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Pilates vs Yoga

The difference between Pilates and Yoga


This is definitely the most common question I get asked when I talk about Pilates… “so, Pilates is just like Yoga right?”. Sadly, the answer isn’t quite so straight forward! Unless you’re familiar with both Pilates and Yoga, it is difficult to tell how the two of them differ. In truth, there are A LOT of similarities between the two of them. From the controlled movements, to the mind-body connection that is so crucial to both. We so often compare the two, but never really think about them both together. To me, I believe they are a match made in heaven. Pilates is known as a “workout”, and yoga as a “practice”; however, the irony here is that, in order to improve anything, we have to practice, and when we practice well both Pilates and yoga can be exceptional workouts. 


So, in order to understand the differences between Pilates and Yoga, we need to first understand the similarities. 

  • Both Pilates and Yoga place real importance on the mind-body connection. Neither of these practices can you go through without some understanding or connection to what you are doing.
  • Both are used widely for mental healthiness as well as physical. The breathing, mindfulness and pace of yoga and Pilates help reduce stress and anxiety. 
  • Both aim for you to focus on the present movement, rather than the overall outcome. 
  • Both yoga and Pilates (mat Pilates more specifically) are performed on a soft mat and can incorporate small equipment. In yoga, equipment such as blocks, straps and cushions are used to enhance comfort and form. In Pilates, there is a range of different pieces of small equipment utilized to both challenge and/or aid exercises. 


“In 10 session’s you will feel the difference, in 20 sessions you will see the difference, and in 30 you will have a new body." – Joseph Pilates


Now that we understand a few of the similarities between the two, let’s talk about some of the differences. 

  • Pilates focuses on strengthening the abdominals, what we call the ‘powerhouse’ of the body, as well as strengthening all other muscles symmetrically as well as all around flexibility. Yoga has more of a focus on increasing strength and flexibility of the spine and limbs.  
  • Although breathing is just as important in both, they way to breathe differs. In Pilates, you do what’s called 3-dimensional breathing where the breath is focused into the backs and sides of the lungs. The long, slow deep breaths encourage deep abdominal connection, mental clarity and correct muscle firing patterns. In yoga, the breath is either a smooth, heat-inducing breath that sounds like the ocean or a rapid breath that creates greater internal heat.


"Yoga is not a religion. It is a science, science of well-being, science of youthfulness, science of integrating body, mind and soul." – Amit Ray

All in all, similarities and differences aside, both yoga and Pilates have amazing benefits for both physical and mental health. The best way to learn the differences, is to give them both a go yourself! Also remember, you don’t have to choose between Yoga and Pilates like many people do. You can do both! They work together hand in hand and complement each other so well.