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>Pilates vs. Yoga

Category : Healthy Eating

>Thanks to the modern speed of information, both Pilates (pronounced: puh-la-teez) and Yoga have entered mainstream fitness. Infomercials promise amazing results and many celebrities attribute their beautiful bodies to practicing Pilates or Yoga. As a result, the demand for both of these disciplines has increased dramatically in recent years with classes being most popular due to their affordability.

What is Pilates?
In the early 1900’s Joseph Pilates incorporated elements of yoga and Greek exercise routines as a therapeutic form of exercise for bedridden soldiers in Germany during World War I. In 1926 he emigrated to the United States and continued to develop his methods which he called “contrology”. He and his wife, Clara, opened a fitness studio in New York which became very popular with dancers.

There are two styles of Pilates:
1) Mat Pilates work which utilizes a mat and in some cases, simple props
2) Reformer exercise which involves spring loaded apparatus.

Mat Pilates is much more prevalent because mats are easier to afford and store than reformers, however working one on one with a certified instructor and a reformer is an excellent way to ensure proper form and technique.

Besides traditional Pilates, various teachers have modified Joseph Pilates’ original technique. One of the best known and highly reputable is Stott Pilates which was created by a professional dancer and a team of sports medicine experts. Stott Pilates has adapted the many of the original exercises to make them safer by providing proper support to the spine.

What is Yoga?
Yoga originated in India thousands of years ago. It is meant to be both spiritual and physical. There are six different styles of yoga each with a distinct emphasis. Your goals will dictate which type of yoga you choose to practice.


1) Hatha-slow paced, gentle and a good introduction to the basic yoga poses
2) Vinyasa-more vigorous that Hatha with Sun Salutations during which movement is matched to breath.
3) Ashtanga & Power Yoga-fast paced and intense. A set series of poses is performed always in the same order.
4) Iyengar-emphasizes holding poses for long periods instead of flowing from one pose to the next quickly.
5) Kundalini-emphasizes breath and rapid repetitive movements; often includes chanting
6) Bikram/Hot Yoga-Typically uses a set series of poses and is practiced in a room heated to 95-100 F degrees

How are Mat Pilates & Yoga alike?
1) Mind/body focus. This means the movements are mindful and you are encouraged to pay close attention to your body alignment and breathing. Very unlike what most of us try to do at the gym: tune out on the elliptical or treadmill with a book or the TV.
2) Great supplement to your healthy lifestyle
3) Use of mat and simple props
4) Strength building movement through various poses & exercises.
5) Breathing technique. They each have one, however they are not the same.

How are they different?
Pilates exercises are designed to draw on the “powerhouse” (also referred to as core muscles) which includes these muscles: abdominal, low back, upper back, hip and pelvis. These work together to support the spine in proper alignment.
Yoga will increase your range of motion, sense of well-being and can reduce stress.

Getting started in Pilates or Yoga
I highly recommend you try a class with a knowledgeable instructor instead of a video. Videos may be convenient, however, there is no one there to correct your form and help you to understand proper technique. A class, or better yet, one-on-one instruction is the best way to be sure you are doing the moves correctly so that you get the most out of the exercises while reducing the chances of getting injured. If you choose to join a class, be sure to sign up for one designed for beginners. Share any limitations you might have with the instructor and they should be able to show you modifications so that you can perform the exercises safely.

Do you have a health and fitness question? Contact us info@xofitness.com

Karin Jennings is a certified personal trainer and co-owner of XO Fitness, LLC in De Pere.