Differences between yoga and pilates: which is better?

Yoga and Pilates are two practices that in recent years have gained much prominence, and are increasingly present in our daily lives. Even so, some people think that these two disciplines are only about stretching and relaxation, and, moreover, do not know what the differences are between the two activities. Therefore, today we want you to know more about these two disciplines.

Know the differences between yoga and pilates

It should be noted that the most notable difference between yoga and Pilates is the spiritual component that Pilates lacks. While, in yoga, the practice of the different asanas and breathing has a more mystical aspect, the practice of pilates is purely physical. Pilates focuses on muscle toning, body control and flexibility - with an emphasis on strength - while yoga focuses on working on broad muscle groups, flexibility, endurance, strength and spirituality.

The origin of both disciplines

Understanding how the two disciplines came about can help you understand their differences, since yoga is an ancient discipline and the Pilates method is much more recent. And while yoga was born with the idea of meditating and reaching a state of peace and mental well-being, Pilates emerged as a method of rehabilitation and learning efficient movement.

As we have discussed in previous posts, the emergence of yoga as a physical, mental and spiritual practice dates back thousands of years to India -some sources consider it to be more than five thousand years old-, and over time it has evolved.

However, the Pilates method is a system of physical and mental training created in the early twentieth century by Joseph Hubertus Pilates, who devised it based on his knowledge of gymnastics, traumatology, ballet and yoga, combining muscle strength with mental control, relaxation and breathing. The Pilates method focuses on the development of internal muscles to maintain body balance, providing stability to the spine -which is why it is often used as a therapy in the rehabilitation of back pain-.

A curious aspect is that Pilates has adopted practices from yoga on its way to achieving a complete training method. Currently, it is common for Pilates practices to include yoga postures, which explains why confusion between the two activities can occur.

Advantages of practicing yoga

As we discussed in detail in our post on the benefits of yoga, its practice is very positive and beneficial both physically and mentally; and you can feel how it helps you both in the medium and long term. On the one hand, the holistic approach of yoga improves balance, strength and flexibility in body, mind and spirit.

The breathing exercises and meditation performed during the activity help to control stress and release tension; and in turn, they help to bring awareness to oneself and one's day-to-day actions. In addition, the asanas -that is, the different postures practiced in yoga- improve coordination, increase strength, flexibility and balance, while cleansing and detoxifying the organs.

When you get into the habit of practicing yoga, you can notice other benefits that this discipline has: such as strengthening your immune system, regulating your blood pressure, improving your metabolism and digestion, increasing your quality of sleep or greater productivity in your day to day.

Advantages of practicing Pilates

The main benefit of Pilates is that it helps to strengthen the muscles, stabilizing the spine: which improves postural hygiene during daily activities, reducing the chances of injury and learning to protect the spine.

The Pilates method works on body awareness, which will help you to control your muscles during physical exercise. Thus, by practicing Pilates you can learn and re-educate your movements to strengthen your "forgotten" muscles, that is, those that over time have developed low muscle tone and limited ranges of motion -which can cause discomfort and pain around the joints of the body-.

Another aspect to take into account is that this practice also works on breathing, which during the exercises is usually slow and controlled, from the diaphragm and incorporating hypopressive gymnastics, which helps to strengthen the pelvic floor.

Necessary equipment

Among the differences between yoga and Pilates, we also find the necessary accessories for both practices. Although both can be performed without the help of other tools, in the Pilates method it is more common to perform certain exercises with accessories.

As we mentioned, in the practice of yoga we usually work mainly with body weight, although there are also accessories that serve to facilitate the practice and make it more accessible: such as straps or blocks. However, Pilates includes the use of different objects -such as hoops, gymnastic balls or weights, among others- and apparatuses in the performance of the exercises. In fact, Pilates on a machine helps to further strengthen muscles and gain greater flexibility, making the practice more challenging.

So, which is the best?

Although Pilates and yoga are distinct disciplines, they also share commonalities. Both help to improve both posture and body alignment, thanks to the work on our central zone (also known as core) that is done in both practices. In addition, both Pilates and yoga work on joint mobility and flexibility, so important throughout our lives. And, in addition, for both disciplines there are different methods and types.

As you can see, both yoga and pilates have many benefits, we can not stay with only one! We encourage you to try both practices, find the one that best suits you, and even combine them throughout the week!