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Pilates mat instructor leading a Pilates class

What is the difference between Pilates & Yoga? A complete guide

Despite their differences, most people, especially workout novices, usually group Pilates and yoga. While there are a few similarities between these two types of workouts, like they are both low-impact workouts that can be performed on a mat, they are fundamentally very different.

One is a universal practice originating from ancient India, whilst a German scientist developed the other in the early 20th century.

So, which one is best for you?

Both exercises benefit your health and will help you build a toned physique. If you want to find out how they differ from each other in detail, keep reading.

This article will discuss everything about Yoga and Pilates, from types to benefits and equipment.

So, let’s get right to it, shall we?


What is the main difference between Yoga and Pilates?

The main difference is that Yoga focuses more on flexibility and broad muscle groups while Pilates focuses on muscle toning, body control, and core strength.

Yoga will enable you to build endurance, spirituality, and strength while enhancing your balance. Plus, most yoga classes involve you flowing through different poses (like warrior pose, cobra, tree pose, and downward dog) using your body weight as resistance.

Yoga is not typically as fast-paced as Pilates, focusing more on mindfulness and deep breathing throughout the class. Even though there are different types of yoga, the standard practice in most classes involves holding different poses and flowing through multiple movements.

Besides, the chakras, which are the seven energy points within the body, are a major principle that yoga employs

What is Pilates?

Level 3 Mat Pilates Instructor Course practical sessions

Originally referred to as Contrology, Pilates was designed by Joseph Pilates, a German-born fitness specialist, in the early 20th century. It is a low-impact exercise that focuses on enhancing flexibility, posture and balance while strengthening the muscles. You can use this exercise to target different body parts, such as the abs, hips, glutes, pelvic floor, etc.

Besides, the range of motion in Pilates is what differentiates it from yoga, as with the former, your arms or legs need to be in motion to challenge your core and stability.

Pilates involves stabilizing your core and focusing on body awareness and control before going through the different range of motion exercises. This exercise ensures that you develop your muscles without bulking up – one of the many reasons why people are drawn to it.

While you can do Pilates using only a standard Pilates mat, there is other Pilates equipment such as the Reformer machine, resistance bands, Pilates ring, Pilates chair, Pilates ball, floor gilder discs, springboard, arc barrel, foam roller, ankle weights, and others.

There are six core principles associated with Pilates:

  1. Breathing – You are required to coordinate your breathing with all your movements while maintaining core stability. By continuously pumping air in and out of your body, you will avoid storing tension in any part of the body.
  2. Centring – The centre of the body, which combines the abs, pelvic floor, hip, and lower back, powers all Pilates exercises. This is where all Pilates movements should begin before flowing out to other parts of the body. Plus, by focusing on your core, your muscles will be able to work effectively,
  3. Concentration – You need complete concentration to perform any Pilates movement and ensure smooth transitions. Failure to concentrate during the movements can cause injury or alignment loss.
  4. Control – You need to control your movements when doing any Pilates exercise, ensuring you have the correct form at all times. For the best results, proper and complete control of the body and movement is required.
  5. Flow – Pilates exercises are fluid and require smooth ad flowing movements. Every Pilates exercise is intended to flow into the next one, reducing the risk of injury. Besides, ensuring that your movements are controlled and fluid will allow you to build strength and stamina.
  6. Precision – Your movements need to be precise when doing Pilates workouts—this way, you will maintain concentration and control. Precision ensures that you focus more on core engagement, proper alignment, and body placement than the number of sets you do.

As stated earlier, you can do Pilates with a mat or equipment. Equipment Pilates involves using a reformer machine or Pilates chair to perform the movements, while mat Pilates involves using just a Pilates mat.

Different movements are involved in Pilates, like leg circles, scissors, the hundred, static sidekicks, one leg stretch, shoulder bridge, swan dive, spine twist, arm circles, and roll-up. Pilates classes usually take up to an hour, but you can do Pilates at home using Pilates videos.

Types of Pilates

Apart from the mat and equipment Pilates, there are other types of Pilates, each with unique tools and purposes. Pilates has since evolved from the original exercises developed by Joseph Pilates, but all the different types still follow the same core principles—precision, flow, control, concentration, centre, and breathing. So, let’s look at some of them, shall we?

  • Classical Pilates

This type of Pilates follows the original exercises Joseph Pilates created, combining mat and equipment exercises. Here, you will follow a sequence of exercises and transition between them to give your body a full range of motion.

  • Contemporary Pilates

Contemporary Pilates is a modern variation of classical Pilates that combines contemporary exercises and modern knowledge of the body. It involves modifying the classical Pilates exercises to make them more practical. Different types of Pilates equipment are also used here, and some liberties instructors take include the use of body weight, external resistance, choreography, and other fitness modalities.

Besides, every class differs with the training and style preference of the instructor.

  • Reformer Pilates

Reformer Pilates involves using the reformer machine, a bad-like platform designed with a sliding carriage and pulling mechanism to add resistance and intensity to your Pilates workouts. The springs on the machine can be altered to fit your resistance level, whether beginner, intermediate, or expert. The best qualification as a Reformer Pilates instructor means establishing a strong foundation for a successful career. The Reformer Pilates method has gathered much recognition for its impact on physical health.

  • Mat-based Pilates

Mat-based Pilates involves doing different Pilates exercises using only a Pilates mat. This type of Pilates is accessible and cheap for everyone, and it is an excellent place to start if you are a beginner. Mat-based Pilates typically focus on learning fundamental movements and enhancing stamina and endurance. The Future Fit Mat Pilates course maintains the authentic classical Pilates approach, preparing you to teach Mat Pilates to individuals of all levels proficiently.

What is Yoga?



Yoga is a spiritual practice that originated in India, and it combines physical poses, called asanas, with breathing techniques (pranayama). It dates as far back as 5,000 years ago and intends to connect the mind and body by holding these poses and focusing on the breath.


Yoga has roots in Buddhism, shamanism, and other Eastern religions. It focuses on the five beliefs of breathing, diet, exercise, meditation, and proper relaxation to enhance spiritual, physical and emotional health.

Types of Yoga

There are different types of yoga, with each having distinct intensities. Some of them are outlined below.

  1. Vinyasa Yoga

This yoga type combines dance-like movements with breathwork, and you will only need to hold different poses for a short time. The movements of this yoga type make it a great way to increase your heart rate.

  1. Hatha Yoga

Hatha Yoga is one of the gentlest forms of yoga, as you are required to move slower than other types. You will hold each pose for just a few breaths, making it the ideal yoga type for beginners.

  1. Bikram Yoga

Bikram yoga is a type of yoga that is done in a room heated to over 100 degrees. The same sequence of movements is usually done in all Bikram studios, so it is easy to get the hang of. However, students are required to be appropriately hydrated all through the exercise.

  1. Yin Yoga

Yin yoga involves different variations of seated poses typically held for some minutes to stretch connective tissues around the joints and access the deeper fascia layers. It is typically used for rehabilitation and mobility restoration.

  1. Ashtanga Yoga

Unlike the other types of yoga, Ashtanga involves flowing through a series of specific yoga pose sequences in an orderly manner. There are six specific yoga poses used here, and the constant flow and movement through each pose will help build stability and improve blood circulation. A common Ashtanga practice is moving on to the next series of poses only after you have mastered the previous one.

  1. Restorative Yoga

Restorative yoga is a slow-moving type of yoga involving longer poses for greater relaxation. With this yoga, you will use different props like blocks, bolsters, and blankets to support your body in the different poses. The main aim is to release muscle tension and regain strength.

  1. Iyengar Yoga

This yoga type focuses more on body alignment and precision. Each pose is held for a more extended period and using props like ropes, straps, and blocks is standard practice. Also, it is suitable for people with injuries but only with clearance from your doctor.

  1. Hot Yoga

This is similar to Bikram as it also involves yoga in a heated room, but unlike Bikram, the movements are not the same. Most people opt for hot yoga because the heat increases the intensity of the poses.

  1. Kundalini Yoga

This yoga type is very different from typical yoga classes. It involves repetitive movements combined with deep breathing exercises, chanting, meditating, and singing. Also, it is more physically and mentally challenging as it aims to increase self-awareness.

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Benefits of Pilates

There are numerous health benefits of Pilates, as it focuses on improving your posture, core strength, and flexibility. Outlined below are some of these benefits.

  • Tones Muscles

Pilates movements focus on strengthening and leaning out the muscle tone, resulting in a more toned look with no bulk.

  • Enhances Posture

By focusing on control, precision and proper body alignment when doing Pilates, your posture will continue to get better.

  • Improves Flexibility and Balance

The range of motion involved in Pilates will enhance your flexibility and lengthen your muscles. So, the more consistent you are, the more flexible you will be. The core exercise typical for Pilates also helps you improve your balance and body alignment.

  • Strengthens Core

The core is vital as it is the centre of all Pilates exercises. You will strengthen your core by constantly doing these exercises and reduce any back pain or pelvic floor dysfunction.

  • Decreases Stress and Back Pain

Pilates doesn’t leave you completely worn out, unlike other forms of exercise. Instead, it fills you with energy and a clear mind while relieving stress and pain.

  • Improves Body Awareness

Concentration and control are two of the fundamental principles of Pilates, and they ensure that you have a balance between your body and your mind. Pilates helps to enhance your body awareness, making it quicker for you to respond to stimuli, thereby preventing injuries.

  • Increases lung capacity

Because Pilates focuses on breath work, it helps to enhance respiration and improves lung capacity.

  • Eliminates toxins

Regular Pilates exercises will increase your metabolic rate, improving your digestive and immune systems.

  • Helps with different conditions

Evidence shows that Pilates may benefit people with different health conditions like urinary incontinence, and scoliosis – if you’re experiencing scoliosis and seeking more specific details on scoliosis treatment in adults, understanding the three primary types could be a cornerstone of effective management – joint injuries, respiratory conditions, and arthritis.

Benefits of Yoga

  • Supports Body awareness and posture

Yoga poses bring awareness to body alignment, and they help to strengthen the postural muscles around the jobs, enhancing your posture.

  • Enhances Flexibility and Mobility

Yoga stretches the muscles, ensuring maintenance or enhancement of flexibility. It also helps to ease lower back pain and neck pain.

  • Supports Balance and Stability

The different yoga poses and types enable you to consistently build balance and stability.

  • Improves Sleep

Yoga helps to ease stress and stress-related illness like tension headaches, and people that do yoga exercises boast of improved sleep.

  • Increases Vagal tone

Yoga can teach people how to breathe with their diaphragm leading to enhanced vagal tone – the connection to your parasympathetic nervous system.

  • Helps with multiple medical issues

Yoga has multiple physical and mental benefits, and it helps with different medical issues like chronic pain, anxiety, multiple sclerosis, high blood pressure, arthritis, respiratory condition, and type 2 diabetes. Additionally, it also eases some of the symptoms associated with menopause.

Wrapping It Up

Now that we have discussed Yoga and Pilates in detail, you can see that although their benefits are similar, the movements and exercises differ.


If you are interested in a faster range of motion, you can opt for Pilates, but if you are more interested in mindfulness and a slower pace, yoga might be the better choice.

Ready to leap into a new career avenue? Consider reaching out for career guidance or enrolling in additional courses to hone your expertise in a specific area. In an ever-evolving industry, your willingness to grow and adapt will be your most significant asset.