Yoga or pilates: deciding which is right for you

By Julie Deardorf KRT
April 22, 2004

Both pilates and yoga can improve strength, flexibility and posture, as well as relieve stress. Both are considered mind-body practices. And both use the breath as a tool to delve into hard-to-reach places.

But while yoga was originally a spiritual, meditative practice based on the Eastern concept of moving energy through the body, pilates has always been about physical conditioning and “functional fitness.”

Correctly engaging and working the core muscles of the body which reach from the lower rib cage to the pelvic floor is the foundation of pilates.

The main difference between the two is philosophical: Yoga generally adds “spirit” to the mind-body connection.

The best way to figure out which is right for you is to try both, sampling several different teachers.

A yoga class can be a rigorous, flowing cardiovascular workout, or it may involve static poses, chants or readings or meditations that encourage the students to be kind to all creatures and live a balanced life.

Pilates mat classes focus on biomechanics and teach students to move in ways that strengthen the body’s core muscles, called the powerhouse, and the surrounding stabilizing muscles that are often ignored.

For the extremely flexible, pilates can be beneficial, because it teaches you to stabilize the joints, whereas yoga might push you deeper into the joints, said Chicago’s Abby Factor, 31, who teaches both yoga and pilates.

“But if you’re in a bad place mentally, you might find more comfort in yoga and focus on mediation and breathing,” Factor said.

“The core is where we have a weakness and where your power is,” said Factor, who teaches at health clubs and Moksha Yoga Center. “It’s where everything originates, energetically and physically.”

Cindy Reid, owner of Flow Inc. in Chicago, who also teaches both, said that pilates has more emphasis on stability and biomechanics, while yoga stresses bringing the mind to a place of emptiness and bringing a stretch to a full range of motion.

“In pilates, you only achieve a full range after you achieve stability,” she said. “For someone with loose or unstable joints, I’d recommend pilates. For someone who is so tight they don’t experience any movement, it would be nice to start with gentle yoga.”

Athletes with tight hamstrings and overdeveloped quads can benefit from either practice. But it doesn’t have to be an either-or decision.

“I need both. Pilates helped strengthen my back, core and abdomen, but I enjoy yoga for the mental clarity and deeper, lifelong connection,” Factor said.

Posted to the web by Lancaster Phillips

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Julie Deardorf KRT

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