When new students call to ask about classes one of the most frequently asked questions is “What’s the difference between yoga and Pilates? They’re pretty similar, right?” Although there are a few similarities between the two, there are actually some substantial differences.


Yoga is based on the Eastern idea of how energy flows through the body. The general goal of yoga is to release physical tension to improve the flow of energy through the body. This is achieved through controlled stretching and strengthening. Including a spiritual aspect of meditation, the poses strengthen the body while the proper breathing helps to calm the mind. Applied to every day life these principles increase body awareness and assist in achieving inner and outer balance.

Pilates, created by Joseph Pilates, is physical conditioning of the body. Created as a way to rehabilitate soldiers after WW1, the uniqueness of Pilates is its focus on the core abdominal muscles that support posture and stability. Pilates can be done on the mat or by incorporating various pieces of equipment which focus on the eccentric portion of the movement to improve coordination, muscle balance, precision of movement and control of the body. Ideal for post rehab or back pain clients as well as elite athletes for injury prevention.


Yoga originated in India more than 5000 years ago. Today there are many different variations of yoga including, but not limited to Ashtanga, Kripula, Bikram and Vineyasa. Pilates originated at the beginning of the 20th century. Created for rehabilitation it was made popular by dancers to make them stronger and improve their performance.

Mind, Body and Spirit

Although traditionally yoga focused more on mind, body and spirit, Pilates practitioners will tell you there is definitely the same focus today with Pilates. Both disciplines carry over into everyday life and affect the body by making it stronger or more flexible, the mind connection to the body and the spirit in different ways.


Yoga classes tend to be more flexible as far as a routine is concerned. The style of yoga and the instructor may determine the class structure.

Pilates classes tend to be quite structured. The exercises are set out in a specific order to begin by preparing the body and gradually increasing the challenge with the most difficult exercises occurring at the end of the class. Variety occurs with the addition of small props, equipment classes and small group circuits.

Breathing Techniques

In yoga and Pilates there is an emphasis on breath but for different purposes. In yoga the breath is for relaxation and spiritual connection. The Pilates breath is used to focus the body on the muscles that will be used, oxygenate the body, concentration and assisting with muscle firing patterns. Health Benefits Yoga breathing can help to improve lung capacity which in turn can improve some respiratory issues like asthma. Not only does it improve muscle tone, stamina and strength it can also speed metabolism to assist in weight loss. Increased flexibility can help with injury prevention. Many of the poses are therapeutic and serve purposes such as aiding with digestion, stimulating the thyroid or improving circulation.

Pilates is a low impact exercise which has many health benefits. Suitable for any age or fitness level the exercises can be modified for post rehab reasons and is particularly beneficial for those suffering from back pain. The breathing helps with improved lung capacity and function while the exercises themselves help with circulation. Focusing on everything from the feet up corrects muscle imbalances throughout the entire body. Each exercise strengthens and lengthens to make you stronger from head to toe.

Exercises Purpose

Yoga is not just an exercise, it is a lifestyle. Although on the surface it appears to be a bunch of stretches it is a holistic approach to join mind, body and spirit. The physical aspect are the poses, the mental aspect is to clear the mind and the spiritual aspect is the result of the practice. Traditional yoga poses are held for a series of breaths before moving into the next pose.

Pilates is a conditioning program which is based on 6 principles:

1 – Centering – strengthening the core of the body to improve posture

2 – Concentration – full body awareness during each exercise

3 – Control – controlling the specific muscles used for that particular exercise

4 – Precision – each movement has a purpose and a precise muscle firing pattern

5 – Breath – every exercise is coordinated with breathing

6 – Flow – movements are smooth and graceful and flow from one to the next

Which is best for you?

There is a beneficial crossover between the two practices as the meditation in yoga can definitely help with the focus required in Pilates and the core strength from Pilates will assist with holding the poses in yoga.

Whichever you choose, look for a qualified instructor who has a lengthy certification process as opposed to a weekend course.

To The Core Pilates Studio provides highly personalized, expertly specialized Pilates instruction for all your health and wellness needs. Contact Donna, with a team with over 8 years combined Pilates experience to care for your postural, post-rehab, fitness and office wellness programming. Classes are starting soon. Call 780-808-4144 to register or visit us online at tothecore.ca.

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