Pilates vs Yoga – what is the difference?

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What is the difference between Yoga and Pilates?

Well, they share a mat in some group classes and a few poses/exercises that look very similar, but other than that, they are very different!

Pilates is a decades old exercise regimen created by Joseph Pilates that teaches students to use the mind to control the body.  The Pilates method utilizes the concept of “core strength and two way stretch”, focusing on stabilizing the muscles that are keeping parts of the body still while moving other parts of the body with proper control.  Pilates is a way of moving the body properly and efficiently.  A good student takes the lessons learned in his or her Pilates session and incorporates them into athletic endeavors, daily life and even yoga!  When a student understands Pilates, every movement becomes controlled- strength, flexibility, speed.  Although we use particular apparatus and exercises to teach these concepts, Pilates is much more than choreography.  The body is the machine, Pilates is the way of moving the machine.

Yoga is a 5,000 year old Indian practice incorporating breath, mindfulness and movement (asana- the poses, what we in the US are used to seeing and considering yoga) to bring a practitioner’s focus from the external to the internal.  The yoga poses that we perform in classes are just one very small portion of yoga.  The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit word “yuj” which means “to unite”.  A yogi (male yoga practitioner) or yogini (female yoga practitioner) seek to incorporate the physical and mental aspects of the practice to achieve an overall higher level of functioning in all aspects of his or her life.  We tend to focus on asana in our yoga classes, the tip of the iceberg!  In yoga classes, we move the body through specific poses which stretch some muscles, strengthen others and provide a physical exertion which prepares the body for meditation.  We are tiring out that physical body in order to work on our mental well being.

Both practices have enormous benefits for our bodies and our minds- I practice Pilates every second of every day in every movement that I do.  I have been working on my own physical yoga practice for over 20 years and consider myself just a beginner to this full being system.  When I have an extra moment, my runs and work are done- I always look for a yoga class!