Yoga zen or Pilates strength. Which workout is best for you?

Both are low-impact workouts that deliver mind and body benefits. So, what’s the difference between yoga and Pilates? And which is better suited to you?

Yoga and Pilates are the power couple of the contemporary wellness scene.

Both are widely celebrated for their health benefits, harnessing mindful movement to build core strength, flexibility and balance.

But while these exercise styles have plenty in common, there are differences as well.

Here’s how to decide which practice is right for you.

Yoga vs Pilates: Key differences explained

Pilates Alliance Australia committee member Daniela Di Fabio says while yoga and Pilates are both mind-body practices, traditional Pilates and Asana yoga (the physical practice of yoga poses) differ in technique.

“Pilates draws on some yoga principles such as breath control, concentration and being present or ‘in the moment’,” Daniela says.

“But in Pilates classes, you perform a number of repetitions of the same movement targeting a specific set of muscles, then move on to the next exercise.”

Daniela says the goal is to work all muscle groups unless prevented by an injury.

Meanwhile, Asana yoga combines poses flowing into one another and/or static holds.

Both forms of exercise focus on how the breath is used during movement.

The Yoga Foundation chief executive Jessica Hobson says another big difference is that yoga is more than just physical exercise.

“Spirituality is an important component, but that does not mean yoga is a religious practice, more that it can offer a deeper experience than an exercise class,” Jessica says.

“Yoga supports many different levels – mental, physical, emotional and social.”

Yoga vs Pilates: Why choose Pilates?

Created by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s, Pilates is great for toning muscles and improving posture, flexibility, core strength and balance.

It incorporates many exercises performed on the mat or with specialised equipment in small group settings to allow the teacher to closely supervise each student.

Daniela says while she would recommend Pilates to everyone, it’s particularly beneficial for people with health concerns or an injury, sports people and dancers who want to improve their performance, and older adults.

“A professional Pilates teacher will be able to modify all exercises to suit the goals of each student,” Daniela says.

“Pilates assists with injury prevention and rehabilitation, improves coordination and balance, and further develops concentration and bodily kinaesthetic intelligence.”

Yoga vs Pilates: Why choose yoga?

According to Jessica, yoga is a “multidimensional system for living” that focuses on mind-body practices.

“Exercise, breathwork, certain relaxation techniques, meditation, mindfulness and positive psychology all have their own independent bodies of research to support their efficacy and value: yoga has all of these features – it’s a package deal,” Jessica explains.

Yoga can be gentle and calming, energising and challenging, trauma-informed and suitable for people with mental health issues.

“There are many different styles of yoga, so people can focus on getting physically stronger or more flexible, or they can focus on meditation and breathwork,” Jessica says.

“About 90 per cent of the people we work with choose yoga to support their recovery: recovery from physical injuries and chronic pain but also mental ill health, addiction, trauma, domestic or sexual violence, abuse, disadvantage and pain.”

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Written by Dimity Barber.