People often ask which is better for the body, for me there is not really an answer to this question. It would be like asking me if I would prefer to eat strawberry cheesecake or mandarin cheesecake.

I like cheesecake so to be I honest I would probably want to eat both. Yes, I do believe that you can have your cake and eat it.

Like Cheesecake, Pilates and Yoga share a very similar base, but they do have different toppings. Which one is best for you really just depends on what you like best and what results you are looking for.

Today, however, I am going to serve you a slice of both so that you can decide which you prefer for yourself.

Pilates is an exercise which unified the mind and body on the path to wellness
Pilates is a kind of personal resistance training method that unifies body and mind. Photo Source: Unsplash

A Brief History

Yoga was first developed in India an estimated 5,000 years ago. It is unclear who exactly invented it, however, the practice was brought to the West in the late 1800s and gained immediate popularity.

Unlike Pilates, Yoga is a not just an exercise it is a lifestyle and when translated it literally it means to unite. There are the following 4 paths:

  • Karma - the action of selfless service; and should be practised by cooking for, cleaning for or serving another person in some way.
  • Bhakti - the action of devotion to god and should be practised in the form of prayer or chanting
  • Raja / Royal - the action of asanas, pranayama and meditation
  • Jnana - that of knowledge and can be practised through study

Pilates was invented more recently by Joseph Pilates around 100 years ago to create a new form of exercise which unified the mind and body on the path to personal wellness and rejuvenation.

While in a First World War camp in the UK, Pilates developed his great idea and launched it in New York once the war was over.

It took off straight away with the dance community and then spread countrywide with the help of the first Pilates students.

Pilates is a kind of resistance training method that unifies body and mind.

What Are The Principles?

Yogic Principles To Life

In line with the Patanjali 8 limbs, there are 10 yogic principles, 5 internal principles (Niyamas) and 5 external Principles (Yamas).

Niyama in Sanskrit can be translated as Observance. The five internal practices of Niyama support the observance of self-discipline, inner-strength and deal with our inner consciousness.

The Five Internal Practices Are Known As;

  1. Saucha (Purity) – is the cleanliness of thought, mind and body. It is believed that through this purity, the mind will automatically begin the move away from the physical world and draw closer to the enlightenment.
  2. Santosha (Contentment) – is the opportunity to seek full joy and serenity in life while uplifting others. Living in constant gratitude for your health, your friends and your belongings will bring you closer to enlightenment.
  3. Tapas (Training the senses / Strength of Character) – is the practice of giving something up such as fasting, or cherished possessions or time for example. It is thought that this should create a transformation within the mind.
  4. Svadhyaya (Self-Study) – is the practice of study the sutras or texts to widen your knowledge. This will enlighten the mind.
  5. Ishvarapranidhana (Surrender to God) - is the practice of devotion through daily worship and meditation. It is thought that this can clear the channels to god.

Yamas in Sanskrit can be translated as a moral discipline. The five practices of the Yamas are based on personal morality, proper conduct and self-restraint.

The 5 restraints listed within Yamas are as follows:

  1. Ahimsa is the restraint of non-injury or violence; this involves not injuring another by action, word, thought or deed.
  2. Satya is the restraint of truthfulness; this involves being truthful in your words and actions and not misleading someone including keeping promises.
  3. Brahmacharya is the restraint of sexual purity; this involves controlling the lust, celibacy and divine conduct.
  4. Asteya is the restraint of non-theft; this involves not stealing, getting into dent of lusting things which are not yours
  5. Aparigraha is the restraint of greedlessness; involves the limit of accumulating possessions, greed, the acceptance of gifts and bribes etc.

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The Essential Pilates Principles

Joseph Pilates invented Pilates to follow a set of principles, these principles are the foundation of Pilates, and when used together in your practice they support you to achieve all of the great fitness benefits that Pilates has to offer.

  1. Control: This is the primary theory for Pilates; the premise is that if you can control the free movements of your muscles it should lead to a better quality workout. This controlled approach requires you to use your inner energy wisely and ensure that any energy used is delivering the full benefits.
  2. Breath: In Pilates, your breath is the rhythm of your practice. It is the pulse of all movement that you make when in a Pilates training session. Filling the body with oxygen while preparing to make each movement fills each pose with energy. It enriches your limbs and gives you the opportunity to extend your range of motion to your maximum potential.
  3. Concentration: Pilates demands your full attention, it should not be practised mindlessly while focusing on other things. If you do that, then this is not Pilates at all, to practise correctly you must give yourself your full attention. This is a form of mindfulness and is another key to support the connection between your body and mind.
  4. Flow: All movements in Pilates are graceful, you glide from one pose to the other giving your body a kind of free unity. The poses are seamless, and all movement within the session is a part of the practice which allows you to conserve energy and make everything count.
  5. Centering: The energy for Pilates comes from your core. In Pilates, this is often called the great powerhouse and is the area between your navel and spine and pubic bone. Pilates makes this area the central focus and the point from which everything else flows.
  6. Precision: Precisely aligned movement is significant in Pilates. Each posture during the workout must be precise to gain the full benefit from your practice. Placing your muscles in the right place is not enough you must also be aware of where your limbs are in relation to each other. Precision helps with muscle memory and helps to prevent injury.

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Pilates or Yoga which one is better?
You'll find both workouts offer a similar fitness base. Photo Source: Unsplash

How To Best Prepare For Your Class

Advice to Get You Ready for a Holistic Workout Class

First things first, you have to be comfortable so if you're heading to yoga, we suggest wearing something you love that's free, loose, and breathable. Whereas if you're doing some Pilates, form-hugging clothes are best!

Practising with an empty stomach for either fitness class is always a good idea, and don't forget to bring along a non-slip mat to your workout at the studio each week.

If you have any pre-existing medical conditions, be sure to let your instructors know and perhaps seek medical advice before attending. Pain is not supposed to be a part of the workout at all, so postures shouldn't be strained!

Students should however listen to their own bodies throughout the session and not compete with others in the studio. Above all, it's important to be mindful throughout the class.

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The Main Styles Of Yoga And Pilates

There are numerous yogic forms on offer, with the most well known being Hatha originating from the path of Raja.

It is commonly practised in the West with many other styles forming from Hatha. In Sanskrit, Hatha is broken into 2 words; ‘Ha’ meaning Sun and ‘that’ meaning moon. Similarly, Pilates workouts have several forms and styles which have since developed.

Mat Pilates and Equipment-based Pilates are the two main forms, with Classical Pilates and contemporary Pilates the most common styles.

You also might've heard of other methods on offer such as Stott, Polestar, Clinical, Reformer etc.

Benefits You Can Enjoy

Both exercises are brilliant at improving your personal health and fitness level.

They work with the breath, increase flexibility, strength and awareness.

The costs of private classes with an instructor start at a fairly low rate so if you're interested in taking some lessons with one, it can certainly help build up a base of transferable skills which can be applied to the other.

Some Benefits Of Asana Practice

Here all of the internal and external systems can be moved towards wellbeing.

This happens through stimulation, massage, flexibility, awareness and increased circulation of the muscles, joints, internal organs, skin, brain, nervous system, blood, heart and lungs.

In addition, you'll find the asanas can work to reduce weight, tension and stress which helps fight the onset of disease. Overall, asanas promote healthy wellbeing.

Some Benefits Of Pilates

The advantage of Pilates sessions more specifically is that you will be able to enhance your core strength during the workouts thereby developing better posture, spinal alignment, joint strength and balanced wellness.

Each week in the studios you'll start to see lean muscles, weight loss, improved energy and increased strength level as it is really a total workout in the studio.

Pilates demands all of your attention
Pilates sessions with an instructor add mindfulness to posture and is key to supporting the mind-body connection. Photo Source: Unsplash

The Difference Between Pilates And Yoga

When comparing the two, we can view the former as a lifestyle system and the latter as an exercise system.

Pilates draws inspiration in part from yoga so naturally, some similarities can be seen. Pilates workouts focus on relaxing and strengthening yourself which leads to a toned, lean, and more muscular form.

Different kinds of equipment from the studios can also be incorporated which is excellent for those who love to tone their abs or overall body.

Yoga sessions on the other hand aim to free and connect the mind, body and spirit in order to find peace and harmony.

It is fantastic for those who love to be more flexible, spiritual and want to reduce their day to day stress.

You'll notice more stretching involved in the studio which should improve the movements of your joints. No equipment is necessary for sessions, just a mat. Some people may lose weight, but this doesn't tend to be the primary focus.

Sessions at Pilates studios are great specifically for fitness and getting toned, with the added bonus of becoming flexible. Whereas yoga workouts are excellent for flexibility, but it also helps with your toning and fitness level. They are fairly interchangeable, with many mutual advantages.

Both can be started at a beginner level so they are not necessarily easier than the other.

At the end of the day, it boils down to whatever is your personal preference. If you can't choose, just practise both exercises week to week and reap all the wonderful benefits they deliver!

Now find some yoga classes with an instructor nearby so you can sample both Pilates and Yoga workouts!

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