Pilates Vs Yoga – What Are the Differences Between Them?

Dr. James - Orthopaedic Surgeon in Singapore

Medically reviewed by Dr. James Tan

On a mission to find the best workout for losing weight, getting healthy, and improving your overall fitness? As you start researching, you’ll quickly hear about the miracles of yoga and pilates. After all, any serious discussion about the best exercises is sure to include this powerful pair.

For generations, these have been touted as the most effective workouts and valuable tools for improving your overall wellness. But, what exactly is the difference between those two? And, more importantly, which is the best workout for you and your unique needs and fitness level? 

To help you get started on your fitness journey, let’s take a closer look at the difference between these top fitness trends. 

When it comes to managing and preventing injuries, both can be effective. For example, if you’re experiencing shoulder pain, you may benefit from incorporating specific exercises into your practice that target the muscles and joints in that area without the need for medical treatments like PRP injections. Similarly, if you’re dealing with elbow pain or knee pain, there are steps you can take to manage pain as well.

Take a look at our golfer’s elbow pain treatment page or seek professional treatment for knee pain at Ray of Health today!

The Key Difference Between Pilates and Yoga

They are both low-impact exercises, and that is one reason why people confuse them. Both of the workouts are focused on building strength and flexibility. Complicating the matter further, there are countless types of yoga and people often wonder if pilates is a type of yoga. These two fitness routines, however, are distinctly different and have distinct goals.  

The core objective of yoga is to hold a position. The real challenge of doing it is maintaining your balance and strength without moving from this position. In contrast, pilates requires getting into a position and then moving your arms and/or legs to challenge your body, especially your core. 

Now that you understand the fundamental goals of both routines, let’s take a closer look at the details that create the difference between the two. 

What Kind of Workout Is Pilates?

So, what is pilates exactly? It is a series of movements that strengthen the body with an emphasis on building core strength. Like yoga, it focuses on posture, flexibility, and balance. There is a focus on the connection between your mind and body. There is also an emphasis on your breath and the fluid movements of your body.

Pilates was developed in the early twentieth century in Germany by a man called Joseph Pilates. He was a gymnast and worked to develop a programme that could be used after an injury. He worked with many wounded soldiers and dancers across the UK before moving to New York to open his studio. He first called the therapy Contrology before changing its name.  

From the beginning, it was focused on developing a workout that created a stronger mind-body connection. He believed that mental health and physical health were closely linked. Importantly, he also wanted an exercise that could treat injuries, such as shoulder injuries or knee injuries, while preventing them.

What Are the Benefits of Pilates?

Pilates will help you develop and maintain good posture. Your core is at the centre of every workout and it’s especially beneficial to anyone who wants to prevent lower back pain, which is a common form of ache and pain from working-from-home. Working your core will also help you to flatten your stomach and build powerful abdominal muscles. 

Beyond your core, it will help you to develop muscle tone throughout your body. Since most workouts are low-intensity and can be done without equipment, it’s an easy way to build lean muscles. For those who want to tone without building mass, this is also a great option. 

Likewise, for older people, it is an effective path to maintaining and building muscle with minimal risk of injury, as compared to running. Like yoga, it is also designed to increase flexibility while improving balance and reducing stress in hips

Read more: How to Differentiate Between Neck and Shoulder Pain

Will Pilates Help You to Lose Weight?

One of the key benefits is that it strengthens your muscles. By building muscles, you boost your metabolism and firm your body. It’s important to note, however, that it is not an aerobic workout. That’s why weight loss experts and healthcare professionals agree that your best approach to losing weight is a combination of pilates and cardio such as running. This will keep your heart healthy as you slim down. 

What Parts of The Body Does Pilates Target?

Pilates is a powerful workout for your back and abs. If you suffer from back pain, kyphoscoliosis or an osteoporosis fracture, this is one of the best things that you can do for your body. Its workouts are also excellent for preventing arthritis and lessening discomfort if you are already dealing with arthritis pain. 

If you have osteoarthritis, this is an ideal low-impact exercise to help you build up strength while improving your posture, while managing your knee arthritis at the same time. As the movements are slow and controlled, you can learn precise joint movements that will loosen your body without risk of injury. 

Do You Need Special Equipment for Pilates?

Nope! Like yoga, pilates can be an incredibly simple workout. All you need is a mat to get started. Though there is specialised equipment, you don’t need it to get started. Once you learn some simple moves, you can get started with a transformation workout. 

Just note, however, that it’s best to talk to a healthcare professional before getting started. This is particularly true when you are using pilates to prevent or manage pain. Not all workouts will be equally beneficial so it’s essential to know which moves are right for you.  

What Is Yoga?

While pilates is a relatively new invention, yoga has been around for centuries. The word is derived from the Sanskrit word for union. We use this word because it is all about bringing together your mind, body, and soul. It’s an ancient technique that incorporates a range of postures, breathing techniques, and other meditations. 

There have been volumes of books written on yoga and all of the different versions of it. There is everything from restorative yoga, which is about wrapping up in a blanket and unwinding, to Ashtanga yoga, which requires years of practice to learn those impressive poses that you see on social media. Yoga focuses a lot of strength on your joints, so it is important to follow the steps correctly to prevent ankle sprains or broken wrists. Check out our ankle injury treatment and wrist injury treatment pages if you are experiencing sudden pain that does not go away.

What Is the Best Yoga Workout for Beginners?

If you are looking for a workout that is more focused on fitness than finding inner peace, you’ll find plenty of workout sessions geared toward specific fitness goals. Whether it’s for weight loss or building muscles, these fitness programmes often incorporate techniques from a range of different styles. 

When you are first getting started, there is no need to worry about the different types. Just focus on beginner moves and listen to your body. And, like pilates, it is important to talk with a healthcare professional about the best options for you. 

Is Pilates Harder than Yoga?

Which is better for beginners? Which is more effective? That depends on you and your goals. Both can be adapted to different fitness levels. For improving your strength, pilates is a good choice. If you are looking to enhance your wellness and reduce stress, yoga may be the best option. 

That said, there are yoga classes that are incredible for building muscle as well as pilates lessons that incorporate restful elements. Ultimately, most of us have a variety of health and wellness goals and many people incorporate both into their routines for that reason. Likewise, many teachers and physical therapists will use elements of pilates along with yoga techniques for a hybrid treatment plan. 

Is There a Big Difference Between the Two? 

By strict definition, there is a clear line between the two. In practice, however, that line is often blurred. People often ask if pilates is better than yoga for weight loss and which should they do first. The answer is always: it depends! 

The best fitness routine is the one that works for you. To develop a beneficial routine that you stick with, it’s smart to talk with a orthopaedics specialist. An expert can look at your unique needs and help you start exploring all of the options. From there, you can discover what you like and how you don’t like to build the perfect routine. 

In recent years, group workout options like F45 and spinning are also getting very popular to improve your physical health. If you prefer working out alone, you might also be interested in HIIT training or bouldering. Always remember to do stretches before and after exercising to prevent bruising or muscle cramps from over-exertion.

Consult Medical Help If You Are Injured As Soon As Possible

Both yoga and pilates are prone to sports injuries like shoulder dislocation or meniscus tears if not done correctly. If you feel pain after the workout, it is advisable to seek a consultation and x-ray from your doctor.

Ready to finally find the perfect routine for alleviating pain, getting healthy, and eliminating stress? Let’s talk! Contact us today to develop a bespoke health and wellness plan that is right for you.

Meanwhile, check out the differences between the differences between physiotherapy and orthopaedic surgery, or differences between chiropractors, osteopaths, and physiotherapists to ensure you get the right help for your injuries.

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Dr. James - Orthopaedic Surgeon in Singapore

About the Author

Dr James Tan is a highly skilled orthopaedic surgeon who has more than 10 years of experience in sports surgery and exercise medicine. He is a member of the elite Asian Shoulder and Elbow Group and a founding member of the Singapore Shoulder and Elbow Surgery Society.

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