Yoga and Pilates

Yoga or Pilates?  How Do You Choose?In my pre-fitness years, I assumed that Yoga and Pilates were basically the same thing. It was my thought that they were both low-intensity lengthening workouts that focus on your breathing. The classes looked similar, with everyone yielding a mat and even going barefoot.

It wasn’t until I really started researching that I discovered there are many differences between yoga and Pilates. In reality, Yoga and Pilates are very different practices with differing health benefits.

The Basics

Yoga seeks to unite the mind, body and spirit. It is thought that if your mind and spirit are in accordance with your body, it will heal naturally on its own. Yogas focus is on the flow of energy from one posture to the next, and the exercises are done on a mat, guided by an instructor. Participants primarily use their own body weight for resistance.

As for Pilates, it too uses controlled movements to achieve the lean, long muscle look of a dancer. Instead of a lot of movement, Pilates focuses on quality and not quantity. There are 6 principles to master, and they really focus on your abdomen, lower back and butt muscles. Engaging those three sets of muscles will allow the rest of your body to move freely and will make your body stronger from the inside out.

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Heart Health

Power yoga or Pilates are your best bets here. Both of these practices will give you roughly the same benefit as a brisk walk. Regular Hatha Yoga does not raise your heart rate enough to make a significant difference in maintaining a healthy heart.

Flexibility and Strength

Here is where the practices really shine. If you want to say goodbye to crunches forever, add pilates to your routine. It is better at sculpting abs, even the obliques, than most other exercises combined. Pilates also improves flexibility in your hamstrings and back muscles. Yoga scores higher in flexibility improvements and also increases strength, particularly in the arms and thighs. Because so many of the poses require you to support yourself with your arms and thighs, you’ll get increased strength and tightness of the muscles in these areas.

About the Author

Jennifer Nelson is a former fitness coach, but after she had her twin daughters, her days changed drastically and she had trouble retaining her healthy lifestyle. She got her wake up call at 220 pounds, when realized that if she didn't make a change, she wouldn't be able to teach her daughters how to live healthy. Jennifer shares insights on how to make time for exercise and healthy living. Her no-nonsense approach strips conventional thinking with an easy to follow regimen of healthy eating and moderate exercise. “You can’t have a healthy body by feeding it garbage and sitting on the couch,” says Nelson, “but you don’t need to be a gym rat either. I share how to achieve the balance you want.” Nelson currently resides in Sacramento, California with her husband and three children.