Pilates? Yoga? A look at the similarities, differences

MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times Ila Marie Jones, demonstrates Leg Beats, at the fitness center in the Vinoy Hotel, St. Petersburg, July 10, 2018.
MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times Ila Marie Jones, demonstrates the modified Tick Tock move at the fitness center in the Vinoy Hotel, St. Petersburg, July 10, 2018.
MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times Ila Marie Jones, demonstrates the Pilates Saw move at the fitness center in the Vinoy Hotel, St. Petersburg, July 10, 2018.
Published July 24, 2018
Updated July 23, 2018

What is the difference between Pilates and yoga? It’s a question asked by many, as they seem so similar in a number of ways. They are both extremely popular. They both offer stress relief, build physical strength, improve endurance and balance and promote flexibility, coordination and good posture. Pilates and yoga are similar in part because the creator of Pilates studied yoga and was inspired by the concept of unifying mind, body and spirit. However, as similar as they are, they do have their differences, but first, a little history.

Yoga was developed in India more than 5,000 years ago and was introduced to the United States about 150 years ago. It has evolved over the years into many different types of yoga, but the basic principle remains the same: to improve not only physical health, but emotional and spiritual health as well.

A German man named Joseph Pilates developed his exercise technique in the 1920s to rehabilitate and strengthen wounded soldiers from World War I. Pilates hit the big time when he moved from Europe to New York in the ’60s and professional dancers began using his exercises to rehab their injuries and to build endurance, strength and flexibility to improve their performance.


A mini breakdown of differences

There is no going for the "burn" when it comes to yoga or Pilates. You will be focusing on your movements, breathing and posture. You will be working smarter, not harder.

Yoga offers more of a spiritual component by creating a meditative environment during classes, and while yoga poses will develop core strength, yoga is more stretch and flexibility oriented. Pilates also has a mind-body component, but it places an emphasis on the core of the body and how the core impacts the rest of the body.

Movements are different as well. Movement through yoga asanas (poses) improves flexibility, coordination and balance. Pilates is a more structured workout where you will be moving through a series of exercises that focus on toning the body with low-impact exercises. All Pilates movements initiate from the "powerhouse,’’ which is the Pilates term for the abdominals, lower back, hips and buttocks.


In addition to Pilates mat work, Pilates offers exercise movements with Pilates exercise machines, such as the reformer, a spring-based resistance machine.

There are no machines in yoga, although yoga has introduced some equipment into classes, such as straps, blocks and bolsters.

Both yoga and Pilates coordinate breathing with their movements, but they differ in their methods. Yoga uses various breath control techniques, the most common being inhaling and exhaling through the nose. Pilates also encourages awareness of breathing, but there are not different breathing techniques. Practitioners consistently inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth throughout the exercise movements.

Yoga offers diversity in its presentations. There are many different styles of yoga, ranging from relaxing meditative to more physically demanding movements. There are different levels of Pilates from beginner to advanced, but there are no different styles involved.


Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program.

Sally Anderson is happy to hear from readers but can’t respond to individual inquiries. Contact her at




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