What is pilates? Is it like yoga?

Let me begin the discussion with explaining some fundamentals of Pilates.

Pilates classes focus on strength, muscle toning, body control, and flexibility, with the main emphasis being core strength. Pilates is a disciplined practice that needs to be done on a regular basis to provide benefit. 

How did it start and who invented it? The story of Pilates started with a passionate man, a health fanatic and an advocate of physical activities, Joseph Pilates. He was born in 1883 in Dusseldorf, Germany. As a sickly child suffering from rickets, asthma and rheumatic fever, his drive to overcome these ailments led to the practice of bodybuilding, gymnastics, diving and other physical pursuits.

During the course of his career, Joseph Pilates developed over 600 exercises for the various pieces of apparatus he invented, including those you see in bePilates.  His guiding philosophy in creating the apparatus and the movements was that the “whole” must be exercised to achieve good health. The Pilates equipment is designed to condition the entire body using positions and movements, which ultimately correct body alignment and balance. Using springs and pulleys, which create progressive resistance, the equipment helps in producing muscle contractions that simulate functional muscle action. At the same time the stabilising muscle groups are encouraged to work isometrically to maintain correct positioning and alignment.

It is important to add that Joseph Pilates regarded this method, which he called Contrology, as a way of life and a path to total health rather than merely a serious of exercises. Certainly a holistic approach and life long process, rather than only a physical fitness regimen.  

If you like a more structured workout without the cardio component, chanting, OM-ing, or complex postures, Pilates could be the workout for you.

Now let me give a little inside on Yoga.

Yoga focuses on flexibility and broad muscle groups. It offers balance, endurance, strength, spirituality, and some really physical movement. Classes can range from gentle and nourishing to challenging and sweaty. With all the variety, there is always a class and a style for everyone. If you like to move and you’re a go-with-the-flow kind of person, yoga might just be your ticket.

The summary

Both Pilates and yoga offer stress-relief, flexibility, strength, control, and endurance. The biggest difference between the two is the emphasis on the spiritual component in classes. Most Pilates classes don’t offer an obvious spiritual experience or meditation, however, Pilates may be a great starting point or compliment for a yoga practice. A slower paced Pilates class can be meditative and stress relieving, while the faster pace of a traditional class can certainly get your heart racing.

The question remains—should you practice yoga or Pilates? Why choose a practice when you can have the benefit of both?!

I practice some form of yoga almost every day, I also incorporate a few Pilates sessions into my workouts each week. I enjoy the flexibility, freedom, and challenge of yoga, as well as the attention to detail and ab work that Pilates provides.

Consider your fitness priorities and level, and build your practice from there. If you’re in great shape and want to burn extra calories and work on endurance, an Ashtanga Vinyasa type class would be ideal. If you’re a runner, keen cyclist or a golfer and need to fine-tune your core strength or work on your swing, then Pilates may be the best choice. The main thing is that you want to pick a practice that you enjoy and that you can do on a regular basis.

Want to taste Marta's special blend?  Join her for a FREE yoga flow class infused with pilates at Lululemon on Marylebone High Street on Sunday 10 April from 10:30am-11:30am.  Space is limited, so get there early to claim your space - mats are provided.  Marta's in the studio most days - you can check out her schedule here.