Pilates V Yoga

Pilates and Yoga share many similar attributes and both contribute to living a healthier lifestyle. They help you develop a better mind body connection, for mental and physical balance. So what’s the difference? There are so many to list but here are just a few areas where they branch into their own.

History & Roots

Pilates was created as an exercise for body-conditioning by Joseph Pilates who was born in Germany in 1880.  He lived and taught in GB, Germany and New York spreading his teachings. He originally used the Pilates method to help build strength for weak patients using ‘beds’ with springs and straps for resistance exercise.  His methods had such great results in improved health that they became widespread knowledge and interest in his techniques grew.  Today these ‘beds’ are called Reformers and Cadillacs but for easier practice of Pilates many of his exercises have been adapted to be performed on the floor or with various pieces of resistance equipment.

Yoga is practiced to open the body and clear the mind so that meditation can be sustained for long periods of time without physical or mental disturbance.  Through meditation Yogi’s make a stronger connection to our Divine source/nature helping us to live more harmonious balanced lives. Yoga can be dated back to at least 5,000 years ago when it’s mantras and rituals were practiced by Vedic priests and Brahmans, it cannot be accredited to just one person but has had many influential contributors during it’s development through the ages. Yoga is based on the Sanskrit language and has it’s roots in India which is reflected in it’s reference to Hindu deitys in some of the pose names, such as Surya Namaskar which means to bow to the sun, Surya being the solar deity.

Yoga is a lifestyle practice and offers us guidelines (the Yoga Sutras) on how to live in a more harmonious state with ourselves and others.  Because of this Yoga is very much a life long process of learning and developing as there are so many different layers to its science. There are various avenues of entry such as Hatha, Raja, Bhakti, Karma, Kriya and Jnana.  A lot of Yoga practiced in the West comes under the Hatha ‘umbrella’ which is known for it’s physical postures (asana) which help strengthen the nervous system and improve health. Hatha refers to Sun and Moon, the opposite forces that bring us into balance.  Hatha Yoga is particularly about gaining control over these life currents and alligning more closely with Universal powers. This is partly worked towards using techniques such as physical balance, breathing practices, mantra, meditation and general awareness of how we live and this infulence on our own and others well being.


Yoga includes many different practices in breathing (managing your life force energy called Pranayama) and Pilates uses fewer breathing techniques yet still with emphasis on breathing correctly. A lot of Pilates exercises have you engaging your core muscles which means breathing more ‘laterally’ into the mid upper rib cage, whereas Yoga encourages more ‘belly’ and ‘full’ breathing.  Pilates breaths are often slightly faster in repetition to coincide with the pace of the exercise being performed, whereas Yoga tends to use longer deeper breaths, which take you smoothly from one position to another. Specific breathing practices in Yoga can get quite technical and advanced, so many require an experienced teacher to show these and require lots of practice. Breathing in Yoga is very much linked with Prana, our life energy force that effects our well being on many levels.


They both include movements and poses intended to increase strength, flexibility, and the mind body connection. Yoga uses postures (poses called ‘asana’ that work a particular area of your body with corresponding health and energy benefits), there are many standing and floor postures. Pilates refers to its movements as ‘exercises’ and on the whole there are fewer standing exercises in Pilates and more based lying on the floor. There is a definite emphasis on use of the core muscles, bettering body tone, posture and mobility in Pilates.  Pilates exercises tend to be more repetitive in movement, where as Yoga poses are generally held for a certain length of time. Ultimately Yoga is a practice that focuses on your mind and how you feel, with strength and flexibility as a side effect.


You will probably come away from both Pilates and Yoga classes feeling calmer and more relaxed.  Pilates generally has a short relaxation at the end but in Yoga you might have a seated relaxation/meditation, breathing practice and then Savasana (resting on back) for 5-15minutes.  As Yoga is trying to get the Yogi to tap into their innate level of consciousness a longer period of time going deeper is required, making it a more spiritual practice.

Because of the many elements of Yoga most classes will be longer than a Pilates class.  Whether you chose to practice Yoga, Pilates or both (the two complement each other nicely) you can be sure that under good guidance you are benefiting.  They both make you more body aware and focus you on your breath, this enables us to engaged with ourselves and feel more complete, lending itself to a holistic path of living.