Yoga or Pilates: Which one is right for me?

Both yoga and pilates are excellent exercises that stimulate the body and mind.

While both of these physically and mentally relieving forms of fitness provide therapeutic values, choosing whether yoga or Pilates fits you best typically depends on a number of factors. For starters, you should know what kind of health benefits you are striving for. Are you someone who is looking for more of a strength and flexibility training program, or are you searching for more mentally focused exercises that can work to relieve stress? Knowing which areas yoga and Pilates focus on as well as what their workouts entail are key when deciding which one will accommodate your fitness needs.

Understanding the goals
It’s important to keep in mind that while yoga and Pilates have similar features and try to achieve the same goals, they still possess different dynamics. Yoga generally tries to have yogis obtain a sense of spiritual enlightenment, specifically through experiencing what is known as “moksha​,” or liberation. There are several different forms of yoga that usually focus on different aspects of mental discipline to achieve peace of mind. These relaxation techniques are gained through practicing various poses and breathing exercises, which sometimes can also be combined with more aerobic-based workouts typically referred to as “power yoga.”

Pilates tends to be a more physically demanding activity that also concentrates on mental and physical focus, but through a more aerobic centered program. Whereas yoga has origins that can be traced back to thousands of years ago, Pilates is a relatively new workout, being developed by German gymnast Joseph Pilates in the early 20th century. Pilates centers its attention around shifting your body through a wide range of movements that increase flexibility, which won’t give you bigger looking muscles but stronger and better conditioned muscles in the long run.

The workout
Yoga sessions are generally more laid back than Pilates​ classes in terms of physical intensity, but will require more mental focus overall. A typical yoga workout consists of beginning with breathing exercises, which help mentally calm yourself as you prepare for the activities ahead. Afterwards, the poses begin, and will start of with the least complex stances and stretches first to warm you up for more challenging poses. The hardest part of yoga is just after the middle of the workout, peaking by trying to spark users into holding their stances for longer durations, until descending back down into more relaxing stretches and meditation.

Pilates is performed using either aerobic machines or floor placed mats, and will mean a full-body workout that will help strengthen your core and spine through regimented movements. Typical exercises will include activities similar to abdominal crunches, performing a number of stretches and poses on the mat and equipment training to help emphasize flexibility near the end of the workout.

The rewards
While the benefits gained through these two types of workouts are similar, which is best for you comes down to whether or not you want to see more results mentally or physically. The biggest trait you can take out of yoga is the reduction of stress and anxiety, as well as being able to utilize breathing techniques outside of class that can help calm you down. While yoga is also great for increasing your flexibility and improving your balance, pilates is more geared toward feeling physical rewards, including strengthening a wide variety of muscles, ranging from your core and back to your legs. In the end, both are great opportunities to help stimulate your mind and body and gain motivation to conquer other needed areas of improvement in life.

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