Yoga vs. Pilates: Which One is Best For You?

Yoga and Pilates are often put into the same category, but they each have key differences. They both look like a relaxing way to exercise, so how do you choose between them? Pilates and yoga both use a mat, both are available as a group fitness class at the gym, and both help to create a lean, toned physique.

Here are the main differences between Pilates and yoga so you can decide which is best for you.

What is Yoga?

Yoga was created and designed for both men and women in India over 5,000 years ago with the purpose of connecting human consciousness with the universal consciousness through physical activity. Yoga was designed to improve physical health, emotional health, and spiritual health. Through repetitive movement, yoga focuses on flexibility and broad muscle groups while proving to be extremely therapeutic. Many types of yoga involve meditation and deep breathing, which aids in relaxation. The meditative portion of yoga tends to attract people who are seeking to take it easy and de-stress.

There are many different types of yoga that range from relaxing to physically stimulating:

  1. Hatha yoga. It’s all about the basics in these slower moving classes that require you to hold each pose for a few breaths. In many studios, Hatha classes are considered to be one of the most gentle forms of yoga. Because of its slower pace, Hatha is ideal for beginners.

  2. Vinyasa yoga. This type of yoga links breathing with dance-like movements. You won’t linger long in each pose, so this is a great way to increase your heart rate. Prepare for fun music and a fast-paced environment.

  3. Ashtanga yoga. This type of yoga is ideal for perfectionists seeking an orderly approach. Consisting of six series of specific yoga poses, you’ll flow and breathe through each pose to build internal heat. The result is improved circulation, a calm mind, and a light yet strong body.

  4. Iyengar yoga. This type of yoga is about precision and proper body alignment. Each posture is held for a period of time, and the use of blocks, straps, and ropes are common. This type of yoga is good for those with injuries, but always consult a doctor before you begin.

  5. Bikram yoga. Bikram is practiced in a room heated to over 100 degrees and 40 percent humidity. All Bikram studios practice the same 90-minute sequence so you’ll know exactly what to do once you unroll your mat. Be sure to stay hydrated as the vigorous exercise combined with the hot room can feel strenuous.

  6. Hot yoga. Hot yoga is similar to Bikram in that it takes place in a heated room, but the movements are different. The heat will make you feel like you can take your poses to the next level, so be sure to take it easy and don’t push beyond your skill level.

  7. Kundalini yoga. This type of yoga is physically and mentally challenging and looks very different from a typical yoga class. You’ll take part in repetitive movements coupled with intense breathing exercises while also chanting, singing, and meditating. The goal is to achieve a higher level of self-awareness.

  8. Restorative yoga. If you want a hardcore workout, this isn’t the yoga class for you. Meant to be mellow, this slow-moving practice with longer holds allows for deeper relaxation. You’ll use a variety of props including bolsters, blankets, and blocks to support your body in each pose.

  9. Yin yoga. This meditative practice is designed to help stretch your connective tissue around the joints, restoring length and elasticity. Yin yoga involves variations of supine and seated poses typically held for several minutes, accessing deeper layers of fascia. Props are commonly used so your body can release into the pose instead of actively flexing the muscles.

Yoga offers several health benefits including balance, strength, endurance, spirituality, meditation, controlled breathing, and sometimes even difficult physical movement. Read the following articles for more Yoga benefits.

Benefits of Yoga
A Perscription for a Healthy Life

And contrary to a somewhat popular belief, Yoga is for women AND men! Don't believe us? Check out the following blog on the benefits for men in particular.

Benefits of Yoga for Men

Classes can range from gentle and relaxing to challenging and intense. With all the variety, there is a class suited for everyone’s personal style or mood. See the yoga classes offered at Genesis Health Clubs, here.


What is Pilates?

Pilates is a physical fitness system that was created in the early 20th century by a man named Joseph Pilates. Pilates was formed during World War I with the intention of helping injured soldiers regain their health by strengthening, stretching, and stabilizing certain muscles.

Pilates uses fewer, more precise movements in order to achieve the Pilates principles: correct alignment, centering, concentration, control, precision, breathing, and flow. Joseph believed that mental and physical health were essential to one another, creating what is a method of total body conditioning.

Like yoga, there are many benefits to Pilates. Pilates helps increase strength, flexibility, and lean muscle tone with an emphasis on aligning and lengthening the body.

There are several other benefits that you can achieve by incorporating Pilates into your routine:

  1. No bulk. During Pilates movements, the focus on strengthening and lengthening the muscles at the same time produces long, lean, strong overall muscle tone that doesn’t create bulk.

  2. Improves posture. By focusing on proper body alignment and posture, you will eventually hold yourself differently by standing taller, sitting straighter, and moving with better coordination and balance.

  3. Inner strength. You will become better in tune with your individual needs. This will help you to be able to train efficiently and effectively.

  4. Stress relief. The mind-body connection that you will achieve during Pilates will help relieve external stresses and pass time.

  5. Increased energy. Pilates isn’t an exhausting workout that leaves you feeling worn out. Instead, you’ll end your workout feeling an increase in energy with a clear, focused mind.

  6. Eliminates toxins. With regular Pilates workouts, you may begin to see improvements with your digestion system. This includes an increased metabolic rate as well as a healthier immune system.

Pilates also provides an abundance of other benefits including improvements to bone density, pelvic floor function, and lung capacity amongst many others. See more Pilates benefits in the articles below.

Benefits of Pilates
Pilates Benefits Found at Genesis

For more information on Pilates offered at Genesis Health Clubs, see here.

How to Choose Between Yoga or Pilates

Who said you have to choose? If you want to stick to one form of exercise for now, here are a few tips to help you decide between yoga and Pilates::

  1. If you are trying to lose weight, Pilates exercises can be done using machines that add cardio to your poses. This can help you to burn additional calories.

  2. Yoga might be the most effective exercise to combat depression or anxiety because it focuses on the mind as well as the body. In yoga, the breathing exercises help you to achieve relaxation because you have to concentrate on how the breath is being employed. Sending your breath to specific problem areas that are holding stress can help relax these muscle groups in your body.

  3. Pilates exercises are a lot more intense and results may be noticed much quicker than yoga. Through frequent Pilates exercises, a flatter and firmer stomach may be easier to obtain.

  4. If you have back issues, care has to be taken with some yoga poses as they can sometimes exacerbate the problem. When attending yoga group fitness classes, the instructor can offer helpful advice for those with back pain.

  5. One of the main differences between yoga and Pilates is that yoga can be used for improving the flexibility of the body and joints. Pilates focuses on trying to relax yet strengthen tense muscles.

Try one class of yoga or Pilates at Genesis Health Clubs and you will quickly be able to decide which one is right for you!

Both yoga and Pilates are great ways to strengthen and tone your body while relieving stress and gaining flexibility. You can't go wrong with either exercise, so we encourage you to try BOTH!