What is the Difference Between Yoga and Pilates?

What is the Difference Between Yoga and PilatesYoga and Pilates may seem similar on the surface but they’re actually quite different from one another. From their origins to their poses and the effects they have on the body, these two fitness programs are unique, and each offers its own set of benefits to those who practice.

If you want to give each of these systems a try for yourself to see how you feel after a class, take this course if you’re seeking an introduction to Pilates and this course for those who are beginners in yoga. Beginners may also want to read this blog post in order to understand how to prepare for yoga.   

The Creation of Pilates

Pilates is a much more modern form of exercise than yoga because it was invented in the early 1900s by Joseph Pilates. As a child in Germany, Pilates dealt with illness, so he worked hard to study how the body functions and what can be done to naturally strengthen all areas of the body for improved health and wellbeing. When he realized that things like poor posture and inefficient breathing were just a couple of the leading causes of health ailments in modern society, he dedicated himself to developing exercises and specialized equipment that would help people heal themselves.

When Pilates and his wife established their fitness studio in New York City, it quickly grew popular, especially amongst performing artists like dancers, because the routine built strength, stamina, and flexibility. It wasn’t long before word spread and more people became interested in this new method of getting fit and healthy.

The Ancient Origins of Yoga

Unlike Pilates, yoga is an ancient practice that originated in India. Although there are many physical benefits to practicing yoga, the original intent was actually to still and quiet the mind so that one could connect with the higher self and achieve peace and enlightenment. It has been practiced and refined through the ages, but the roots of the art are still an integral part of modern day yoga.

Today, there are many different schools of yoga. Bikram yoga, or hot yoga, for example, is a specific sequence of yoga postures that are executed in a room with a temperature of 105°F in order to promote weight loss. Jivamukti yoga encourages students to incorporate veganism into their lives in order to practice the concept of ahimsa, or nonharming, and promote purity in body and mind so the asanas are more effective. Power yoga moves through vinyasas, or flows, more quickly in order to build endurance and strength, while Iyengar is much slower and focused upon proper alignment. Each school, therefore, offers its own set of teachings while still utilizing the asanas, or poses, that are ancient in origin in order to establish health in both body and mind.

Physical versus Spiritual

Yoga is all about unifying the body with the mind and the spirit, so a true yoga practice will incorporate all of these aspects of the self rather than focusing solely upon the physical. Even though asanas help to elongate and stretch the muscles while promoting strength, balance, and endurance, yoga is more than just a means to transform the body. Instead, through the use of poses, meditation, mantras, and breathing techniques, the yogi can clear her mind and increase her compassion, thereby changing her perspective on life and the way she lives. The ancient yogis viewed the practice in the same way because they would use the poses to open up the body and prepare it for long sessions of meditation. Opening the hips, for example, prepares an individual for lotus pose, which is used for extended periods of sitting quietly in meditation to connect with the higher self and the universe.

Although Pilates may seem similar in terms of its postures and breathing techniques, it’s a physical practice first and foremost that’s meant to promote muscle control, core strength, coordination, flexibility, and long, lean muscles. Its six principles are centering, concentration, control, precision, breath, and flow. All of the movements are smooth and fluid. They’re also coordinated with the breath in order to ensure proper control and concentration, particularly within the core muscles that include the abdominals, pelvis, lower back, and buttocks.


When it comes to yoga, all you really need is a good mat and you’re ready to practice anytime and anywhere. You can also employ a variety of props, especially if you’re a beginner, in order to be certain you execute each pose correctly. This course on wall yoga, for example, utilizes a yoga strap to improve flexibility. Other props include blocks, meditation pillows, and bolsters.

Pilates can also be done on a mat. However, the use of specialized equipment like the Reformer will build even more strength by giving the user an opportunity to employ springs, pulleys, and weight resistance throughout the routine. This equipment further strengthens the core, which is the foundation for strength in the rest of the body. It also ensures the development of long, lean muscles rather than bulky muscles that are common with other fitness routines and weight-bearing exercises.

Transformation of the Body and Mind Through Yoga

When it comes to how your body will change through yoga, you’ll notice many shifts taking place once you’ve established a regular yoga routine. In addition to stamina, strength, and muscle tone, you may find that you’re able to lose weight because yoga flows increase metabolism rates. And beyond these outward benefits, you’ll also be able to heal the body in deeper ways, such as by improving joint mobility and digestion, and stimulating everything from the lymphatic and circulatory systems to various organs and glands. Each yoga session will rejuvenate the body by increasing the level of oxygen as well. This will stimulate various systems to function optimally while promoting natural detoxification.

When yoga postures are combined with meditation, the brain reaps the benefits of quieting down and becoming still for a little while. Those who meditate find that they’re able to focus and promote natural healing throughout the body by relieving stress and tension.

Transformation and Restoration of the Body Through Pilates

Pilates will make you stronger and is gentle enough for people of all ages who want to build endurance while avoiding injuries. Physical therapists often use Pilates exercises to rehabilitate patients, so it’s also a great choice for those who’ve already been injured. A person who practices Pilates will have improved posture, a stronger back and core, less pain, and improved circulation and respiratory function.

And, although Pilates doesn’t focus upon the mind or spirit like yoga does, individuals who feel better physically will have better focus and be able to partake in activities that they previously couldn’t enjoy because of prior pain or injuries that held them back.

When it comes to choosing between yoga and Pilates, it can be a tough decision, especially because each offers such incredible benefits that can change your body and mind. If you want to steer clear of spirituality in your workout routine, Pilates would be the better option, unless you can find a school that doesn’t emphasize this facet of yoga.

Or you may want to add both to your fitness routine, as Pilates can help you build strength that will allow you to master yoga postures. Start by taking this course in Pilates to improve your stamina and strength. Then try this course on Yin Yoga to get into the deeper connective tissues throughout the body to open it up and get the energy flowing.