26 Feb 2016

What is the difference between Pilates and Yoga?

It might seem like an innocent enough question, and to those new to both disciplines, it could well appear that Yoga and Pilates are just branches of the same tree. While there are a number of similarities between the two, of course, there’s a whole lot more to it! We’ve broken it down into core elements and looked at the similarities and differences.

  1. Origin

To casually condense centuries of history…

Pilates was developed in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates as a rehabilitation and strengthening methodology. A common misconception is that Pilates was developed for dancers: not so. Dance was, however, instrumental in pulling Pilates into the mainstream when the “classical” practice was adapted by dancers to assist conditioning, strength training, and endurance.

The term “Yoga” applies to a variety of practices and methodologies, including Jain and Buddhist practices. In Hinduism, these include Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga, Laya Yoga and Hatha Yoga.

The development of Yoga can be traced back over 5,000 years; with some historians even speculating it could be up to 10,000 years old in its most primitive form. So, by comparison, Pilates is a young buck!

While it has been around for a long time, Yoga really only became visible in the West in the 20th century, and hit its stride in the 1980s; similarly to Pilates.

Fast fact: it has never been confirmed, but there are rumours that Joseph Pilates used to practice yoga!

  1. What is involved in practice?

In broad terms: Yoga is about putting yourself in sequential, static postures.

Pilates is about putting yourself in dynamic postures, adjusting level postures (with load, resistance and instability) to create challenge.

  • Pilates: small movements that require activation of stabilising muscles of the back and core, with emphasis on starting each exercise with a controlled breath that initiates a contraction of the core muscles. Pilates is more equipment based than Yoga, and as such can be seen as more based in strength and resistance work.
  • Yoga: involves holding various poses and flowing through a series of movements. A session begins with gentle postures and works up to more vigorous or challenging postures. Significant emphasis on breath, mindfulness and meditation.
  1. Mind, body, spirit

One of the most significant similarities between the two is they both prioritise mind-body connection.

However, where Pilates is concerned with integrating mindful and functional movement in everyday life; Yoga deals with the interplay of mind, body and spirit using meditation.

  1. Benefits

Benefits of Pilates include:

  • Long lean muscles
  • Improved core strength
  • Increased muscle strength and endurance
  • Improved fitness
  • Improved flexibility and posture
  • Functional mobility
  • Improved balance
  • Decreased joint and muscle pain
  • Great for pregnancy and post-natal
  • Great for non-acute injury rehabilitation

Benefits of Yoga include:

  • Relaxation
  • Improved fitness
  • Improved core strength
  • Improved strength and flexibility
  • Improved mental health: positive thinking and meditation
  • Great for pregnancy and post-natal


At the end of the day, the two disciplines share many common features: and one may inform the other. Preference for either really comes down to choosing a method that works for you.

Yoga is a renowned antidote for stress.

Pilates is renowned for helping the body work better. Improved functionality: check!

Yoga is more spiritual. If you’re up for some OM and spiritual wellbeing, then look no further.

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One comment

  1. […] is a physical fitness system: it is not a derivative of yoga! (Have a read of our Pilates versus Yoga blog for more on this very […]

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