Pilates vs Yoga

Pilates vs Yoga - A female wearing gym clothes bending and rolling up a gym floor mat in a studio by a potted planted with wooden framed windows in the background. Sunlight pouring in.

The benefits of Yoga and Pilates are well known.

And the two methods share some noticeable similarities. Both are famous for their ability to calm the mind whilst also stretching and strengthening the body.

There are differences between the two practices, however, the main one being the spiritual component of Yoga. Meditation and chants are pretty routine in Yoga classes, but you’re unlikely to find these elements in your average Reformer class.

Having said that, Joseph Pilates devised Pilates with the aim of uniting mind, body, and spirit. So, although most people might not be aware of it, Pilates does have a spiritual and mindful quality.

At Complete Pilates, we don’t like to think of it as “Pilates vs. Yoga”. Instead, we believe that these two practices are great when performed in combination.

But we also understand that some people are time-poor – or have specific needs – and want to pick just one to invest their time in.

So, to help you choose between them, we have compared Yoga and Pilates in 5 of the most important areas.

See below to find out how these two practices stack up against each other.

Pilates vs Yoga – 1. Best for Relaxation

For most people, Yoga would win this category hands-down.

And it is true that there is a more obvious focus on relaxation in Yoga; deep breathing, purposeful movement and the spiritual element make it an intrinsic part of this movement form. Some classes also end with a dedicated period of peace-inducing meditation.

However, Pilates can also be relaxing.

This is because Pilates exercises force you to inhale and exhale deeply and fully. This encourages good breathing habits, which has a calming influence on the nervous system.

Like Yoga, Pilates is also a mindful practice. This is because performing Pilates movements correctly requires complete focus on what is happening inside your body. This encourages you to be mentally present in your Pilates classes.

A mindful state is a calm one, so performing Pilates with this emphasis can make it relaxing.

Pilates vs Yoga – 2. Best for Strength and Toning.

Pilates is probably best known for its ability to sculpt and lengthen the body – just look at all those Victoria’s Secret models who swear by it.

At the same time, numerous celebs also attribute their toned bodies to regular Yoga classes.

Having to hold poses for a long duration does mean that Yoga helps to increase endurance.

However, it is also important to remember that Yoga is first and foremost a spiritual practice. Pilates exercises, on the other hand, were designed to make the body work at an optimum level.

So, whilst Yoga can do wonders for your physique, Pilates promises a workout targeted at strengthening your body, as well as making sure it is functioning at its best.

Pilates vs Yoga – 3. Best for Injury Rehab and Recovery

In terms of injury rehabilitation, Pilates is the practise favoured by Osteopaths and Physiotherapists. That’s not to say that Yoga can’t be beneficial – it is just not designed for that purpose.

Pilates has the added benefit of the Pilates equipment, such as the Trapeze table or Reformer. These machines make it easy for exercises to be modified so that they become helpful for injured clients.

Having said all that, the mindful and meditative aspect of Yoga can be a great way to manage pain.

Pilates vs Yoga – 4. Best for Flexibility

Yogis are famous for their bendiness. And this is with good reason: Yoga’s hip-opening moves, downward dogs and backbends will get your body moving and mobilising in all direction.

At the same time, Pilates is also a great tool for increasing flexibility. Its focus is on strengthening and lengthening muscles, which can be even more effective than simply stretching muscles. You’ll notice things like spine mobility and hamstring length improve with regular Pilates classes.

Pilates vs Yoga – 5. Best for Cardio

This really depends on the type of Pilates or Yoga class you choose to attend.

Regular Pilates might not get your heart rate up a huge amount, but choose a “jump board” Reformer class and you will definitely feel the effects.

Similarly, Yoga can be sweaty and provide a good cardio workout if you choose Bikram, Vinyasa or any other class with an intense flow.

In the battle of Yoga vs. Pilates, which comes out on top?

Ultimately this depends on your individual needs and wants from a practice.

As we have demonstrated, Yoga and Pilates offer amazing benefits. And, either in combination or separately, both methods can help transform your body and mind.

The most important thing, however, is to choose one that you like and that you can commit to regularly.