Is Pilates Yoga?

I could make this blog post really short. Is Pilates yoga? No. No, it isn't. You have a yoga studio don't you? No. No, I don't. How's the yoga studio doing? Terribly, I think. Since it doesn't exist. There are a lot of articles out there that take on the topic of yoga versus Pilates. Most of them say the differences aren’t as much physical as they are philosophical. I would argue that the authors of these articles don’t have a very serious yoga or Pilates practice if they think the two are so physically similar. Let’s say you are a Pilates or yoga novice or newbie and are still confused and curious as to the difference between yoga and Pilates... First, let's start with the basics and why people probably think the two are interchangeable: Both have exercises that you do on mats. Now, let's move to some key differences: The Philosophy To quote a long time student who tried his first yoga class recently, "Mariska, I went to this class last night and there was (insert my favorite expletive) chanting." Beyond an asana (or physical movement) practice, yoga is, for many practitioners, a spiritual way of life. Some forms of yoga call for you to be vegetarian or vegan, to meditate, to chant. In fact, asana is just one of eight limbs, or aspects, of what yoga practice entails. Pilates doesn’t have any limbs other than the ones you exercise. Sure, there is a Pilates lifestyle, Fuse included (you can engage your core at any time, keep your shoulders down, and practice your Pilates anywhere). But, it doesn’t have the same spiritual connection as yoga. Although Pilates does engage the mind in the exercise, it doesn’t seek to make the mind and body “one.” Om shanti? Nope. The Physical Practices The goal of Pilates is to increase the core strength of the body, focusing on proper muscle engagement and stabilization of the pelvis and shoulder girdles. For many, the purpose of yoga is simply preparation for meditation. But, in today’s world where yoga is a workout you’ll find at every gym (and on every corner in our Logan Circle neighborhood), others state the goal is strength and flexibility – and that’s not too different from Pilates. However, even though some of our exercises look similar, the focus is generally different. Take a bridge pose, for example. Yoga emphasizes the backbend, so there will be an emphasis on creating an arch in the back, often as a prep for wheel, or a full backbend.

In yoga, the goal is the backbend. Hmmm, my left foot shouldn't be turned out like that. Time to get back to the yoga studio for a tune up.

For Pilates, a bridge is a straight line from shoulder to knee. Add one leg moving for extra challenge to core stability.

Basically, Pilates focuses on core. And that can benefit a yoga practice significantly. In fact, Pilates core strengthening is so valuable for building strength and control for yoga that I shot these photos comparing a Pilates exercises to a similar move in yoga (that I haven't done in years), and I didn't have any trouble doing it. (Stay tuned for a future blog post about the magic of the bandhas and for the Pilates students out there, what the heck they are).

Full pike on the Pilates chair is a great way to learn core control for yoga arm balances.

Yoga arm balances like crow pose are all about the core (not so much about arms).

The Equipment What Pilates offers that yoga doesn’t are really cool toys. Where yoga practice might have a block, strap, and sticky mat, Pilates has moving carriages of the reformer, a Cadillac from which you can hang upside down, and a Wunda chair for balancing exercises. Essentially, we can challenge the body by making the floor underneath it move, or having no floor at all, or pulling spring weight.

A Pilates reformer. Isn't it pretty? You can work pretty much every muscle in your body using its spring weight and moving carriage. Ever see anything like that in yoga? I don't think so.

Pilates Cadillac. Sort of like monkey bars for adults. Also not found in yoga.

The Calorie Burn If calorie burning is your goal, which exercise wins? Of course calorie burn is a complicated formula that includes your own body weight and the effort you exert (so it’s impossible to say exactly how many calories an exercise burns). But, in a head-to-head comparison, an advanced or fast-paced Pilates workout (like Fuse) burns 40-50% more calories than a power (flowing) yoga class. Ultimately, both yoga and Pilates offer benefits. I started my practice with yoga and focused on Pilates because my body liked it better (and I kept injuring myself in yoga class). In an upcoming blog post, I’ll talk about why all serious yogis should consider adding Pilates. In fact, we count several of DC’s most prominent yoga teachers as Fuse Pilates regulars (and countless Fuse Pilates students split their time between us and their favorite yoga studios). But, no, Fuse isn't a yoga studio. Namaste. Stay hard core, Mariska  

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