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The Difference Between Yoga and Pilates



Do you know the difference between Yoga and Pilates? Maybe you've heard the term Pilates, and I’m almost certain you’ve heard of Yoga but you might be a little confused what the main differences really are. It might be that you've done a Pilates Mat class and think that’s all there is to it, when actually there is a whole side of Pilates that includes all of this equipment as well. 


So this is what we're going to talk about today! I'm so glad you guys are joining me. Thanks for being here. We're going to talk about the history of Pilates. We're going to talk about the history of yoga. We're going to talk about the benefits of both along with some key considerations and differences.


Thanks again for joining me, my name is Linnea. I am the owner and founder of Limber Arts, Pilates and Personal Training here in Olympia, Washington, and also online from anywhere. I actually have a long history with both yoga and pilates. I grew up doing yoga with my mom. She was certified in yoga back in the 70's in Boulder, Colorado, so I definitely grew up in a yogi family. Then I started teaching yoga and found my way into Pilates from there. I've then gone on to become a personal trainer and study functional biomechanics and things like this as well. Okay, so let's dive in. 







A Brief History of Yoga:


Yoga has this incredibly deep and rich history that stretches back hundreds and hundreds of years, originating in India. I would have to look back at the history, but it’s actually more like thousands and thousands of years old.  As it has evolved, we've seen different styles emerge like Bikram, Ashtanga, Hatha, and Vinyasa yoga.  These are the types of yoga that will be most familiar to western audiences in the modern world.  Each style of yoga is connected to Indian philosophy, spirituality, and meditation and, depending on the branch, some styles focus more on meditation and mindfulness rather than just the physical movements. It's like this big old tree with many branches, each offering something unique and beautiful.


A Brief History of Pilates


Joseph Pilates, was born in 1883 and his journey is more recent compared to the ancient roots of yoga. Interestingly, many believe that Joseph Pilates practiced yoga, and you can definitely see hints of yoga's influence in Pilates. However, they're fundamentally different systems. During World War One, Joseph Pilates found himself on the Isle of Man, rehabilitating injured soldiers using makeshift equipment like springs from military cots. This experience sparked the development of what we now know as Pilates. It's evolved into a system focused on rehabilitative movement and is often seen as cross-training for dancers.  Within the method of Pilates there’s mainly two different styles, classical and contemporary.  Classical Pilates sticks closely to Joseph Pilates' original design. Contemporary Pilates takes a more creative approach, blending modern science and diverse training methods. As a contemporary Pilates instructor, I appreciate the freedom it offers to incorporate knowledge from various disciplines like personal training and yoga.  In terms of equipment, Pilates ranges from mat-based exercises, akin to yoga but with a stronger emphasis on core strength, and then there is also a whole line of specialized Pilates equipment, such as the Pilates Reformer. These workouts are designed to enhance not just flexibility but also functional strength and movement patterns, often overlapping with physical therapy principles, depending on the style and specialty of the instructor. 


Benefits and Differences of Yoga and Pilates:


Both Pilates and yoga place a strong emphasis on flexibility, which sets them apart significantly from other forms of exercise. However, they diverge in various ways from there.  Yoga is often thought of first in terms of fostering mindfulness, meditation, and offers additional benefits with a sense of community and a broader yoga culture. Its deep-rooted history and ties to Ayurveda add layers of richness to the practice that can include diet, herbal medicine and other Indian health traditions.


In my own journey, while I was previously deeply dedicated to yoga, I had been facing increased injuries, surgeries and other chronic conditions that yoga wasn’t able to address or help with.  I found that I had developed significant muscle imbalances from practicing the same yoga sequences for many years, and I felt a lack of scientific robustness when it came to questions of corrective exercise, functional movement, and healing from injuries within the yoga community. 


In this way, I found Pilates to be more beneficial, with a more balanced and scientific approach when it comes to musculo-skeletal conditions and imbalances. Pilates offers the added benefit of functional flexibility, meaning it enhances flexibility while simultaneously building muscle strength. In contrast, yoga tends to focus more on passive flexibility components, although this can also vary greatly across styles. Ultimately both disciplines offer unique benefits that cater to different aspects of physical and mental well-being.  I hope this sheds light on the differences between yoga and Pilates and helps you make informed choices in your practice. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!


What to Expect at Limber Arts


Here at Limber Arts, I take a functional approach to all the work that I do with clients.  Everyone walks in with different needs, interests, and desires, and I am happy to be able to apply all of my rich history and experience across disciplines to cater to individual needs.  


While I predominantly focus on balanced exercise programs that incorporate both flexibility and strength, I also consider my services to be firmly rooted in mind body fitness in their own way.  Every session has some elements of breath work and mindfulness, allowing participants to experience the benefits of a meditative movement practice, while still getting a great workout that is safe for folks with injuries or imbalances. 


I offer free complimentary 15 minute consultations which you can schedule by clicking here, and I also offer a variety of services from private instruction to small group classes and online offerings. 


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