Pilates Exercises: Similarities With Yoga Poses and Calisthenics

Trying a new form of exercise can be daunting. You're walking into the unknown. What will it be like? Will you even like it? The good news is some exercises in Pilates will look and feel familiar, especially if you've previously taken a yoga class.

Key takeaways:
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    Pilates is a popular form of exercise that is accessible to everybody.
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    Studies have shown that Pilates can increase your abdominal endurance, and hamstring flexibility and can be an effective tool for weight loss.
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    There are two types of Pilates sequences: classic and contemporary.
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    Pilates exercises share similarities with yoga poses and general bodyweight calisthenics.

Let's break down the benefits of Pilates and get familiar with some of the more popular moves. You'd be surprised how many are similar to other modalities of movement. With this knowledge, you'll be able to confidently walk into a Pilates class!

What are the benefits of Pilates?

Don't underestimate the power of Pilates. It's an accessible form of exercise used for toning your body and even some injury rehabilitation.

It does not matter what your body shape is; Pilates is for everybody.

In a study by J. Koubec, adding Pilates to the participants (middle-aged men and women who are active) exercise programs once a week for 12 weeks showed a significant increase in three key factors:

  • Abdominal endurance;
  • Hamstring flexibility;
  • Upper-body muscular endurance.

Pilates is also an effective tool in rehabilitation for reducing pain and some movement disability. In some studies of adults who were overweight or obese, Pilates has demonstrated an ability to dramatically lower body weight, body mass index, and body fat percentage.

What are the types of Pilates sequences?

There are two types of mat Pilates: classical and contemporary.

The classical Pilates sequence was created by Joseph Pilates and is the same order of exercises every time. It focuses on six principles:

  • Centering;
  • Concentration;
  • Control;
  • Precision;
  • Breath;
  • Flow.

In contemporary Pilates, the sequence can change, and variations of each exercise are used. Familiarizing with the classical sequence can help make contemporary Pilates less daunting.

Are yoga and Pilates the same?

Yoga and Pilates are often compared with each other. There are quite a few similarities in the body shapes of poses and exercises. While in yoga, you typically hold the pose, in Pilates, you find movement.

To start, let's take a look at the boat pose:

In boat pose or Navasana, you sit comfortably on the mat with your legs bent and feet on the floor. Lean back with a neutral spine. Lift one leg and then the other until both of your shins are parallel to the ground while balancing on your sit bones.

In Pilates, this is the base pose for the Hundred, the Open Leg Rocker, and the Teaser.

The Hundred

You start in a low boat pose, also known as a hollow body. Straighten your legs and pump your arms by your sides 100 times, palms facing down. Inhale for a count of five and exhale for a count of 5. Continue until you reach 100.

woman doing yoga pose low boat pose or hollow body

The Open Leg Rocker

Begin in a boat pose with your hands on your ankles. Straighten both legs. Roll back onto your shoulders and roll back up. Be mindful of your neck and head. For safety, only roll to your shoulders.

The Open Leg Rocker woman doing open boat yoga pose

The Teaser

Lie on your back with your knees on your chest. On an exhale, roll up into a boat pose with straight arms and legs. Your limbs should be parallel with each other, and you will be balancing on your sit bones.

Other similarities between yoga and Pilates

The shoulder bridge is another pose that is in both yoga and Pilates. While typically an isometric hold in yoga, in Pilates, you add a lift and lower of the hips. There are many variations of shoulder bridges. Examples are lifting and lowering the legs, leg circles, and heel lifts.

Next up, plow pose and shoulder stand. In yoga, this is where you are on your back as you lift your lower body until you are balancing on your shoulders. Slowly lower your feet over your head until they touch the ground behind you. If (and only if) your feet reach the floor, you can remove your hands from your lower back. Rest them on the ground.

woman doing yoga pose shoulder stand

In Pilates, this move is taken a step further in multiple exercises.

The Roll Over with Legs Spread

This exercise is lifting your hips up and over your head until your toes touch the ground behind you. With control, you'll lower back down.

The Control Balance

You hold onto one leg while your toes are on the mat, and the other rises high. With control, slowly switch your legs.

woman doing yoga Control Balance

The Scissors

In this one, your torso rests on your hands at a 45-degree angle. Your legs are straight and in a front split. With control, you will switch the position of your legs.

Last one from yoga! Remember the bow pose? You're lying on your stomach, with your knees bent, holding the tops of your feet. By pressing your feet into your hands, you open into a backbend. In Pilates, The Rocking is the same body shape; however, you rock up and down your front side.

General calisthenic similarities in Pilates

Some of the exercises in Pilates are basic bodyweight calisthenics.

Take the plank posture, for example. There are many variations on the basic plank in any form of exercise. Pilates is the base for a few exercises in the classical sequence.

The first is the Front Leg-Pull. In this exercise, you start in the plank position and alternate lifting and lowering each leg.

Reverse your plank, and you've got The Leg-Pull in Pilates. In this particular exercise, again, you alternate lifting and lowering each leg.

Familiar with the side plank? In Pilates, it's called the Side Bend. For the Side Bend, you lift and lower your body.

The last exercise in the classical sequence is The Push-Up. In Pilates, you start standing. Begin with a standing forward fold, walk your hands to plank and perform one push-up. Reverse until you are standing.

Trying a new form of exercise can be intimidating. Still, as you can see, many of the moves in Pilates are similar to other modalities of exercise, such as yoga and general calisthenics. With the knowledge of the exercises above, you are now better equipped to walk into a Pilates class confident and ready to enjoy yourself!


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