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Yoga vs. Pilates

by Staff Writer

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Woman practicing yoga

Many people struggle to understand the differences between yoga and Pilates. That could simply be because the differences between the two practices are very subtle. Both yoga and Pilates offer similar physical benefits but take slightly different approaches to reach those improvements.

Comparing Yoga and Pilates:

  1. Histories: The origin of yoga is somewhat unclear, but evidence shows that it may have been practiced as early as 3000 B.C. in areas that are now India and Pakistan. Yoga has been developed mainly through the religious practices of Hinduism and Buddhism. Pilates has a much shorter history, being developed by Joseph H. Pilates after he served as a nurse in World War I.

  2. Philosophies: Both yoga and Pilates embrace the importance of the mind in controlling the body. There is a difference in that yoga seeks to achieve a balance between body, mind and spirit, coming from its religious roots. Pilates maintains a mind-body approach to improve physical fitness.

  3. Poses: Many of the core poses of Pilates and yoga are the same or very similar. And the intent of the poses is the same in Pilates and yoga, which both use the poses to focus the body and mind -- and spirit in yoga -- so they are in union; this, in turn, allows a person to perform the movement or pose in the best possible way. The intent differs from many traditional exercise routines that focus on the completion of an exercise or movement and not on the performance of the movement.

  4. Equipment: Yoga requires very little equipment. A yoga mat is the only essential piece of yoga equipment, with yoga blocks and belts being nice additions for beginners. Yoga balls are sometimes used, as well, to help develop better balance. Pilates equipment is much more frequently used. Although several Pilates exercises can be done with only a mat, Pilates machines allow for a much wider variation of poses and movements.

  5. Benefits: The poses used in yoga and Pilates improve flexibility, strength and body control. Most practitioners also claim stress relief as a major benefit of both exercises.

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