With certain activities off the table for me during my road to recovery, I’ve been forced to turn toward some fitness alternatives. I opted to look into something involving stretching- namely yoga. When I began looking into yoga, I was faced with the decision anyone new to the yoga world faces: yoga or pilates? Which is the “better” system, what are the main differences, and what can I gain from each system? Luckily an article published by The Guardian UK, written by Sam Murphy was one of the many informative pieces I found highlighting the differences between yoga and pilates.
Yoga vs Pilates
Yoga postures, or asanas, build endurance in every large muscle group but strength is not the main focus. A rule of thumb is that yoga is more about how you feel and pilates about how you look.
Unlike yoga, pilates uses resistance and weights to build strength and places more emphasis on physical conditioning. It works all the muscle groups resulting in a leaner, stronger body.
Yoga is unsurpassed in enhancing flexibility and increasing range of joint motion. In a study from the University of Wisconsin, eight weeks of yoga practice improved flexibility by 13-35%.
Pilates offers a different approach compared with yoga. Rather than stretching to improve flexibility, it focuses on why a certain muscle is tight and tries to solve the problem.
Abs of steel
While yoga does work the abs and core muscles, this isn’t by any means a primary focus. Work in this area is much less demanding and painstaking in yoga.
Nothing forms and flattens a tummy like Pilates: it has a unique focus on core muscles in the trunk and pelvis, and is one of the best ways to build core strength, says the American Council on Exercise.
Spiritual wellbeing is integral to yoga. The physical practice gives the body a feeling of balance and wellbeing, while breathing techniques enhance inner focus and relaxation.
Pilates is considered a mind-body exercise and so requires concentration, which can distract you from daily worries, but wellbeing isn’t such a focus as it is in yoga.
Yoga improves spinal flexibility and strength. However, certain postures will be unsuitable – for example, deep forward bends should be avoided after a slipped disc.
With its focus on the core, Pilates is very good for supporting and strengthening the back. Research in Canada found it valuable in alleviating non-specific lower-back pain.
What it really comes down to, is which you prefer and the goals you’ve set for yourself. If you’re looking to improve flexibility and mental focus- yoga is your best choice; looking for overall toning and back strengthening workout- pilates. If any of you are wondering- I chose pilates. Enjoy your workout!