Pilates vs Yoga: which is best?

November 11, 2009

Still don’t know your Sanskrit from your Downward Dog? We clear up the confusion between hot Hollywood exercise trends – Yoga and Pilates.


Yoga is a peaceful way to start the day. What they’re all about: Yoga was originally established 5000 years ago as a style of meditation. Meaning union in Sanskrit, yoga focuses on aligning one’s physical, mental and emotional sides. The main form of yoga is called Ashtanga, and is focused on a precisely designed sequence of postures linked with breath and movement. By doing a series of stretches and breathing exercises, the aim is for the body, mind and spirit to align and ultimately benefit. The stretches increase flexibility and strength and free energy blocks. The series of breathing techniques and imagery helps the mind forget all outside disturbances therefore concentrate on their inner harmony.

Stars such as Meg Ryan believe yoga has changed their lives by making them calmer and helping them connect mind, body and soul. Yoga has also been popular with Eva Longoria, Gwenyeth Paltrow and Cameron Diaz. Christy Turlington has even forged a new career from yoga with a range of yoga inspired fashions and accessories.


Pilates has a little more movement. Pilates is loosely described as yoga with movement. It was developed by Joseph H. Pilates almost a century ago, who claimed that “In ten sessions, you will feel the difference. In twenty, you will see the difference, and in thirty, you’ll have a whole new body.” Pilates is focused on deep breathing and keeping the mind focused on the moment. It also features movement, therefore the muscles get stretched and strengthened at the same time. Pilates is very much focused on the torso and the often forgotten abdominal muscles. Exercises on the lower back, legs, hips and buttocks are generated from this area thus resulting in strengthened stomach muscles and ultimately a better posture.

Although there is more movement in pilates, the health benefits from the two are reasonably similar. Both boast weight loss, strengthened back muscles resulting in less back aches, improved arthritis, decrease of stress levels and increase of effective relaxation which leads to lower blood pressure.

One extra benefit for pilates is the change in body shape, due to strengthening of previously underused muscles. Many pilates enthusiasts speak of a longer, leaner body with stronger abs and buttocks.

Pilates has gained recent popularity in Hollywood circles. Madonna, formerly known for her love of yoga, has experimented with pilates and sings its praises as well. Other celebrities such as Marisa Tomei, Vanessa Williams and Jennifer Aniston all swear by it.

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