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Pilates vs. Yoga: What's the Better Workout?

According to the World Health Organization, one in four adults do not meet their recommended level of physical activity. Finding the best workout for you and your body is key.

You want an exercise regimen that you enjoy and will stick to in the long term. In general, exercise can help control your weight, improve your mood, and promote better sleep. A bonus benefit is the community and accountability that group exercise classes offer. You'll be more likely to return if you're having fun and being social.

Yoga and pilates are two very popular forms of exercise, often compared to each other. So which one is the better workout?

What is yoga?

Originating in India, yoga is about connecting the mind and body. Its philosophy includes the eight limbs of yoga, ancient texts and chakras.

For the purposes of this discussion, let’s concentrate on the physical postures, or asanas. These are typically called poses and get put together in a sequence to form the flow of the class.

There are many different types of yoga and each provides a unique class experience. For example, yin yoga is a slower practice that holds poses, or asanas, for an extended period of time. On the other hand, Vinyasa yoga moves through the sequence with each inhale and exhale.

Each version is different and has its own focus and benefits. All types, however, focus on breathing, concentration and movement.

Yoga can improve your strength, balance and flexibility. It relaxes and connects your body to your mind.

Typically performed on a mat, you will have an array of props to choose between. Options include blocks, blankets and straps to assist you on your journey.

A few contraindications of practicing yoga include pregnancy, hypertension, or low back pain.

What is Pilates?

Originally called Contrology, Pilates was developed by Joseph Pilates. As a previous dancer himself, he created Pilates for injury recovery and body conditioning.

There are six key principles to the Pilates method. They are centering, concentration, control, precision, breathing and flow. He created a main sequence of exercises that flow through movement patterns.

This low-impact practice strengthens and elongates your muscles. It also improves your posture and core strength. It can increase your energy and enhance your body awareness.

Pilates is not limited to the mat. Other options are the reformer, Wunda chair or Ladder Barrel. Props can include hand weights, a Magic Circle and resistance bands.

A few contraindications for Pilates are pregnancy, unstable joints, or osteoporosis.

Yoga vs. Pilates

Both types of these low impact exercises sound similar. They both focus on your breathing, concentration and muscle movement.

But in the end, they are quite different.

Yoga is a more spiritual and meditative practice. You focus on holding the poses and/or flowing into the next, matching breath to movement.

Pilates is about finding movement in the postures to strengthen your core and elongate your muscles. This can be accomplished by adding resistance or weights to your arms or legs.

Both have similar contraindications. Consult your doctor or medical professional before starting any new exercise regimen.

When taking a class, inform your instructor of any injuries. They can offer variations to the poses or exercises best suited for your body.

What’s the better workout?

It depends on your goals! Do you want to increase your strength and flexibility? Pilates may be the better exercise for you.

Do you want to connect your mind to your body, increase your balance, and your flexibility? Yoga is your answer. With so many different types of yoga available, you have a lot of options to explore.

Finding one that you enjoy practicing will help you stick to it.

While often compared to each other, yoga and Pilates have quite different focuses. The one best for you and your body depends entirely on your goals, activity level, and experience.

If you’re unsure, try both and notice how each feels in your body.

A third option is to find a studio near you that offers both or a combo class of the two. You can get the best of both worlds!

Key takeaways

  • Both types of movement focus on breathing, concentration, and stability.
  • While similar, yoga and Pilates focus on different aspects of exercising your body.
  • The better workout for your body is contingent on your goals.


World Health Organization. Physical Activity.

Medical News Today. How does yoga work?.

Cleveland Clinic. Everything you want to know about Pilates.

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