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Yoga or Pilates? – A Short Story

yoga pantsYou won’t believe how often I get asked this question!  As soon as people hear I am a personal trainer and Pilates teacher their first question is “what is the difference between Yoga and Pilates?” or “which is better for me, Yoga or Pilates”

Now, you can google this topic and find a million different articles on the comparison and benefits of each practise/discipline.  I’m going to write this article from my own stand point and experience but ultimately I will give you the same list of information in terms of benefits.  Why?  Because I can’t dispute them.

I have to admit that when I first experienced Pilates as a teenager, I found it incredibly frustrating to try and do.  I have a very mobile body.  It likes to move and shift and squirm.  That’s just the type of movement my body produces because of long ligaments, mobile joints and elastic muscles.  So getting me to try and control the automatic litheness was nearly impossible, especially as a teen!  However, I always understood the benefits Pilates offered me as I needed to gain control of my core and learn how to control my flexibility.  Breathing for me was and still is a challenge so this aspect of the method also caused me some distress.

Experiencing Pilates in my adulthood and studying the mechanics of it in order to be able to teach it has however somewhat liberated me from my frustration with the exercise form.  Maybe because my brain understands the method behind the movement, I now in fact find it an incredibly therapeutic form of movement and see the benefits play out in myself and clients as the weeks pass.  I’ve been known to squeal with excitement as I witness a client’s brain process how to execute a movement and seeing the body follow.  I’m also known for using the word “beautiful” often, because Pilates really can create beautiful movement in a human body!

Pilates light

I probably shouldn’t do this, but I often tell people that they might not enjoy their first few Pilates classes.  I’m totally projecting my own experience, I realise this.  I then of course encourage them to stick with the method for at least 2 or 3 months before they consider quitting.  Here’s why; an introduction to Pilates can be quite overwhelming and each body is different!  Some people can spend a year or more in a basics class and others can move up a level in as little as 3 months.  It’s just the way of the world unfortunately.  You need to give yourself time to understand and process the Pilates principles, some of which include relaxation, concentration, alignment, centring and breathing.  Once you have grasped these principles, the method starts to evolve and you will see and feel your body transforming.  It’s simply wonderful!

When it comes to Pilates and weight loss, sorry, but you have to change your eating habits in conjunction with getting to class at least twice a week for any changes to take place.  There are no short cuts!  From an injury, rehabilitation, back pain or any joint/muscle pain stand point, Pilates will be unbelievably beneficial for your body, provided you are getting to class and being taught the method correctly.  Incorrect form, like with any other type of physical exercise will simply aggravate injuries so ask around before you sign up with just any “Pilates teacher”.  Make sure they are qualified and/or have a good reputation for keeping client’s bodies healthy.

Dont hate me

Right, let’s talk about Yoga.  Please keep in mind that I have no formal Yoga teachers training.  I am a student when it comes to this practise.

My first taste of Yoga was probably when I was 20 years old and dancing nearly 7 hours a day, 6 days a week.  Our company Director thought we needed a “break” from our usual hard-core routine and do something to ease our minds and bodies.  Well, I don’t know if it was because Yoga was scheduled towards the end of the day but practically half the class was asleep 20mins into our practise.  Our poor Yogi, always dressed in white and always trying to communicate snippets of wisdom through the practise I think eventually gave up on us, because we only did Yoga for a term!  The thought still makes me giggle.

So, I then tried Yoga again once I had stopped dancing and wasn’t so tired all the time.  Lol.  To add to my will to try again, I signed up for hot Yoga.  Yah, I think it’s like 35 degrees Celsius in the studio, and now you’ve gotta find your inner Yogi when your body is already feeling out of shape and balancing on one leg seems like quite a tall feet!

I pretty much nearly died in that first class!  …pretty much.  Hot Yoga is not for the feint hearted people.  Prepare yourselves.

That being said, if you survive your first class, it’s pretty addictive!

Click here for an article on 8 benefits of Hot Yoga.

head stand

I find that practising any form of Yoga in a heated studio is not only an extreme physical challenge but also an even more extreme mental challenge!  Trying to coax your way through Yoga poses in 30 – 40 degree heat means you have to be 100% present in your body and mind.  This can be challenging when the pros are up front and centre in their tiny shorts and crop tops and you’re a discombobulated sweat-ball at the back in your “sexy” Yoga pants and a loose top slipping and sliding out of positions!  With all that being said, there is no doubt that your body will become more flexible, stronger and toned after a few solid months of dedicated Yoga practise.  You’ll also probably be able to deal with stressful situations a little easier after subjecting yourself to classes that cause your eye-balls to fill with sweat while trying to balance on one leg, upside down, sideways and backwards.  You’re also less likely to fall asleep in a hot Yoga class.  *thumbs up*

(Please note that practising Yoga in normal temperatures can be a very different experience.  I have also not really dealt with the spiritual aspect of Yoga, which in fact plays a big role in the practice itself.  I have chosen to omit these two factors because this post is turning into a short story!)

Ok, what’s the difference between the two?  Here are two simple infographics that list the differences;

pilates vs yoga bite size

pilates vs yoga exercisepilates

You’re probably thinking “that was f*ing lazy, Leilah!”  Yes, yes dear reader, it possibly was… but as I mentioned right in the beginning, you can Google the life out of this topic and you will get the same answers!

My immediate answer to people who ask me what the difference between Yoga and Pilates is and which is better for them is;

“Yoga is traditionally more of a spiritual practise that moves through physical poses.  It also generally entails lifestyle philosophies and “a way of living”.  Pilates is a Western form of exercise which seeks to realign the body, iron out muscular imbalances and promote a sense of wellbeing.  Why don’t you try both for a month or two and see which one you prefer?”

There you have it lovely human.  You have to give them both a try and see which one provides you with the benefits that YOUR body needs.  Generally speaking if you are not interested in the “Ohm shanti shanti” vibes of Yoga, Pilates is your best bet.  If you are seeking out a bit of spiritual enlightenment through physical movement, Yoga is for you.

There are SO many options available when it comes to keeping active and finding what works for you.  There is even Yogalates (Yoga and Pilates combined)!  Keep experimenting until you find what keeps you happy and healthy.

Please don’t be shy to e-mail me or post any questions below.  Hopefully I can help you find the perfect fit.

With Love

L

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