Centuries-old yoga and newfangled Pilates may share the notion of a body-mind connection, but there’s a world of difference between the two. We lay bare the facts so you can choose…

No one knows exactly when yoga began, but archaeologists in India have uncovered carvings depicting figures in yoga poses more than 5,000 years old. The discipline was developed by meditators to help them retain focus and mental clarity for longer.

Pilates is a relative young gun, having been developed in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates as rehabilitation for wounded soldiers from WW1. It was quickly taken up by dancers and performing artists looking for strong, long and lean muscles.

Today both disciplines have been adopted by celebrities across the globe. Jennifer Aniston, Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow and Sarah Jessica Parker are all said to be fans, while Hugh Grant and Tiger Woods are flying the flag for the increasingly popular male workout.

Strike a yoga pose

Yoga is a life philosophy encompassing ethics and spirituality, as well as a series of poses known as ‘asanas’. Each asana is a body position intended to restore wellbeing, promote flexibility and boost vitality. The most famous pose is probably downward-facing dog, an all-over rejuvenating stretch that resembles an upside down ‘V’. All asanas require strict attention to form, which improves body awareness no end.

Power up with Pilates

Pilates uses concentration and breathing to create a mind-body connection, but there is no spiritual element and the discipline is unashamedly a series of exercises focusing on the core, abdominals, lower back and legs.

There are two main types of Pilates, equipment-based Pilates and mat-work. Joseph Pilates developed the equipment-based style of Pilates, which was taught for many years in studios using specially-designed machines, such as the Cadillac. Mat-work is a series of exercises performed on the floor using the body’s own weight as resistance, and is a recent innovation designed to bring the discipline to a wider audience. This is the style of Pilates taught in most gyms.

What are the benefits?

Increases flexibilityIncreases flexibility
Tones and strengthens musclesTones and strengthens muscles
Improves circulationImproves circulation
Improves balanceImproves posture
Strengthens the immune systemStrengthens deep abdominal muscles
Improves concentration and focusHelps restore postural alignment, offers relief from back pain and joint stress
Reduces stress and anxietyReduces stress and tension, boosts energy
Helps manage chronic health conditions, such as asthma, carpal tunnel syndrome, depression, back pain, osteoarthritis and osteoporosisPromotes recovery from strain or injury
Builds bone densityIncreases range of motion in the joints
Encourages the connection of the mental, physical and spiritual selvesEngages the mind and enhances body awareness

Take a deep breath

Breathing is very important to the practice of both yoga and Pilates.

Yoga uses breath work on a very deep level, breathing in and out through the nose. In many classes, there will be a session dedicated to breathing called ‘pranayama’.

In Pilates, you breathe through the nose and out through the mouth. The ribcage expands laterally (to the left and right) and into the back, allowing you to breathe while engaging the abdominals and giving more support to your core.

Try it hot

Both yoga and Pilates are now available in heated studios. Hot yoga and hot Pilates are a relatively new way of working out, however the benefits are aplenty. Exercising in temperatures of around 35 degrees Celsius is thought to:

aid detoxification through sweating,
boost immunity as viruses cannot survive in such warm conditions,
increase flexibility and mobility as the muscles are so warm and loose,
and aid weight loss through increased calorie burn.

A bit of both?

Generally speaking you don’t need to be particularly flexible or strong to start Pilates, however even the basic yoga poses do require a degree of flexibility. So if you’re new to exercise Pilates might be a great first step.

Remember, when it comes to your fitness, mixing up your exercise regime can help with your motivation and your response, so why not give both a go?

Yoga not your thing?

Don’t fret. Here at Hairy Bikers’ Diet Club we have heaps of exercises suitable for you. Get our FREE sports workout guide, and choose between swimming, rowing, running and cycling.

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