Archive for April, 2010:

Arabesque

Do you know the difference between Yoga and Pilates?  If your answer is no, you aren’t alone.  Over the years as a Pilates Instructor I’ve been asked by friends “how’s yoga going.”   Today that question makes sense as I’m in the middle of a yoga certification.  However, for the past 7 years while I’ve only been teaching Pilates, the question would make me laugh.  Then I sometimes get “what’s the difference between the two”?  My go to answer for years was “think of yoga as mind/body and Pilates as body/mind.”  It seems a little simplistic to me today, but until recently I didn’t really know how to give a more in depth answer.  Now many years into teaching Pilates, practicing yoga, and being immersed in a yoga certification, I feel I can answer with more substance.   Happily I’ve also come to realize that the two compliment one another quite nicely.

While there might be a few similarities between Pilates and yoga, like the obvious increased strength and flexibility, at the core they are quite different.  Pilates has only been around for about 100 years, while yoga with much more spiritual and meditative aspects dates back at least 5,000 years.  Pilates uses apparatus with springs to give bodies the resistance they are unable to find on their own when doing the mat work.  Yoga is all done on a mat, with props and walls used when needed.  I’m so grateful to those walls as they’ve saved me with my inversions on a number of occasions.  Peter Fiasca wrote in his book, Discovering Pure Classical Pilates, “Although some of the postures of yoga may resemble those found in Pure Classical Pilates, it is in the emphasis and execution that one discovers their distinct differences.”  The classical approach to Pilates keeps bodies moving from one exercise to the next with breath being important and core always a constant focus.   Where as yoga poses might be held for many minutes at a time while perfecting the alignment and focusing on breath.  The breath is also linked to movement.  Many  yoga teachers like to have students set an intention in a yoga class and carry that through until the end of class.  Pilates is an all over workout, but the strength starts at the core.  While yoga touches on the core in some of its poses, it definitely isn’t the main focus.

When I started doing Pilates it was because I thought it was similar to yoga but better.  I tried yoga when I was in college and I have the distinct memory of laughing my way through the class with my friends.  It’s funny to think about that now as yoga has become just as important to me as Pilates is.  Honestly I can’t imagine not having either modality in my life.  Pilates might have helped me get to yoga, but I wouldn’t be able to practice yoga the way I do without my Pilates background.  Anyone with experience in Pilates knows the core is the primary focus, but this is not the case with yoga.  Although, recently I have had some yoga teachers do ab work in their classes.  It seems they are beginning to realize the importance of core strength.  I’m convinced that my inversions, which at times are still tricky, haven’t been as hard for me in my yoga training as they have been for my fellow trainees, because of my core strength and understanding.  This goes both ways though.  My mid-back and shoulders tend to get tight and standing over people all day teaching doesn’t help.  I look forward to that first moment in yoga when I get to extend and twist my spine.  I can’t say I love the deep shoulder stretches we do, but I can completely appreciate what they’re doing for me.  There is plenty of extension work in Pilates, but yoga just goes that much deeper.

So for all you yogi’s out there wanting to move your practice forward, why not try Pilates.  And for all you hard core Pilates fanatics, take a stab at yoga and see if you can increase your extension or twists.  If you haven’t tried either, I hope you now have a better understanding of the differences between the two and will pick at least one to add into your workout routine.   I’m a firm believer of cross-training as muscles can be like people and get bored.  Mix it up and have fun!  Take note that there are many styles of yoga and Pilates out there  (another topic for another time) and finding the right style for you is important.

Kristen is currently going through Yogaposer’s 200-hour yoga certification.  You can follow Kristen on twitter or become a fan on facebook.