Yoga vs Pilates: Which One Comes Out On Top?

by | May 10, 2019 | Training

Yoga and pilates are both very popular exercises that have been gaining more and more followers by the day. Commonly confused with one another, as they both focus on the mind and body while building strength and flexibility, yoga and pilates are actually two exercises that have some major differences.

Yoga adds an element of spirit and meditation, while pilates is more of a total body workout to align the spine. Next time you get out your non-slip mat, which one are you going to choose? Yoga or Pilates?

Both exercises demand intense focus because the way the exercises are to be performed is more important than the actual exercises themselves. Meaning, it’s not going to work if you aren’t doing it right, which is also why breathing control and concentration techniques are important.   

There are plenty of yoga and pilates classes offered at gyms, as well as a ton of instructional videos online that will help you engage and strengthen your muscles and offer stress-relief, flexibility, control, and endurance. Yoga and Pilates classes can range from light and refreshing to challenging and sweaty, so there’s a class that suits everyone! Take your time to find yours.


Yoga vs. Pilates

We Put them Head to Head in 10 Different Categories, See Who the Winner Is.

  1. Best for Fat Loss: While many exercises will help you take the necessary steps to lose weight, there are some that help you burn more fat than others. Pilates can burn more calories quicker than yoga especially when using Pilates machines, which can add the cardio and fitness element, making Pilates a winner when it comes fat loss.
  2. Best at Building Muscle: Both yoga and Pilates are great exercises for building muscle without bulk. Depending on the intensity and difficulty of the exercise, one can build more muscle than the other. Our winner here is yoga, as it
  3. Best at Strengthening Core: Both Pilates and yoga focus on strengthening the core, however, the intensity of Pilates provides a better benefit, making it a winner in this category.*
  4. Most Calories Burned – Shortest Time: An average 60-minute yoga class will only burn about 150 to 250 calories. In an average 30-minute Pilates class you can burn 180 calories, and if you continue, you can burn an additional 90 calories every 15 minutes. The clear winner here is Pilates.  
  5. Best Full Body Workout: Pilates is a full-body workout that uses a series of equipment and exercises to tone muscles, strengthen the core, burn calories, and more. In Pilates you are also working both sides of your body evenly, which is an added bonus. Pilates is the winner here.
  6. Best Option for Busy People: You can do a couple yoga poses to stretch and get your body moving each morning, or you can end your busy day with savasana. Yoga is a great exercise for those who are busy because it’s low intensity and you can do it anywhere!
  7. Best for Back Pain: Pilates movements focus on aligning the spine and strengthening the lower back, back, joints, and core, which are essential for relieving back pain. Although yoga can also strengthen these areas, release unnecessary tension, and provide relaxation to decrease pain, Pilates is our winner here.    
  8. Best for Stress Relief: Yoga and Pilates can both get the heart rate up and help relieve stress. However, because yoga adds a relaxation and meditation period, which can greatly help relieve stress.
  9. Best for Mental Health: All types of exercising can benefit mental health, Yoga adds an element of meditation, deeming it a winner over Pilates in the mental health category.    
  10. Best for Joint Mobility/Stretching: Yoga is the winner here, as it focuses more on stretching, balance, and the flexibility of joints through its many poses.


*Strengthening your core in Pilates class can give you better balance in yoga, just like increasing your flexibility in a yoga class can enable you to move to more advanced Pilates exercises.


Don’t know which one is right for you? Let’s check out the differences between yoga and pilates.    


What is yoga?

Yoga is a spiritual, mental, and physical practice that focuses on flexibility and broad muscle groups and requires a great amount of discipline. Whether you are young or old, an athlete or overweight, yoga has the power to calm your mind and strengthen your body!

Yoga is a traditional practice that was first created in ancient India. The purpose was to connect the individual consciousness with the universal consciousness through physical activity. Yoga is a journey to self-discovery, as it improves your life in many ways: spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically.

In yoga, the weight of the body is used as resistance in a series of poses that are performed on a non-slip yoga mat. This takes a great amount of focus, as the flow from one position to the next must be fluid. Different poses focus on different parts of the body, but one thing is for certain: you must also focus on your breathing! In yoga, there are a few stages of breathing: abdominal (inhaling into the abdominal cavity), thoracic (expansion of the rib cage), and clavicular (feeling the rise and fall of collar bones with each breath).         

Many types of yoga also involve meditation at some point during the exercise. In fact, most sessions end with a guided relaxation period (savasana). This meditative portion of yoga tends to attract people who are seeking to unwind from the stresses of everyday life. The repetitive motions and poses can also become therapeutic.       


Pro Tip: Don’t be intimidated by yoga terminology, fancy yoga studios, or the many complicated yoga poses. Everyone’s been there. It is a very welcoming environment, so give it a shot.


As a beginner, you can start with the more simple yoga poses like the downward facing dog, tree pose, side plank, bridge pose, and more. More advanced yoga poses are lotus pose, shoulder pressing pose, peacock pose, and more (and yes, they are almost as difficult as they sound). Regardless of your experience level, as long as you stick with it, you will no doubt reap all of the awesome benefits of yoga.   

Yoga offers a sense of meditation, as it works your mind just as much if not more as your body. It is a practice that is especially used as a path to spiritual enlightenment, which is what makes it so different from Pilates.       


What is Pilates?

Pilates is an exercise that focuses on strength, muscle toning, body control, and flexibility without building bulk. Its main emphasis? Strengthening the core and aligning the spine. Like yoga, Pilates is a very disciplined practice, and it is one that needs to be done on a regular basis in order to benefit and see results.

Pilates is a more “modern” exercise than yoga, as it is considered a “dance party” and was developed in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates. In addition to routines and exercises on a mat, pilates also utilizes different equipment, such as the Pilates cadillac, reformer, tower, magic circle, and more. Each is designed to help accelerate the process of stretching, strengthening, and aligning the body, and increasing core strength.  

There are six key principles of Pilates: concentration, control, centering, breathing, flow, and precision. When these key principles are used in conjunction with a positive mindset — that you are creating a leaner and better you from your core muscles out, Pilates can help you break a sweat and give you that toned body you’ve been after. The slower the pace of a Pilates class, the more meditative and stress relieving it can be. Likewise, the faster the pace, the more challenging it gets.

You see, while both yoga and Pilates have the same goal of focusing on technique, breathing, and alignment when doing the poses, they do have some differences. Depending on what you’re trying to achieve, one exercise might be more well-suited for you.


Yoga vs. Pilates: How are they similar?

Yoga and pilates are two similar exercises that focus on the mind and body while building muscle without bulk, strengthening the core, and improving flexibility. They both require a great amount of discipline, focus, and breath control.


Yoga vs. Pilates: How are they different?

Pilates is more about toning your core, while yoga focuses more on relaxation and flexibility. However, you can sometimes find a great yoga teacher who can teach you more about your core than a Pilates instructor. You could also find an incredible Pilates instructor that includes more mindfulness and stretching than some yoga classes.    

Both practices have a wide range of difficulty, from beginner to advanced or any other level you feel comfortable in. Classes and exercises vary based on the instructor and/or practitioner’s specific goals and/or limitations. Like any workout routine, the intensity of your yoga practice or Pilates exercise can also be increased over time as the body adapts itself.


Roll out your mat and discover the combination of physical exercises and mental focus that have hooked pilates instructors and yoga practitioners around the globe! If you can’t choose between the two, no worries. You can combine Pilates with yoga to totally transform your daily routine and really reach your goals. Just remember to stay focused, feel the flow, and breathe!      

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