Many people think that yoga and Pilates refer to the same exercise category because both of them focus on a connection between the body and the breath. Also, they are similar in terms of improving flexibility, balance, and building strength. However, Pilates and yoga are rooted in diverse histories, and they feature different movements and techniques.

Each practice has distinct benefits and all you should do is to choose the one, which is the best for you. Here is the list of the major differences between yoga and Pilates.

What Is the Difference Between Yoga and Pilates?

Yoga and Pilates have numerous differences, and we focus on the major ones.

Difference 1: The Origin

Yoga originated in South Asia thousands of years ago. It has spread into many different locations and evolved with many different cultures. Today, there are many different types of yoga, including Bikram, Ashtanga, Iyengar, Kundalini, and Vinyasa.

The first mention of yoga was in the ancient Vedas – a collection of texts containing songs, mantras, and rituals.

Yoga is a part of a larger philosophy, and its main goal is to promote a better understanding of oneself, the world, and the alignment of the mind, spirit, and the body. Yoga has roots in Buddhism and other Eastern religions. It’s centered around five beliefs: Asanas (proper exercise), Pranayama (correct breathing), Saucha (proper diet), Dhyana (meditation and positive thinking), Savasana (complete relaxation).

Pilates is a newer practice. Also, unlike yoga, it isn’t a life philosophy. It originated in the early 1990s and it has been developed as a strengthening and rehabilitation exercise. It was named after its creator, Joseph Pilates. He studied yoga and his main goal was to unify the mind, body, and spirit. So, it can be stated that Pilates was inspired by yoga. Later, this practice has been used as a rehabilitation for wounded soldiers at the end of the World War I.

In the 60s, this exercise became popular among ballerinas and high profile dancers, who wanted to build strength, flexibility, and stamina. And exactly the dance community has brought Pilates into the mainstream trends.

Difference 2: The Goal

Different yoga poses work for the entire body. During each session, people work on standing balances, arm balances, inversions. Yoga improves your flexibility and posture, but that’s not all. Yoga can be considered as a part of a mental and emotional rehabilitation. Yoga classes can be of various types: for chair-bound seniors in nursing homes, meditative yoga, yoga for preschoolers, and classes for Olympic-caliber athletes.

As for Pilates, the exercises usually incorporate small, isolated movements, which are repeated in sets. The major principle in Pilates is that each movement originates from the core. Thus, the person is focused on core strengthening and on spinal alignment. According to Joseph Pilates, Pilates can correct the wrong posture, restore physical vitality, and invigorate the mind. Compared with yoga, Pilates doesn’t have diverse classes.

Difference 3: Breathing

Yoga focuses on breathing, and the formal practice of controlling the breath is referred to as Pranayama. This practice is used to soothe the fluctuations of active thinking, help you to focus on breathing, and control the energy through the breath control. In yoga, your breath is the largest source of Prana (life force). Yoga classes utilize different breathing techniques. Here are just a few of them.

Ujjayi Breath is the most popular breathing technique. It helps calm down the mind and the nervous system. You inhale and exhale through your nose. Each inhale should last as long as the exhale.

Lion’s Breath is one of the funniest breathing practices, especially for children. This breath involves inhaling deeply through the nose, leaning the head back, and opening the mouth to exhale while sticking the tongue out. Breath of Fire means that you inhale gently through the nose, then exhale vigorously through the nose. This is a great warming exercise for your abdomen.

In Pilates, there are no classes, devoted to Breathwork, and there are no many special breathing techniques. All people should do is to be aware of their breathing during the class – inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth. Right breathing is needed to provide the muscles with the energy they need to exercise. The muscles get enough amount of oxygen and become more relaxed. Therefore, training becomes more effective.

The Pilates breathing technique is called Posterior Lateral breathing. It is designed to help maintain abdominal contraction and keep the core engaged.

Difference 4: Spirit

Yoga is a spiritual practice because it involves exploring spirituality. Meditation is a large part of yoga. Yoga poses from simple cross-legged sitting poses to arm-balancing, twisting, and back-bending poses, are grounded in meditation. During meditation, people achieve a higher sense of awareness and it can be either a personal awakening or a relationship with God. This spirituality sometimes spills over into other aspects of life.

Pilates provides only stress-relieving effects, and spirituality isn’t intertwined with this practice.

Difference 5: Benefits for Health

Pilates is focused more on physical effects, and it works well for injury prevention and spinal strength improvement.

Evidence suggests that Pilates may be beneficial for those with the following conditions:

  • Arthritis;
  • Urinary incontinence;
  • Respiratory conditions;
  • Joint injuries;
  • Back pain.

As for yoga, it brings numerous physical and mental benefits. So, it can make you happier, more relaxed, it boosts your self-esteem, and manages stress levels. Besides, it also has positive effects for different medical issues, including:

  • Anxiety;
  • Depression;
  • Multiple sclerosis;
  • Arthritis;
  • Respiratory conditions;
  • High blood pressure;
  • Chronic pain;
  • Type 2 diabetes.

Yoga vs Pilates: Which One to Choose?

These useful practices incorporate movements and poses for improving flexibility, overall strength, and toning all of the muscle groups in the body. If you wonder: what is one similarity between Pilates and yoga? The answer is clear – both practices focus on improving flexibility and using your breath properly.

However, Pilates focuses on muscle toning, body control, and flexibility, the main emphasis is put on core strength. While yoga focuses on flexibility, endurance, balance, and spirituality. The difficulty of classes ranges from gentle to sweaty, so each person can find the perfect type.

Pilates exercises allow using different resistance machines, which add cardio to Pilates poses to burn additional calories. As for yoga, it doesn’t allow using different machines.

Also, yoga helps to relieve stress and calm down your nervous system. It is more focused on the mind than Pilates. Furthermore, Pilates is more dynamic than yoga and if you focus on reducing weight, then Pilates will help you to achieve the result faster.

Thus, both yoga and Pilates are beneficial for your health. Some people say that they provide similar results and can be complementary. If you can take up any type of the exercise, then practice yoga and incorporate several Pilates sessions into your workout.

Nevertheless, if you should choose, always consider your fitness priorities and the level. If you want to recover from an injury and improve your core strength, then go for Pilates with its low-impact exercises and subtle movements.

If you want to work on endurance, flexibility, good posture, and combat depression, anxiety, then yoga is your ultimate choice.