Have you ever wondered what the differences are between Pilates and Yoga? The movements seem to be similar and they often both take place on a mat in a studio, but these two activities are quite different! Guest blogger and Founder of Mauro Pilates Body, Liana Mauro, joins MyFitList to explain the benefits and differences between Pilates and Yoga.

I hear it all the time…”Isn’t pilates like yoga?”  While it is true that Joseph Pilates did integrate yoga into his creation, he also drew from other forms of movements such as boxing, tai chi, and gymnastics.

Originally, Joseph called his system of movement Contrology because of the strong correlation between engaging the mind to control the muscles.  Joseph formulated a system that primarily strengthens the core postural muscles, which in turn provides balance to the body and support for the spine.  Primarily, Pilates exercises teach awareness of breath and spinal alignment, and provide increased strength to the deep torso and abdominal muscles.

One of the most important things to me is remaining connected to a state of balance; Pilates does this for me.  To the beginner, Pilates can seem to teach contradictions; yet it is these contradictions that provide the sense of balance.  For example, Pilates movements focus on both muscular strength and flexibility along with joint mobilization and joint stability.  Pilates also places an emphasis on control while simultaneously encouraging the body to move with freedom.

While I am not a yoga instructor, I have practiced yoga extensively over the years and the benefits they offer are quite different.

Both forms of movement place emphasis on connecting movement with breath; pilates teaches breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth, while yoga breath is in and out through the nose.    The pilates breath encourages abdominal engagement while yoga breath encourages relaxation.

Both types of exercise have the ability to have a cardiovascular element but the popular yoga “flow” classes offer that in a much greater way because of the continual movement through the class from pose to pose.  Pilates does flow from exercise to exercise but incorporates repetitions instead of holding a static pose. The flow often leaves a yoga practitioner feeling very stretched while Pilates sequencing often produces a feeling of strength.

The mindset encouraged in each type of movement also differs. Pilates, originally called Contrology, emphasizes using the mind to control specific muscle groups while yoga emphasizes a peaceful and relaxed mindset throughout the poses.

The final primary difference is that while yoga is mat-based, Pilates often incorporates equipment into the exercise. Mat-based Pilates is very convenient and can be done anywhere. Pilates exercise focuses on using one’s own body weight as the resistance and mat Pilates is a great place to learn this concept.

Adding light equipment and larger resistance equipment places more emphasis on outer limbs and adds variety and intensity to workouts.  The most popular piece of Pilates equipment is the reformer.  It features a sliding carriage and spring tension used to provide resistance and support.  The spring tension provides gradual resistance as muscular contractions occur to ensure the muscles are being engaged properly. The beginning and completion of a movement has less resistance and at the muscle’s strongest point of contraction, there is greater resistance.  This is one reason why Pilates places less stress on tendons and ligaments then other forms of strengthening.  Another idea behind using springs instead of weights is to encourage the practitioner to engage their muscles both concentrically (shortened) and eccentrically (lengthened).  It is because of this that Pilates produces lean muscle mass along with increased flexibility.

A fairly recent exercise trend that incorporates Pilates with dance is another option for those wanting a more intense workout.  I call this form of movement Barrework. Barrework focuses on my four favorite areas to tone: abs, arms, thighs, and glutes.  Primarily using bodyweight as resistance, high repetitions of small and controlled movements are performed.  This type of movement yields very fast results and people report seeing exciting changes within at least 5 sessions.

In sum, my own belief is that if you are seeking strength (especially abdominal), relief from chronic pain, or a desire to create lean muscle mass, pilates is for you.

If you’re seeking a spiritual practice and a significant increase in flexibility, yoga could be it.

Both are similar and many people find great results by incorporating both types of movement into their routines. I believe it’s important to try different types of movement and find something that fits with your goals and personality.  Fitness should leave you feeling and looking great…and a little bit of fun doesn’t hurt!

For an amazing Pilates workout that will make your muscles SING, try one of Liana’s classes for free at BettySport every Thursday morning at 8am – or visit her Westlake studio for mat, reformer and barre classes. You can find Mauro Pilates Body on MyFitList.

Visit MyFitList.com  to find the perfect yoga and pilates studios - we’ll help connect you with free classes, nearby studios, and events going on in Austin.

Then, share your input on the benefits and differences between Pilates and Yoga, by leaving a comment below!