Will 2014 mark the year you get off the couch and get serious about exercise? Well done! Deciding to act is half the battle won. Based on your current fitness levels and your ultimate goal, we can help you decide, between yoga and pilates, the exercise routine that suits you the best.


Yoga has been around for more than 5,000 years now. This ancient practice originated in India and over the centuries it has evolved into different types, such as Ashtanga, Kripalu, Bikram, Hatha for example. Pilates, on the other hand, is a relatively new practice as it only originated in the 1920s. It is the brainchild of German athlete Joseph Pilates. This series of resistance exercises were used to rehabilitate wounded soldiers during World War I. Later it gained popularity amongst dancers (especially ballet dancers) who took to it to assist with their training.

The Goal

Although there are several forms of yoga that focus more on the physical well-being, traditional yoga aims at improving the overall quality of your life by creating a balance between your body, mind, and soul. The goal is to stay connected to your breath and then carry out the postures. The focus is on stress relief and meditation, and through that, an improvement of the body. On the other hand, Pilates focuses on the core of your body, creating awareness and working outwards, thereby resulting in a stronger body. The precision of movement is the primary goal and then coordinating your movement with your breath.

How it Works

You will gain strength and flexibility while practicing both yoga and Pilates. However, the way these two forms approach this is slightly different. In yoga, every muscle of your body is worked upon. Every posture is followed by a counter-posture to create a balance in your body. Pilates focuses on strengthening the core and aligning your spine. You will work on building your abdominal strength first. Most yoga asanas are held for a number of breaths and the pace is slightly slower than Pilates.

The Spiritual Side

While both yoga and Pilates work on the mind-body connects, yoga takes it a step further. There are spiritual connotations to the practice of yoga. The movements and asanas are a way of channeling energy through the body in order to bring it to a state of calm. Yoga is a deeply meditative practice and many forms of it also include chanting.

Every Breath You Take

Both forms of exercise focus on breathing, albeit in slightly different ways. In yoga, there are two types of breathing patterns associated with different asanas -ujjayi, which is a smooth, heat-inducing breath and kapalabhati, a rapid breath that aims to create greater internal heat. For most Pilates exercises, you will maintain a controlled, diaphragmatic breath. However, some exercises use a quick, staccato-like breathing, similar to kapalabhati.

As with any form of exercise, please consult a doctor before beginning any new routine. It is important that both Yoga and Pilates be performed correctly to gain maximum benefit and to minimize the risk of injury. Hence, ensure that you take a class with a qualified instructor instead of attempting either on your own.

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