Difference between Pilates and Yoga
What is Pilates?
Pilates was designed by Joseph Pilates as a system of exercise in the early 20th Century. Through his experience in World War 1 many of the exercises were designed so that they could be carried out by someone who had lost a limb and could use his exercises to still maintain their fitness levels.
He realized that Yoga provided many benefits to body, mind and soul, so he scrutinized the physical yoga postures in order to extract those movements which would be good for people with injuries to practice.
Unfortunately he did not take any of the mental benefits from the teachings on yoga, or the many breathing practices designed to improve concentration, remove energy blocks, balance the internal flow of energy and help one get in touch with one’s true inner nature. Or the meditation practices and other real gems of yoga.
Instead he purely focused on the physical aspects of the yoga postures.
He left out the standing postures as many people who had lost limbs were not able to stand, and instead focussed on postures which could be mainly practiced while lying down.
He developed a system of exercises which were intended to improve fitness and strength of the body. Many of the movements he developed are taken from core movements with yoga postures, and he has build in repetition and modified the postures so they could be practiced lying down.
Many of his exercises required the use of special apparatuses which he designed to practice these controlled repetitive movements.
Pilates over the years
Pilates had limited success in numbers practicing in the early days, but during the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s dancers discovered that they could maintain their fitness levels after suffering an injury and this kept the practices alive.
In the 80’s some actresses and pop stars began practicing it as a way to stay fit, tone the body and flatten the tummy.
Yoga is a much broader system with many more benefits
Yoga is over 5,000 years old. It developed as enlightened seers began to explore and find ways to elevate their consciousness.
Some of the practices they developed worked with the mind…. letting go of thoughts… steadying one’s concentration… cultivating more positive and harmonising thoughts and emotions… letting go of destructive behaviour.
Other practices worked with internal energies using the breath… different ways of using the lungs… different techniques to alter the rhythm of breathing… ways of breathing optimally… ways of breathing to stimulate the para-sympathetic nervous system… ways of breathing to influence and control one’s internal energies.
Other practices worked with one’s senses… how to direct one’s mind inwardly without being distracted by sight, sound, taste etc.
Other physical practices to balance the nervous system, balance the endocrine system, strengthen the physical body, improve health, fitness and well being.
And a whole range of other practices which even the list is too long to include in this short article.
In short, Yoga is a huge body of knowledge and a huge set of practices of which the physical asanas are only a small part within the bigger picture.
Many different types of yoga
Nowadays there are many different forms of yoga ranging from very gentle, to very strong and dynamic forms of yoga.
Some of these forms of yoga are traditional and include many of the other limbs of yoga.
Some are more physically orientated and focus mainly on physical practices.
There is much more information about the different types of yoga at
If you are looking for a strong physical form of yoga which will give the benefits of Pilates such as
- strengthening the inner core
- toning the body and help one look good
and additionally will give you benefits such as
- improved flexibility
- improved posture
- better breathing
- improved peace of mind
than possibly consider a form of stronger, dynamic challenging yoga such as Ashtanga, Anusara or maybe even Bikram yoga.
I wish you well with your practice.