Many of my clients, looking for a way to stretch and keep their muscles pain free ask me whether yoga or Pilates is a good option for them and which is best. The reality is that both are great ways to keep moving but are good for our bodies in different ways.
Pilates was developed in the early 20th Century by Joseph Pilates, a German physical trainer. He developed his concept of an integrated, comprehensive system of physical exercise, which he himself called “Contrology” through the study of yoga and the movements of animals combined with his knowledge as a gymnast, bodybuilder and boxer.
Pilates is great for movement of joints and focused strengthening of the muscles. It can help strengthen areas that may be weakened by a sedentary lifestyle, injury or misuse of the area. It can help correct posture and motor skills through use of body weight exercises performed on the floor or with equipment such as the reformer or therabands, foam rollers and exercise balls.
Originating in India, yoga has been practised for centuries as a physical, mental and spiritual discipline. Various styles of yoga are popular today for developing greater strength, flexibility, relaxation and meditation. Popular styles throughout the world include hatha, iyengar and ashtunga yoga. Yoga can be used for improving the flexibility of the muscles and it will also increase the flexibility of the joints. Specific poses are said to massage organs, lengthen and strengthen muscles and tendons and promote inner wellbeing.
While it’s impossible to tell how many people regularly practise both disciplines, it’s often said that yoga, with its countless offshoots and different styles is the most widely practised exercise system in the world. While Pilates estimate more than 25 million people worldwide as devotees, largely in western countries such as Australia, Canada and the UK.
Some experts say practising Pilates can help build strength to improve yoga performance. While stretching of yoga, will help relieve muscles sore from Pilates strengthening. As yoga and Pilates have different aims, it’s unlikely that combining the two would cause overuse. However, if muscles and joints are sore, give them time to rest and recover.
So which is best to incorporate into your routine?
There is little scientific evidence to say which is best for what. Although I would say that if you are currently injured or not exercising that some stretching and prescribed or clinical Pilates instruction from a qualified physiotherapist or remedial massage therapist might be best. Starting yoga with an existing injury or little fitness could lead to further injury.
That said, gentle styles of yoga such as hatha and iyengar with a good instructor can be beneficial to all, especially for those looking for relaxation and guided meditation techniques.
Devotees to both disciplines will say that theirs is the better option. However, the thing to remember is that all movement is good movement, and the best exercise is always the one that you prefer – as this helps motivation and consistency, with improved and long-term results.
The best strategy? Try them for yourself and see what you like best.