The main similarities…
As I mentioned, both Yoga and Pilates focus on breath, with more concentration on this element in Yoga. Yoga breathing promotes relaxation and is used to hold a pose and breathe into stressed and tight areas. In Pilates, the breath is used to provide the muscles with more energy to exercise effectively. Hence the inhale is important as you are bringing fresh oxygen into the entire body to feed the muscles to work more. As Joseph Pilates said: ‘Breathing is the first act of life and the last, our very life depends on it.’
Both Yoga and Pilates are used to help support back issues by strengthening the back muscles and working on balance. Yoga, however, can actually exacerbate problems if the person doesn’t use their core in the poses. Using the core is Pilates’ main aim, and all movement must come from the centre whether you are lying, standing or sitting.
Most Pilates moves start from lying down so as not to put pressure on the joints, whereas Yoga generally starts standing. If, for example, you do a downward dog and use your weight by pressing into the wrists and feet without a strong centre you can actually worsen weaknesses, crunch the neck and shoulders and put pressure on your pelvis, weakening the back muscles. Therefore, it is important that whatever exercise regime you are doing (whether it be Yoga, weightlifting or running, for example), that you teach and train your body to come from a strong centre – in Pilates terms, ‘Powerhouse’.
With both disciplines focusing on the mind-body connection, Yoga and Pilates can really help with anxiety and depression by slowing everything down and helping you be more mindful of self-care and alignment. You don’t always have to be hitting it hard to get some incredible physical and mental results. Quite the contrary, as you will lower cortisol levels which spike when the body and mind are under stress – these actually prohibit a healthy being, limiting the results you are looking to achieve.
Pilates and Yoga target muscle groups that you won’t access in many other forms of exercise. You can be an incredibly fit runner or boxer and come out of a Yoga or Pilates class in agony because you’ve worked muscles you don’t usually engage or even know you had.