Pilates vs. Yoga; The Yin and Yang of Mind/Body Workouts

My clients often ask me; what is a better mind/body workout; Pilates or Yoga? As a Pilates trainer, you would think that I would immediately promote Pilates as the better workout. But I am fair and objective on this issue. I say do both if you can. This then got my clients asking; if I’m already doing Pilates, why would I want or need to do Yoga?

Well, let me begin by saying, Pilates and Yoga focus on different things. Together, they give you everything. Let me explain. Your Yoga practice is mostly based on poses, positions, holding yourself in place. This requires isometric work from the muscles which is great! Pilates is all about continuous movement, which works the muscles in an eccentric and concentric way, also very good. Asking the muscles to work in these three ways makes for a well rounded muscle.

Yoga practices belly breathing which works the abdominals in an eccentric and concentric way. Pilates breathing is more isometric, pulling in and holding the abs tight even while inhaling. The abs become very versatile.

Yoga usually begins standing and works its way down to the floor, great for balancing, and functional training. Pilates starts lying down, which allows the person to really discover how their body works without worrying about the challenge of balance or gravity. Pilates then progresses from a prone position to seated, kneeling and finally standing exercises.

Yoga focuses more on back extensions which really work the postural muscles. Pilates focuses, initially, on more flexion of the spine which really activates the abs.

Yoga stresses the importance of the quadriceps in standing poses, while the hamstrings get a lot of stretching in downward dog and seated forward fold poses. Pilates really focuses on the strength of the back chain muscles: the lower back, the hamstrings, the gluteus muscles, the external rotators and abductors or what we call the swimsuit line…for men, the speedo line. I know, not always a pretty picture but effective for the guys.

These are just a few examples of how Yoga and Pilates, together, train the body in all aspects of how it was meant to function. How great is that? I call them the Yin and Yang of mind/body workouts. It’s so funny how we have to qualify that one thing is better than the other; a better piece of cardio, free weights vs. machines, light or heavy weights, etc, when actually, it’s all good! A smart body is a well-rounded, versatile, been-around-the-world body and it will thank you for the education by staying strong and injury free.

Work out smart and see you at the gym!