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Pilates, its a type of dance isn't it?

Pilates, that’s like Yoga isn’t it? Isn’t it just ab exercises? Is it easy? I have this problem... can it help?

These are some of the common questions I get when I talk about Pilates. I wanted to try to explain the differences between Pilates and Yoga and how the similarities can link the two.

The simple answer is they are both low impact, low intensity methods of exercise and therefore are inclusive for all. They are both celebrated for the benefits they bring to participants- stress relief, flexibility, strength and body control.

They can both be mat based, and require no equipment although equipment can be used to

support or advance movements in both Pilates and Yoga.

Joseph Pilates said- “Pilates is the complete coordination of Body, Mind and Spirit”. Yoga has a

focus to bring harmony to Mind and Body. Yes they are saying the same thing, in different


The Focus

Pilates is about the exercise, Yoga is about the spiritual awareness and mindfulness. Pilates focuses on building strength and creating movement from the ‘Powerhouse’ or ‘Core’ with the goal to create a balanced, strong body. Yoga focuses on stretches and flexibility with poses having a

counter pose to open up the body with an added benefit of strength improvement. Yoga is a way of life, Pilates is all about the exercise, yogi’s practice quietening the mind through breathing

techniques which can be transferred to maintain calm in the every day world, Pilates is designed to strengthen the body.

The Breath.

Pilates uses ‘Lateral Thoracic breathing’- which is breathing into the side and back of the rib cage (you should feel your ribs expand and contract as you breathe) Breathing in to the ribs instead of the belly allows us to contract the abs and breathe at the same time- the contraction of the abs keeps the spine stable, completing the movements combined with this breathing technique creates the strength and stability for the muscles, the basis for Pilates. Another note, inhalation is through the nose, exhalation is through the mouth (Yogic breathing is both in and out through the nose)

Yoga uses Yogic Breathing- Yoga breathing techniques encourage relaxation and are used to guide movements, (as is with Pilates, the inhalation is the preparation phase, the exhalation is the movement phase) however mindfulness is encouraged with the yogic breathing to clear the mind and connect with your inner self, bringing a spiritual element. Those who have attended a yoga class before may be familiar with Savasana- the mindfulness practice at the end of the class where you lie down and are guided through a relaxation, you’ll notice the underlying focus is to bring

awareness to your breath to clear the mind of any thoughts and allow the body to relax- yes, its as wonderful as it sounds! (like adult nap time, although napping is discouraged as the emphasis is on conscious relaxation)

The Movements

Pilates combines strength exercises with stretching to create a strong, balanced body through lengthening and strengthening. All movements start from the Powerhouse (core) which is why it is common for it to be known for its ab exercises, however the movements work the whole body, including the abs, chest, back, arms, shoulders and legs. Almost all Pilates exercises can be performed from lying down which makes it a great foundation for those looking to start exercising or recovering from an injury.

Yoga uses the holding of stretches and balancing positions which promotes the strength element. Yoga Asanas (Physical practice) can include, standing, balancing, twisting and inverted positions with some requiring a high level of physical strength as well as balance.

I teach both, for me Pilates builds a stronger, aligned body and helps discover how my body feels, which parts hurt? which parts are tight? and helps maintain a functional body. Yoga

improves flexibility and helps reduce stress, it clears the mind of clutter and I come out feeling like I’m floating on clouds. Practicing both keeps me well rounded for my physical, and mental health.

My advice? Try them both and see which one you prefer. Your body and mind will win in both.

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