The Differences Between Yoga And Pilates You Should Know

Both Yoga and Pilates have recently experienced renewed interest. Both are time tested, effective and provide health and fitness benefits. Which is the best program for you?

While there are similarities, both are performed on the mat or floor, Yoga and Pilates have many differences including:

  1. OriginYoga is an ancient practice dating back many centuries. Pilates was developed by Joseph Pilates in the very early 1900’s. Pilates was the original fitness “guru”, he overcame a sickly childhood and chronic conditions through diet and exercise and developed his Pilates System to help improve fitness and heal others.
  2. Philosophy – Yoga is as much a philosophy as fitness approach, there is a spiritual aspect including meditation. Pilates is a much more direct, achievement oriented approach.
  3. Focus – Yoga is focused on flexibility and larger muscle groups while Pilates is more focused on core training, muscle toning and rehabilitation of injuries.
  4. Goals – The ultimate goal of yoga is enlightenment, to unite the mind, body and spirit through asanas (poses, postures), breathing exercises and meditation. The goal of Pilates is more practical, health and balance, through strengthening, toning and stretching muscles.

How They Work:


Yoga involves stretches and poses or positions which vary by the “style” of yoga you study. Much like martial arts, yoga has many diverse styles which fall under the heading “yoga”, which range from traditional to more modern adaptations. Regardless of the style, most are still performed on mats and while the poses (asanas) do strengthen and tone muscle, the goal is more one of flexibility.



Pilates may be practiced on mats, but advanced training is performed on “machines” invented by Joseph Pilates and centers around cables and sliding supports to aid in stretching and strengthening. The most well-known Pilates machine is known as the “Reformer.” Pilates, whether on a machine or on the floor develops core strength and strengthening and toning the body and muscles. Pilates originally developed his program and machines to aid in the rehabilitation of injured ballet dancers and gymnasts working as circus performers.



While there are some similarities and overlap in training, even some identical movements like the plank and pushup (cobra, swan and cat/cow), there are many more differences than similarities.

But which is better?

Should I pursue Yoga or Pilates? Why not both? First, consider your fitness goals, would you benefit most from yoga’s flexibility and meditation? Or from strength and toning or physical rehabilitation of Pilates? Pick a practice that you enjoy and that you can do on a regularly, otherwise do both on alternating days or each, one or two days each week and enjoy the benefits of both yoga and Pilates!

Recommended Yoga Poses & Positions:

Recommended Pilates Exercises:

The Differences Between Yoga And Pilates

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