Which is for me? Or can I do both?

by Cherie Lathey SYT

Many people often ask me what the difference is between Yoga and Pilates. They also ask if there is any point practising one if they already practice the other. Before making the choice between Yoga or Pilates, let’s take a look at the origins of each discipline.

Yin Yoga

What is yoga?

Yoga is an ancient practice and can be traced back more than 5000 years to India. The word yoga means ‘to yoke’, or rather ‘a union of mind, body and spirit’, which makes it a spiritual tradition. Yoga aims to purify the mind and body. The Eight Limb Path practised in some yoga traditions offers ethical principals to follow. By following this path, it is said one can transcend the ego and awaken the spiritual energy hidden within, revealing our highest capabilities.

The physical practice of yoga poses (asana) is what many people in the West are attracted to initially. The physical effects (toning, lengthening and strengthening of the body) and the feelings of well-being brought about by practising yoga is what can often be the start of a yogic journey. Or if you prefer, the start of a journey within.

Gentle Pilates

What is Pilates?

Pilates is a much newer practice in comparison to yoga. Joseph Pilates created this system in the early 20th century in order to assist his recovery from injury and poor health. He used his knowledge of the physical body to create a system based very much on the core (abdominal and back muscles), incorporating breathing techniques while performing exercises. Controlled repetitive actions are performed to tone and strengthen the body. Posture and alignment are improved and a feeling of well-being and bodily awareness is created.

Similarities between both practices

There is a big cross over in terms of the physical practice of these two disciplines. Many of the poses performed in Pilates come directly from yoga. The core strength used in Pilates is also present in yoga. The ancient yoga practice of Moola Bandha and Uddiyana Bandha (root lock and upward flying lock) essentially strengthen and lift the pelvic and abdominal area, toning the perineum and the transverse abdominals.

Should I practice Yoga or Pilates, or both?

As mentioned above, there are a lot of similarities between both disciplines, so it should not be a question of choosing between yoga or Pilates. It is now quite common to find classes using a fusion of the two. This, in some ways, allows you the best of both worlds. However, not all yoga teachers will teach core strength (Moola Bandha and Uddiyana Bandha) in their classes. Students of BKS Iyengar do not mention these words, but do activate abdominal muscles while practising yoga. Concentrating purely on this area in Pilates can be of real benefit to your yoga.

Personally, I think you can combine the two disciplines. Yoga, unlike Pilates, has its foundation in a (non-religious) spiritual practice, which could ultimately determine the path one is drawn to. Those looking for spiritual enlightenment will be attracted to the study of yoga and its ancient traditions; whereas those looking to strengthen and tone the body whilst using breathing techniques will be drawn to Pilates. The choice is, as they say, yours!

Yoga and Pilates at The Putney Clinic

In conjunction with our colleagues at Yoga Mama, we offer a selection of mat-based group Yoga and Pilates classes and workshops at our studio in Putney and online. To discover which classes we offer, click here, and for class times, visit our timetable. 1:1 tuition is also available upon request.

Yoga or Pilates? was originally posted by Cherie Lathey on her Yoga Mama London blog in July 2009. View here