Yoga or Pilates? To be or not to be? That is the question

I have been practicing Yoga for a long time and have been certified as a yoga instructor for 5 years. I am now getting my certification in Pilates training. So have I finally converted?

I am not going into the technical difference between these two disciplines. I am sure there has been a lot of research paper done on this topic already. Let me tell you what I think from a Pilates newbie’s point of view.

Pilates is often viewed as the cousin of Yoga. It deploys some similar moves as Yoga. That should not be too surprising since the founder of Pilates, Joseph Pilates, was a yoga devotee. But exactly how closely are these two cousins related?

Yoga has a spiritual element that is not present in Pilates. Pilates is more a physical training methodology. For example, when we look at the difference in breathing practice, Yoga use the breath to relax and focus the mind whereas Pilates uses the breath to fuel the muscles that you are working on. That being said, the requirement of totally awareness and concentration in Pilates (Contrology) can equally bring your mind into a meditative state which is one of the key Yoga principles to connect the body and the mind.

While the awareness of body movements in Pilates require practitioners to be more technical, proper alignment of the body is strongly emphasized in both disciplines for the practitioners to benefit fully from each of the poses (yoga) or exercises (Pilates) and to avoid potential injuries.

Yoga works on all parts of the body. Yoga poses are more all rounded varying from lying flat, sitting down to standing and total inversion. Regular practice will not only improve body strength but also flexibility. Pilates, however, primarily focuses on the ‘powerhouse’ (or the core) and most of the practice are done lying down or seated. Having said that, once your core is strengthened, the rest of the body benefits and becomes stronger and more flexible.

Yoga emphasizes ‘staying in the present’. Yoga practitioners usually feel more relaxed after their practice and carry this sense of ease with them because the mind is less clustered and can stay more focused. Pilates requires precision of each movement and total control of the body. As such, the coordination and the flow of the movements deem regular practitioners an air of grace in their daily life movements, just like ballerinas do.
All in all, it is not important how closely these two cousins are related. Even though the principles of the two schools are not exactly the same, both reap similar benefits and they do complement each other nicely.

So coming back to the fundamental question! have I converted? Well, if you put a gun to my head and make me choose, I would stay true to my yoga. Sorry but no disrespect here to my Pilates instructor. (Luckily, she is also a yoga master so I am sure she won’t be offended. However I do wonder what she would have to say?!)

Yoga has such a long history that makes Pilates looks like a newborn (Pilates was only formally established in the early twentieth century). The whole history of yoga development is naturally a lot more colorful and offers more cultural flavors. To be or not to be? It is a matter of personal preference (and/or how much more you like your yoga instructor over your Pilates instructor!!) My recommendation would be trying out both cousins and reap all the benefits that they have to offer.

Grace, Mar 2015 Pilates Matwork Instructor Course, Tirisula Yoga