Yoga vs Pilates - Which Is Best?

on February 09, 2022

Pilates and yoga are often tarred with the same brush, but there are some major differences between the two. For starters, one has roots that stem back to ancient India, while the other was developed by a German anatomist in the 1900s. One is very spiritual, while the other is more physical; though both offer a multitude of health benefits, from stress relief to strength and flexibility. 

If you’re new to yoga and Pilates, or you’re simply after more information to decide which is right for you, keep reading. Let’s take a look at what they are, the types and benefits.


What Is Yoga?

Yoga is believed to have originated in Northern India over 5,000 years ago and was designed so people could connect with the universe. It was founded on experiential practice, and it acknowledges the multidimensionality of the individual, at the same time focusing on the nature and workings of the mind. 

Yoga was first introduced to the West by Indian monks in the late 1890s and by the 1970s, modern yoga had become widely recognised around the world. 

With yoga, the body, breath, and mind are viewed as being part of our personality and it aims to bring a deeper sense of inner serenity and mental clarity to those who practice. It focuses on postures and movement, awareness of breath, breathing exercises, relaxation techniques, concentration and meditation. For many, it is a way of life that balances us – inside and out. There are many different types, which we’ll discuss soon, but they are all essentially built around personal and spiritual growth and development. 

What to expect

There is no “typical” yoga session – it depends on the style of yoga, the tradition, the teacher and the institution. In general, though, you can expect: 

  • A warm-up with breathing or relaxing techniques
  • Stretches, postures and motions
  • Contemplation
  • Meditation


Types of Yoga

There are many different types of yoga, with some based more on breathing and mind-work, while others are focused on physical movement and stretching. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the main types: 

  •       Hatha Yoga covers a full range of yoga’s posture movements and is the most prominent style used at gyms and yoga studios. It includes slow range movements and requires you to hold each pose for a few breaths before moving on. It’s a great place to start if you’re new to yoga. 
  •       Vinyasa Yoga: Another popular gym-style, Vinyasa yoga mixes breathwork with dance-like movement. It’s great to increase your heart rate and is generally fast-paced, synchronising breath with movement. 
  •       Iyengar yoga emphasises proper body alignment and small, precise movements. Yoga postures are practised while focusing on breath control and each pose is held for an extended time, with the help of blocks, straps and ropes. 
  •       Ashtanga yoga ties breath to movement and is considered a fantastic form of exercise. It is believed to be one of the most difficult forms of yoga but is also beneficial to fitness and mind. 
  •       Kundalini yoga combines spiritual and physical aspects. It focuses on releasing Kundalini energy, which is thought to be coiled in the lower spine. It is fast-paced and there is a lot of chanting and meditation, allowing you to focus on your breathing and your core.
  •       Bikram yoga is practised in a room that has been heated to over 40% humidity and temperatures over 40C degrees. It generally lasts around 90 minutes a session and you need to be sure you stay hydrated. Hot yoga is similar to this, but the movements are different and often more advanced. 
  •       Yin yoga is meditative and focuses on connective tissue, such as joints, ligaments and bones. It’s slow-paced (you might stay in one position for five minutes or longer) and it is contemplative, great for inner peace. 


Health Benefits of Yoga

Research into yoga's health benefits has been increasing steadily in recent years and it has been found that yoga can benefit a range of mental and physical ailments for people of all ages. 

Benefits to the body include:

  • Alleviate chronic pain
  • Assist with arthritis
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Helps reduce insomnia
  • Improves muscle strength and elasticity
  • Increased stamina
  • Improves metabolism
  • Weight loss
  • Improves heart health 

Benefits to the mind include:

  • Stress management
  • Improves focus
  • Mental clarity
  • Relaxation
  • Improves optimism
  • Increases body awareness


Equipment Required for Yoga

If you want to practice yoga, you don’t need a lot of equipment to get started. Basic equipment includes:

  • Yoga mat
  • Yoga mat bag
  • Water bottle
  • Yoga block
  • Yoga strap
  • Blanket for breath-work


You also want to make sure you have comfortable activewear apparel and if you’re not sure which activewear is best, start with women’s leggings or activewear shorts, a sports bra and a shirt. Although most yoga is done barefoot, you might want activewear joggers as well – giving you grip for harder positions.


What is Pilates?

Pilates is believed by many to be very similar to yoga, but when you look closely, the similarities are limited. Unlike yoga, Pilates wasn’t actually introduced until the 1900s. Joseph Pilates was a German physical trainer who introduced Pilates as a method of rehabilitation for athletes and dancers who had been wounded in the First World War. 

It is based on a number of principles, including the use of the abdominal and low back muscles, flowing movement patterns, and a steady and controlled breathing rhythm. It emphasises muscular tone and focuses on strengthening your core – which connects every muscle in your body and is all about control – staying in control of your core through various movements. 

What to expect

Pilates is suited to people of all fitness levels and will generally see you on a mat or using what’s known as a “reformer” to perform small movements that have a big impact, helping to tone your body, create more flexibility and improving your balance.


Types of Pilates

As mentioned, there are two forms of Pilates: 

  1.     Mat Pilates is performed on the floor, using gravity and your body weight for resistance. It is designed to enhance your posture, balance and coordination and it allows you to complete a wide range of exercises and movements. 
  2.     Reformer Pilates uses a movable carriage (a bed-like contraption with resistance springs and foot bars) that you push and pull along a track. It can help you stabilise and straighten your body easier than mat Pilates. 

In both types, weights, bands and other equipment can help increase resistance. Mat Pilates is generally a tougher workout.


Health Benefits of Pilates

Like yoga, Pilates has many health benefits, the main one being that is helps to strengthen your muscles by isolating them and relaxing them. Other benefits include:


  • Improved posture
  • Increased resilience
  • Assists with back pain and discomfort
  • Strengthens your core
  • Enhanced adaptability
  • Balanced strength in arms and legs
  • Improved limb control
  • Treatment or prevention of muscular imbalances-related injuries
  • Better coordination
  • Improves lung capacity through deep breathing techniques
  • De-stress
  • Better focus


Equipment Required for Pilates

The equipment you may need for Pilates includes:

  • Pilates Mat or Reformer machine (the mat is usually a bit thicker than a yoga mat)
  • Exercise / Pilates ball
  • Resistance bands
  • Pilates ring
  • Water bottle 

Again, you also want to make sure you have the right women’s activewear sets and women’s leggings for comfortable sessions. Your activewear pants could be activewear 7/8 leggings or activewear 3/4 tights; you might want activewear plus size clothes that fit comfortably and are made with breathable materials; or simply shop for a full range of activewear for women based on a style you love.


Which Is Better For Me: Yoga Or Pilates?

There’s no right or wrong answer – it simply depends on what you want to get out of your session. Yoga is ideal for improving your mind-body connection, for relaxing and de-stressing, and enhancing your flexibility. Pilates focuses on core strength and stability, is low impact, but still challenging. You can do either, or better still, you can choose to do both for huge benefits physically and mentally.