At an initial glance to a beginner, pilates and yoga seem to have a lot in common. They are both mind/body conditioning routines that rely on smooth, precise movements and measured breathing. In fact, the similarities between pilates and yoga work are not entirely coincidental. Joseph H. Pilates, the founder of the Pilates Method, studied yoga and martial arts extensively and sought to integrate the mind/body aspects of these practices into his new body conditioning exercises and routines. Hence, it is not surprising to find the influence of Yoga in Pilates. Now, if pilates and yoga have so much in common, what are the major differences between these two very similar mind/body conditioning routines?
Perhaps the most obvious difference between pilates and yoga is that yoga is an ancient mind/body practice that originated in India over 5,000 years ago while pilates is a relatively new phenomenon. Pilates was developed and popularized by Joseph H. Pilates and his wife Clara in the early to mid-twentieth century. Pilates created his famous method while working as a nurse during the First World War in Great Britain. He developed his series of exercises and routines to help rehabilitate injured and immobile soldiers. Pilates was inspired by the ancient asana (movements and postures) of yoga, and tried to incorporate this aspect of yoga into his own routine.
Another main difference between pilates and yoga is the underlying philosophy of each. Although they are both described as mind/body exercise routine formats, pilates is generally considered to be more of an exercise than lifestyle choice. Yoga is not meant to operate merely as a simple exercise and body conditioning routine but instead as an entire lifestyle philosophy. Pilates was first adopted as a physical conditioning routine by professional dancers and gymnasts. Like yoga, pilates also seeks to unite the mind, body, and spirit but does not delve into the meditation and relaxation aspects like yoga does.
Another main difference between yoga and pilates has to do with the strength training aspect of pilates. Pilates focuses strongly on building the core strength of the body. The core of the body refers to the deep abdominal muscles, also referred to as the torso area. Pilates has long been known as a powerful tool for building core strength and for lengthening the spine. Some of the specific goals of pilates are to improve postural symmetry, increase circulation, improve posture, and create long and lean muscles. Yoga, on the other hand, is not promoted as a strength training or body conditioning practice. Both yoga and pilates do indeed help participants deal with stress and cultivate relaxation, although only pilates is geared specifically toward building all-over body muscle and tone.
Pilates also has a strong rehabilitation component that yoga practice does not. Another functional difference between pilates and yoga is the way in which breathing is treated. Both practices place an important focus on breathing. However, breathing is more fundamental in yoga practice than in pilates. In yoga, breathing is taught as an important and integral part of practice and yoga generally instructs that participants breath primarily through the nose. In pilates practice, participants are generally taught to breath through nose and exhale through the mouth.
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