Yoga vs. Pilates (101) / by Anita Cheung

For the majority of people, yoga and pilates are pretty much synonymous. Both are offered as group fitness classes in gyms and both involve stretching on a mat. So what's the difference anyway?

To save you from googling or walking into the wrong class, I've compiled a quick list to help you differentiate:


Has historic roots in India. YOGA

Is a spiritual/ lifestyle practice   YOGA

Was originally created by a man in the early 20th century.  PILATES (Heyo Josef!) 

Has multiple "streams" and styles today. YOGA & PILATES (Trick Question! Over the years, both yoga and pilates have branched off into so many different styles, it's hard to keep track of the lineage at times.) 

Involves a (relatively) thin mat. YOGA. (Pilates Mats are often thicker to cushion the tailbone and other joints) 

Is both strength conditioning AND a good stretch YOGA & PILATES (Yoga strengthens in the sense that poses are often held and muscles are engaged isometrically. In Pilates, muscles are strengthened within a particular, continuous movement range. Expect to work up a sweat in either class styles!) 

Will help improve flexibility and mobility YOGA & PILATES (Both utilize stretch techniques to improve flexibility and mobility.) 

Often recommended for those with injuries PILATES. (Pilates, especially Reformers Pilates, is often recommended as a form of rehab for those with physical injuries. Note: Yoga can also be recommended although not as frequently) 

Often recommended for those with stress, anxiety, or for relaxation purposes. YOGA (While Yoga can also help with physical injuries, its mental benefits far surpass any offered by pilates.) 

Can cause injuries YOGA & PILATES (Both, when done incorrectly, can lead to injuries. Yoga, with its inversions and desire to be hyper-flexible can be more prone to injuries due to practitioner's competitive egos.) 

Uses machines and other apparati PILATES (Some pilates classes are taught on various equipment (chair, cadillac, reformers) to help add or take away resistance/ make exercises more accessible and easier, or more challenging. These are often the classes recommended by physiotherapists and other health practitioners.)

Done barefoot YOGA & PILATES (Freedom- yeah!) 

Involves props such as: weighted balls, squishy balls, resistance bands, straps, PILATES

Involves props such as: straps, cushions, foam blocks YOGA

Involves small controlled movements PILATES (The idea is to hone in on particular muscle groups and move with control, rather than with momentum.)

Much of the class is done close to the ground PILATES. (While there are standing postures, most of Mat Pilates is done close to the ground either lying on one's belly (prone), on one's back (supine), on one's side, or on all fours/ a tabletop position.) 

Class flows from standing postures to balancing posture, inversions, and seated postures YOGA. 

Much emphasis is placed on core stabilization PILATES & YOGA. (While Core is heavily emphasized in Pilates- and also what many people know it for, Yoga is just as much of a core workout once a yogi learns to activate his or her core muscles in each pose.) 

Breath is essential PILATES & YOGA. (Note: There are different styles of breathing between the two. Pilates breath channels the breath in through the nose- filling up the chest rather than the belly, followed by a forceful exhale through the mouth in which the belly button is drawn in towards the spine. In Yogic breathing, we often aim for a steady breath called Ujjayi breath or "darth vadar breath"- due to the noise made when the air that we breath in through our nostrils swirls around in the back of our throat before exhaling.) 

Music choices vary. PILATES & YOGA. (With the way Yoga & Pilates is transforming, classes are entirely dependent on the teacher's style. Some classes are taught with no music, some with soft background tunes, and others with hip hop beats blaring in the background.) 

Round up:
Pilates is a great form of exercise that helps us become more body aware, strengthen our bodies and develop mobility. Because it is relatively low impact, it can be done by just about anyone. With the addition of props and machines, Pilates, despite its continuous movements, is constantly varied and challenging. 

Yoga is a spiritual practice. In this blogpost, we were referring to Yoga Asanas (or the postures) as Yoga. As I've mentioned in my other posts, Yoga is much more than the physicality that is often demonstrated in class. When comparing the physical aspect of Yoga to Pilates, the main difference would be the flow of class (you go from standing, to balancing, to upside down, to seated and lying down all in one class), and the fact that you are holding postures, rather than flowing through the same movement over and over again.  


As someone who teaches and practices both- I can attest to the benefits of both Yoga Asanas and Pilates. They are definitely complimentary, both to one another, and to supplement any other activities you may have going on. 

Have more to add to the list? Shoot me an email or comment below and I'll add to it! 



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