Yoga and Pilates both focus on flexibility and strength training of the entire body, as well as breathing, and they both have benefits ranging from heart to immune system health. However, yoga and Pilates are different in that yoga is often more spiritual – it's about the union of the mind and body - while Pilates is an exercise routine focused on precise movements to target particular areas. Here are the basics of both types of exercise along with an overview of their respective fitness foci:
Most people don't realize that pilates was actually developed by a man named Joseph Pilates in the 1920s, though it didn't become popular until the 1980s. This exercise program focuses on strength, flexibility and balance through controlled movements based on dynamic tension – exercising muscle against muscle for self-resistance. You need very little equipment to practice Pilates – a majority of the exercises can be done on a mat.
Pilates exercises often require repetitive, quick and controlled movements for the best results. The most basic Pilates exercises are the hundred, the roll-up, the one-leg circle and the saw.
The practice of yoga has a much longer tradition than Pilates and is more focused on achieving the unison of mind and body in a meditative state. There is evidence of yoga in remnant Shamanistic texts dating back to 3000 B.C. Yoga is also deeply connected to Buddhism and the sought after goal of attaining self-enlightenment. Today, there are more than 100 schools of yoga, though all are based on meditation, breathing, relaxation, and proper diet and exercise.
The most common form of yoga practiced in the U.S. is Hatha yoga. Another popular practice is Bikram yoga, or hot yoga, were a series of 26 postures are performed in a room that is 105 degrees Fahrenheit with 40 percent humidity. Many people like Bikram because it raises your heart rate and tires your muscles with demanding poses. However, exercising in such high temperatures can be dangerous so people are encouraged to check with their doctors before practicing.
Some basic and popular yoga poses for beginners include cat, cow, downward dog, tree, lotus, and warrior one and two. Advanced practitioners of yoga may be able to complete demanding poses like crow, peacock and standing split – all of which require supreme balance, strength and flexibility.