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You Asked: How Do Yoga and Pilates Differ?

You're asking and I'm answering . . .

"Hey Fit,
I see that you teach both Pilates and yoga. People ask me what the difference is between the two and I don't really have a good answer. The only thing I do know is that you use machines in Pilates. Can you help me understand the differences and why people practice either?"

Great question. People ask me the differences between these two practices all the time and to see my answer


First let's review what yoga and Pilates have in common. Both are great forms of strength training, often strengthening muscles while they're lengthened in stretched position. Both practices will increase your flexibility, but yoga more so than Pilates. Breath and breathing patterns are central to both practices. Both are considered mind / body exercises since they both focus on that connection. However, yogic philosophy includes a strong spiritual aspect that is not present in the Pilates method at all.

Exercise wise, yoga is considerably more static than Pilates. In yoga, poses are generally held for a number of breaths, except the flowing vinyasa used to connect poses in Ashtanga as well as other forms of yoga too. Pilates focuses on torso stability, using the deep abs and pelvic floor – similar to the uddiyana and mula bandhas of yoga, while the limbs move three dimensionally in space. Pilates mat work requires no props or machinery, but a large repertory of exercises have been created for the Pilates machines, which are vastly more intricate than the props used in yoga. The machines use heavy springs to create resistance and are incredibly versatile; the machines take the mat work to different levels – providing support to make exercises easier or adding resistance to challenge the muscles more.

Yoga classes tend to be 90 minutes and Pilates mat classes are generally an hour and both are roughly the same price. I have found the two practices enrich each other greatly and the more anatomically specific elements taught in Pilates enhance the more abstract images used in yoga.

I sure do hope this helps. I think you should try a Pilates mat class to see what it is like and spring for a private Pilates session so you can check out the machines.


Join The Conversation
TransformerYoga TransformerYoga 9 years
thanks FIT! that's the BEST explanation i have EVER read on the differences.. and you know what? i will go take a pilates class now! thank you!
JaimeLeah526 JaimeLeah526 9 years
Pilates is amazing. I haven't tried Yoga yet but I'd like to give it a try.
ameliajc ameliajc 9 years
I've never really tried either pilates or yoga (I'm more of a straight cardio girl), but I've always been interested in both. I'll def give 'em a shot now. Thanks for the info!
emalove emalove 9 years
I take yoga classes and LOVE them, but I'm really interested in trying pilates too.
gabiushka gabiushka 9 years
I still prefer yoga, although I've never done pilates a lot.
duckgirl02 duckgirl02 9 years
I have done Pilates / Yoga mat work for a long time and recently tried Pilates machine work. It is TOUGH but amazing. I highly reccomend trying the machine work at least once to perfect form on the matwork. I absolutely loved it and there is a definite strength-training aspect that is not present in yoga.
TidalWave TidalWave 9 years
Wow, if i had seen that picture of the pilates machine, i never would have tried it!! I know that some people use them, but mat classes, not only are not intimidating, but are also harder (and simpler) than those scary machines. I honestly didn't know the difference at all until I went to a pilates class and realized it was OMGABS!! Also, I've had chronic back/shoulder/neck pain (mainly stress related) for about ten years and taking pilates twice a week is the only thing that has reduced the pain, ever. I highly recommend it over physical therapy and chiropractory.
aimeeb aimeeb 9 years
Thanks Fit.
HipMom HipMom 9 years
Great explanation Fit! I also love both but I don't like the fitness trend of "yogalates" or any pilates-yoga fusion - I think they are best separate.
bigestivediscuit bigestivediscuit 9 years
I studied classical ballet for about thirteen years when I was younger and we used pilates for conditioning. It was fantastic and I like it a lot more than yoga, though I practice yoga now. I feel like my core was strengthened much more in pilates which is very important for dancers. I'm actually thinking of going back to pilates now.
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