It doesn’t matter if you have tons of free time or only a limited amount of time to exercise in your schedule. You deserve a workout that doesn’t waste your time, so it’s natural to ask if one type of exercise (like Pilates) is better than another (such as yoga). You want to be 100% confident that you’re doing the best type of workout possible.
So what’s the answer? Well, it depends on your priorities and your body. It’s also important to know upfront that they are somewhat similar types of exercise. Both Pilates and yoga offer a low-impact workout that’s more relaxing than high-intensity exercise. How else are the two alike?
How Are Yoga and Pilates Similar?
In addition to being low-impact, both yoga and Pilates focus on exercising all of your muscles instead of just specific muscle groups.
There are also different variations of both types of exercise. For instance, you can sign up for a hot yoga class or Winsor Pilates (We’ll talk more about the different types of yoga and Pilates later!). Once you have a general idea of what each type of exercise involves, it’s a smart move to research the different variations that are out there.
Both yoga and Pilates can be done without equipment; however, you can use equipment in both types of exercise. Some styles require equipment (like chair yoga… it’s in the name!). The good news is that to get started with either one of these types of exercise you do not need to invest in equipment! However, you will probably be more comfortable doing yoga on a yoga mat.
Finally, both yoga and Pilates are fantastic for your mind and body (we’ll take a closer look at the more specific benefits later!). Now that you know more about how these two types of exercise are similar, let’s take a look at how they’re different.
Difference #1: The Spirit
One of the major differences between yoga and Pilates is the idea of the spirit. Both types of exercise focus on the mind-body connection, but yoga adds the spirit into the mix. Yoga does not have to be religious (although you can be religious about your yoga practice – making sure you never miss a class or a session!), but it is would be wrong to separate the spirituality out of yoga.
So just how does yoga incorporate the spirit into mind-body exercises? It will depend on the individual instructor and their style. In general, meditation is a very common part of yoga classes, while you’re much less likely to meditate during Pilates.
Difference #2: The Structure
Almost every exercise class you go to will be influenced by the instructor. No matter how strict or even scripted the program is, each instructor’s personal style will still impact the class to some degree.
However, in general, you can expect Pilates classes to be more structured than yoga classes. Because there are so many different directions that a yoga class can take, you can expect the structure of the class to be highly influenced by the instructor’s preferences (and the needs of the class).
On the other hand, Pilates classes are more structured, which means they’re also more predictable. So if the thought of showing up to class and never quite knowing what’s going to happen gives you anxiety, you may want to try out Pilates instead!
The Benefits of Practicing Yoga
Practicing yoga has many different benefits, but one of the biggest is stress relief. Many studies have found that practicing yoga (and especially the specific styles of yoga that focus on managing stress) can actually improve your mental health.
Yoga emphasizes breath work and incorporates meditation, which are both key in managing stress. A 2019 study found that people who went through yoga programs experienced a better/higher reduction of psychological distress and fatigue than people who went through a Pilates program (however, Pilates also helped alleviate both of these).
The benefits of practicing yoga extend beyond stress release and the mind to the body as well. Yoga has been shown to have a positive impact on cardio, respiratory fitness, flexibility, and posture. It can even lower levels of inflammation.
Yoga can also relieve migraines and can even help you sleep better. Because practicing yoga can benefit both the mind and the body in so many different ways, there’s really no reason not to try it out.
The Benefits of Doing Pilates
Doing Pilates can help both your mind and your body, but its benefits are mostly physical. Pilates can be very beneficial if you are trying to minimize your risk of injury. The core work of Pilates helps make sure that your muscles are neither too loose nor too tight. Doing Pilates can help your joints be better stabilized and better supported.
If you are trying to become pregnant or you are pregnant, then you should definitely consider Pilates. It can help strengthen the pelvic floor, which is extremely important in giving birth. Pilates can also, again, reduce joint and muscle discomfort, which are both also key in childbirth.
Because Pilates can target specific muscles, it can be majorly helpful with physical therapy rehabilitation. Athletes can also benefit from Pilates, as it can help their bodies become more limber.
Pilates isn’t just for expectant mothers, people in rehabilitation programs, and athletes, though. Anyone can benefit from Pilates. It has also been shown to reduce psychological distress and fatigue.
Yoga or Pilates For Different Physical Priorities
So, which type of exercise should you try? The answer depends on you and your priorities. If you’re looking for peace and stress relief, you should try yoga first. But if you’re looking for certain physical benefits, then the answer becomes more complicated.
For example, if you’re trying to focus on weight loss, then you’ll want to try out yoga because you can burn more calories in a high-intensity yoga class than you can in a typical Pilates class – but again, this will depend on the type of class you take. For weight loss, you should prioritize your nutrition and then think about exercise.
You may be concerned about toning your muscles. If that’s your priority, then take Pilates. You’ll have more opportunity to focus on building and strengthening your core muscle groups in Pilates than you will in yoga.
Some people want to exercise more because they’re concerned about their heart health. Pilates is again the better choice for heart health, as there can be more intense muscle movements than what you will find in many yoga classes. The highest-level Pilates classes will result in the best benefits for heart health.
Are you a runner, or are you trying to get more into it? Pilates is again the better option for people who are trying to run, as it strengthens your core muscles and helps you develop better balance. While yoga also focuses on strengthening and balance, you’ll have a better chance of improving them in a Pilates class (in general – it always depends on the instructor and the type of class!).
Types of Pilates
Whether you should take Pilates or yoga classes depends on you and your priorities. Before you make your decision, take a look at the different types of classes that are out there.
Classical Pilates is great for physical therapy patients. Mat Pilates is great for those with back pain and who need to focus on their core. Reformer Pilates requires more equipment and helps with improving posture and coordination. Contemporary Pilates is a less traditional workout, and Stott Pilates helps with neck and back pressure. Lastly, Winsor Pilates focuses on weight loss and fitness.
Types of Yoga
Because yoga is such an ancient practice, there are many more different types of yoga than there are of Pilates, which was invented during World War I. Vinyasa yoga is the most athletic style of yoga. Hatha yoga is grounded in physical practice and is the most popular. Kundalini yoga focuses on spirituality. In Ashtanga yoga, you follow a specific series of moments. Bikram yoga is the official name for hot yoga. Yin yoga is a slow-paced style.
Which Option Is Better? It All Depends On You
If you have limited amounts of time to exercise, choosing the right workout is a major decision. In general, if you are looking for more stress relief and spiritual support, yoga is the better choice. If you’re looking for relief from pain or to prevent injury, choose Pilates.
However, remember that there are many different types of each workout. Your instructor’s style will also have an impact on the exercise. Some yoga instructors may take a different approach to every class, while others may be consistent each session. You never know what the class will be like until you try it out!
Keep an open mind and try out different classes if the first one works for you. Remember, any time you take to keep yourself healthy is time well spent!