thousands of poses that range from basic to extremely challenging, with most Yoga practitioners starting with the basics and gradually being able to move on to the next level. The order of the poses is just as important as the poses themselves.

Pilates has constant movement, with muscles being contracted to develop them and make them strong. Various types of pushups, sits ups, and other such poses are done to create a strong, flexible body. There is no real order or sequence in Pilates, but at the end of a class each muscle group will be worked, with the focus being on keeping the abdomen strong throughout.


Both Yoga and Pilates are very popular at the moment, with both being extremely beneficial. As well, both are beneficial to the other, with many practitioners doing both to get a full body and mind workout. Pilates will build the core muscles, which in the long run will improve overall strength and stability. This will aid in any Yoga practice, as muscles and abdomens will be strong, which is great for higher level poses, like arm balances. Combining the two is a great way for anyone to work on their inner and outer self.