Tag Archives: pilates

Yoga or Pilates? What’s the difference? Which one is best for me?

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.

Reformer Pilates

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.

Pilates equipment

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.

Your herniated Disc and you

Recently I have had a few people come to me, while in pain, for massage. While this is fairly normal however, the location and severity of their pain has made me suspect that they may have spinal disc problems.
While massage is generally supportive of the surrounding spinal muscles it is not a good idea to have deep work around these muscles while you have an inflamed herniated disc.

What is a herniated disc?
A herniated disc can be described in many ways. You may have heard of the terms bugling disc, pinched nerve, ruptured disc, torn disc, slipped disc, collapsed disc, disc protrusion, disc disease, black disc… The list goes on.
Essentially what is happening when a patient has a symptomatic herniated disc, the walls of the disc have become weak or injured and the inner part of the disc ‘leaks’ (as in a hernia) out of the cavity between the vertebrae.
The disc itself is not painful, but rather the disc protruding from it’s cavity puts pressure on a nerve outside the vertebrae. This produces pain called radicular pain (e.g., nerve root pain) that may be refer to other parts of the body, such as from the low back down the leg or from the neck down the arm. Other types of spinal pain can be caused by degenerative disc disease.
Herniated disc can occur anywhere in the spine but most commonly occurs in the lower discs of the lumbar spine. Nerve pain in this region can refer down the back of the leg, known as sciatica, as it puts pressure on the sciatic nerve. Each disc in the spine can cause a pattern of radiating pain through the body and into the extremities.


How is a herniated disc diagnosed?
Your GP or physical therapist will give you a physical examination. This will include nerve function, muscle strength and what pain you have on palpation and movement. You will also be asked a full medical history to help identify or rule out any other possible causes of your pain. Finally some kind of diagnostic test such as a CT or MRI scan, will be performed to confirm the diagnosis.

What is the treatment for herniated disc?
Usually a patient is advised to under go a period of conservative treatments to manage the pain before any kind of surgical intervention is considered. Initially rest and ice to the local area is the best option before starting any physical therapy. Your GP may also prescribe anti inflammatory medications to ease the pain. These may be in tablet form or an injection around the local area.
Physical therapy, such as physiotherapy and prescribed Pilates is a good option in learning how to care for your spine and manage your pain. Pilates will help you learn how to use your motor skills properly, eliminating and poor posture or bad habits that may be causing the problem, and strengthening the surrounding muscles to help protect the spine.

Massage is supportive in the areas of referring pain. Reducing any muscle tension that may be putting further pressure on the nerves in the effected areas. Massage to the spinal ares however, especially while the disc is inflamed, is not recommended. A good relaxation massage may be a good idea to help rest and reduce the stress of your pain.

Will I need surgery?
If your pain is ongoing and conservative treatments are not working then surgery may be considered. The most common being a discectomy, where a small portion of the protruding disc is removed. In the last 10 to 15 years the microdiscectomy surgery has been modified to allow for a relatively small incision and less soft tissue dissection, which provide for significantly less postoperative discomfort and quicker healing.