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Yoga vs Pilates

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What you need to Know about Yoga and Pilates

By Strength Tree

You’ve probably thought about trying yoga or Pilates before, but most people never follow through. Yoga might be one of the most popular exercise systems, but Pilates still has more than 25 million regular practitioners. Both yoga and Pilates will make you stronger, healthier and more flexible, so how do you choose between the two?

Core Strength

While yoga is great for your core, it can’t compete with Pilates if your main goal is strength. Pilates is far more effective than yoga at targeting your lower back, abs and obliques. If you’re dreaming of a tight, toned stomach, then Pilates is the choice for you!

Stress Relief

There are few things better than yoga when it comes to stress relief. By incorporating breathing and meditation techniques, yoga strikes a delicate balance between mental, physical and spiritual health.

Even a single yoga session has been shown to noticeably decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Long-term yogis are also more relaxed and focused on a day-to-day basis than non-practitioners.

Pilates requires focus and concentration, which might help you forget about the other stresses in your life for a while. But it is a more physical discipline than yoga, with less focus on mental well-being.

Weight Loss

Aerobic exercise is best for burning calories and losing weight, which means neither yoga nor Pilates will help you slim down as quickly as running, swimming or cycling would. However, both yoga and Pilates will help you to keep off any weight you lose. Pilates usually burns more calories than yoga, but neither of these exercise systems should form the basis of a weight loss plan.

There are a few increasingly popular variations on yoga and Pilates that are better for losing weight. Bikram yoga involves holding yoga postures (known as asanas) in a room heated to over 100F, while Power Plate Pilates uses a specially designed vibrating surface that causes high-speed muscle contractions.

Both of these variations burn significantly more calories than traditional classes.

Injury Rehab

When Joseph Pilates first designed the method in the early 20th century, one of his primary goals was to create a “medical gymnastics” exercise system. It was intended to be useful for treating a wide variety of physical complaints.

By realigning the body and strengthening the core and stabilizer muscles, Pilates addresses the underlying issues behind a huge number of injuries. This is why Pilates is often recommended as part of a recovery plan for injured patients.

Yoga is often less suitable for injury rehabilitation than Pilates, as some asanas can aggravate existing injuries. However, the improved flexibility that yoga offers can help to prevent injuries in the first place.


Nothing improves your flexibility like yoga! Studies have found that regular yoga sessions can make you up to a third more flexible in just two months.

Pilates also has a positive impact on flexibility, but not to the same extent as yoga. However, some inflexibility can be caused by poor spinal alignment or tight joints – problems that Pilates is designed to solve.

Back Pain

If you’re suffering from back pain, it’s often best to avoid yoga. Certain asanas can cause further damage to existing back problems like slipped discs – bends and twists are particularly harmful. A good instructor will be able to tell you which postures are likely to make things worse, but it might still be wise to forget about yoga until your back is healed.

Thanks to its focus on core strength and injury rehabilitation, Pilates can work well with other back pain treatments. Pilates has been shown to be hugely beneficial for many people with back pain, but it’s vital that you take care if you’re already suffering from an injury. Always practice Pilates under the watchful eye of an instructor.

Which is Right for You?

Whether yoga or Pilates is the right choice for you depends on both your current health and your motivations. If your goal is to relax, de-stress and refocus, then yoga should be perfect. Yoga is also best if your primary aim is improved flexibility.

Pilates would be the best choice if you want to get stronger, burn more calories, tone your abs or recover from an injury.


Whichever you choose, both yoga and Pilates have the potential to change your life for the better. Taking a beginner’s class could well be the first step on the road to a healthier, happier future.


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