Yoga vs. Pilates

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I have lost track of the number of people who have asked me the difference between Pilates and Yoga. The truth is, there are as many similarities as there are differences between the two so I understand the confusion.

Here is a breakdown of some of the major similarities and differences:


Breathing is an important aspect of both Yoga and Pilates. You will hear instructors linking choreography to inhales/exhales, and there is an emphasis on breathing fully and deeply. The biggest difference is that in Yoga you are encouraged to breathe in and out through your nose, while in Pilates you are encouraged to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Inhaling and exhaling through your nose is associated with a “heating breath” while breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth has a “cooling intention.” Both styles are beneficial, and help you find a rhythmic connection to your full inhale and exhale.

Mind/Body Connection

Both Yoga and Pilates bring an element of presence to your exercise routine. You are encouraged to pay attention to what is happening in your body in the present moment, and mind-wandering will lead to an unsuccessful class. It’s easy to argue that Yoga has a more spiritual focus, while Pilates is a little more. . . to the point. Most Yoga classes end with some form of meditation while Pilates doesn’t have that same “higher self” emphasis. This distinction between spirituality or non-spirituality will often sway people towards one or the other, just out of personal preference.


My favorite thing about both Yoga and Pilates is the obsession with proper form. There is a correct way to do every movement or pose, and good instructors will cue you on the healthiest way to get through each sequence. In general, Pilates tends to have smaller class sizes than Yoga, which allows for more one-on-one feedback on your form execution. The flexible routine of Pilates also allows for instructors to stop and break down certain techniques with simpler exercises. Yoga often times has a specific sequence and flow which allows less flexibility for “form tangents,” but is repetitive enough that students can practice the routine on their own.


One of the biggest differences between the two methods is their origin. Yoga has been around for over 5,000 years while Pilates came into the picture within the last 100 years. Joseph Pilates practiced Yoga regularly, so it’s easy to say that Yoga influenced a lot of his exercises.


While there are some cookie cutter styles of both Pilates and Yoga (aka Hatha/Ashtanga Yoga or Classical/Contemporary Pilates), you will see a variety of classes in each discipline. Any studio can represent a different style, series of exercises, and overall vibe. It’s important to do your homework on any Yoga or Pilates studio you are interested in to make sure it meets your needs and expectations.


I could go on and on about the benefits that come from both of these routines. Increased flexibility, strength, body-awareness, and overall well-being are just a few. It’s hard to go wrong when you are put in an environment that encourages you to move in new ways and really pay attention to the feedback your body is giving you.

So bottom line. . . if you are interested in both, do both! Pilates and Yoga are both powerful and positive on their own, but can work very harmoniously together, too. They will both enhance your overall well-being by helping you connect with your body, experiencing it fully in the present moment, and giving your muscles and joints some TLC.


About the Author:

Rachel recently finished the teacher training program at Streamline. She is excited to continue to develop her passion for Pilates through teaching and personal study. She is mentored by Eva Kauffman, Lise Fischer, and all of the other talented instructors at Streamline. You will see her around the studio teaching classes and posting articles on the Streamline blog.

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  1. Marci  March 27, 2017

    One of the things I enjoy most about the Streamline studio in particular is that the mat classes are “fairly” repetitive. Although the theme/concept of the day is likely to change and concept-based exercises are “thrown in” there’s enough repetition to help me see improvement and also to allow me to realize that thinking of a new concept makes familiar exercises new. It’s a nice mixture of what I know and what I am learning.

    p.s. I love yoga too. 🙂


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