Yoga or Pilates?

The other day someone said to me ‘oh I can’t do yoga because I do pilates’ and it got me thinking is this what many people that practise pilates think or vice versa?  Although I’m a yoga teacher and have spent a great deal of time practising, reading and studying the history and philosophy of yoga, I still practise Pilates, can see the benefits it brings my body and I’m a big advocate of any kind of movement that makes you feel good.

I have spent time thinking why someone would think they could only practise one form and wonder if this is because there is often a big misconception that yoga is just for stretching and relaxation and that pilates is better for building strength and stability?  Now I’m not a qualified pilates instructor but every class I’ve ever done has involved strength/toning exercises AND stretching.  On the flip side the majority of yoga classes I practise (or teach) also involve a number of strengthening exercises and stretches.  I say majority because there are more ‘yin’ styles of practice which will just be about lengthening muscles and connective tissue through stretching and relaxation but vinyasa and hatha styles will usually contain many strengthening postures.

For example, warrior poses (Virabhadrasana) will feature in so many yoga classes and I can guarantee that practised properly and regularly this will develop strength in the legs.  Likewise with the upper body, downward facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) and planks will very quickly develop upper body strength.  After building strength we move to the stretching and I think it’s often hard to beat the feeling of stretching your hips in lizard lunge or pigeon but the real benefit (in my opinion and for my body) is to strengthen and then stretch.  That said, not everyone’s body is the same, my joints are fairly mobile and therefore need protecting by building stability.  A more ‘viking’ body may need more release through the relaxation.

I was first introduced to pilates as a teenager when I was struggling with back pain and it was classical pilates that helped me to build an awareness of and strengthen my core, ultimately leading to being in less pain, why wouldn’t I want this in my life as well as yoga?  It is also something I go to when I develop an injury or a weakness as it really helps me focus on stabilising in weak areas.

The point I’m trying to make is that I think it is a huge shame to limit yourself to one form of exercise, look at triathletes….arguably some of the healthiest and fittest athletes out there.  Yes we all have preferences and yes I spend more time practising yoga but I would never turn away from pilates and hope that the hard-core pilates feel the same way about yoga – if not give it a try!

Are there any yogilates or poga fans out there?!

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