What is the difference between yoga and pilates ?

If you find yourself conflicted as to which one of these disciplines are better suited, ask yourself what are the goals that you wish to achieve.

After conducting some introspection, and you find that you are still in two minds, why don’t you incorporate both of these practices into an all-encompassing workout?

You will be amazed at the benefits that both of these exercise regimes can offer.

The Likeness of Yoga and Pilates 

There are numerous distinct similarities between the 2 disciplines, which includes:

Little to no equipment required. Both of these forms for exercise can be practiced with very little equipment. There are other props like pilates rings, and yoga blocks that can enhance your workouts, but you can get away with just a mat, at the very least.

Focussed Breathing. Paying close attention to the way you breathe whilst conducting the exercises associated with these 2 disciplines is a key component, prevalent in both of them.

Both place emphasis on deep breathing via the belly, also called diaphragmatic breathing

Age and fitness level dynamic. Both these practices can easily be adopted by any age and fitness level.  

Proper form applies. For both exercises to be effective in yielding favorable results, the proper form needs to apply.

Mind and body interrelated. 

Lastly, both of these practices place a deep focus on the mental aspect involved in exercise, in addition to be known for their stress-reducing properties.

What is the difference between yoga and pilates, let see…

Apart from the differences between yoga and pilates, both these practices have numerous physical and spiritual benefits attached to them:


Yoga specifically have a number of favorable effects on a few medical conditions such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma and other respiratory conditions
  • Chronic aches and pains
  • Depression
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Type 2 Diabetes


Like yoga, pilates is also highly beneficial from a medical perspective:

  • Arthritis 
  • Back pain
  • Joint injuries & stiffness
  • Respiratory ailments
  • Better control over urinary sphincter function

Did You Know

Pilates was the brainchild of founding father Joseph Pilates, a German Anatomist,  in circa the 20th century. He initially called it Contrology.  Probably the most interesting fact about this exercise medium is that Pilates used to treat injured soldiers during and post World War One, with his invention.

The German inventor brought it to the United States of America in 1923, and the rest is history as they say.

Same, Same But Different

As some of the exercise regimes have a few happy coincidences that make them similar in nature, they also bear stark contrasts at the same time.


The exact genesis of yoga is somewhat of a mystery, but dates as far back as 5000 years ago in the Asian country of India. Therefore it is the more old school out of the two options.

Pilates was found on an island, located near the Irish Sea, nestled between Great Britain and Ireland in 1925, making it only at the tender age of 95 in comparison to yoga. This makes it the more modern form of exercise out of the two.


When pilates was created, the aim of the inventor was that of physical rehabilitative purposes in wounded soldiers in the earlier years. The German inventor focussed on strengthening core muscle, developing better balance, extending and stabilizing the spine. 

It has evolutionized greatly over the span of the years, but the core goals remain the same.

Yoga is more aimed at properly executing the poses called asanas, calming the mind and bringing a sense of deeper connectivity with self through the practice.


Whilst the majority of the asanas in yoga can be conducted by using a yoga mat, it can also intensify the workout sessions by incorporating certain yoga props such as blankets and boulders, to name a few.

Pilates is dynamic in that it can be performed in studios at the local gymnasium by also utilizing yoga mats, medicine balls and weights of varying kinds. However, it is starting to revolutionize by using a set of machines.

The standard machine is called a Pilates Reformer and resembles a bed-like structure, with a flat board attached to it, called a carriage. The carriage in turn then moves in up and down motions. Almost like a pulley system of sorts. It moves back and forth on the wheels within the frame.

This device was part of the machines that Joseph Pilates used on the soldiers as part of his rehabilitation programme.


Yoga is a meditative practice and the spiritual aspect is ever present in every move, and both during and after the yoga sessions. It works the mind at the same time it does the body as some of the asanas, teaches one about clarity of mind, and opens up the mind. 

It can be compared to that of a path of enlightenment by using a series of poses.

Another factor that is thrown in the mix here is the acute focal point of constantly having to focus on one’s breathing throughout the session.

Pilates is in essence more traditionally centered around exercises aimed at injury recovery.


Yoga makes use of one’s own body resistance, and the essence thereof is not about harnessing machines and other equipment. 

Also in contrast to the spirit of the exercise type, yoga is focussed on relaxation and guided meditation during a class. Whilst pilates is guiding the practitioner how to switch their bodies on to receive exercise and improve muscle control.

Motions and Movements

With the exception of some cross-over poses, the bulk of the poses are very different from one another.

In yoga, the poses are also held for an extended period of time, with constant reputations, so that you are able to come down deeper into the particular pose. With pilates, this is seldom the case.

With the traditional version of pilates the poses are not held for that long, the repetitions are much less and the aim of the poses is focussed on the accuracy in achieving them. As soon as you have completed one movement or motion in pilates, you progress to the next one.


Yoga is directed at working the practitioner on the inward and pilates is the opposite thereof.  Pilates also focuses on the movement and the control thereof.


Yoga is an all-body workout and pilates works the powerhouse muscles. These are the six main muscles in the human body:

  • Transverse Abdominis. The layer of muscle on the front and side of the stomach wall.
  • Diaphragm. The main muscle used in the breathing process.
  • Rotators. These are the group of six smaller muscles of the hip.
  • Multifidus. The group of deep back muscles.
  • Quadratus Lumborum. The muscles at the lower back on either side of the spine.
  • Pelvic Floor. The muscles that support the pelvic organs.

Due to pilates being more intense than yoga, results will be seen and felt in a shorter amount of time.

Body Strength and Flexibility

A study that was conducted yielded results that an eight week exercise plan, of a regime consisting of three days a week showed that with yogis and yoginis that an increase in flexibility of up to 24 percent was achieved. 

Pilates practitioners on the other hand experienced a 310 percent improvement in their body strength.

Weight Loss

If the purpose of your workout routine is to lose weight, then pilates might be the better option between the two, due to the fact that pilates makes uses of machines.

These machines in return, bring an element of cardio in your workout, subsequently making you burn more calories.

Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety

If you mind yourself being a sufferer of either depression or anxiety, or sadly, even both, yoga is your go to exercise, this is due to the focus on body as well as mind.

Because you are focussed on your breathing, you will naturally be more relaxed and more at ease.

Cross-over Poses

Open Leg Balance (Boat Pose). This pose is aimed at improving core muscle stability. In yoga this pose is conducted with the legs held together, and the option of holding the ankles or not.

In pilates this pose is called the open leg balance, and is executed by holding the legs in a v-shape and grasping the ankles. The foundation of the move is to hold the body in that shape by using the abdominal muscles, whilst sitting on the sit bones.

In yoga this pose will be held longer, than pilates that generally moves on to the teaser and open leg rocker poses.

Roll Over (Plow Pose). With the plow pose version, the practitioner has to carefully roll over and back down again, whilst stretching deeper with every breath.

The roll over pose in pilates is a constant flow of movement, focussing on the abdominal muscles and controlling them with the up and down movement of the pose.

In both versions the alignment is done with the shoulders pressed down on the mat and the chest in an open position.

Swan (Cobra Pose). Yogis will generally combine this pose with others, sliding into the cobra pose. There is also no specific breath pattern attached to this pose, but the top of the pose is held for more than one breath alone.

For pilates practitioners, this pose is always on the belly, and the sequence of breathing techniques are focussed and specific.

Front Support (Plank Pose). The principle of keeping the body in a straight line with the chest open and the shoulders pointing down. Pilates will focus on contracting the abdominal muscles, and yoga will focus on holding the pose for longer.

You can up the ante for both styles of exercise for this particular move by lifting the legs, alternating the side.

Pilates Push-Up (Chaturuanga, or more commonly known as the four limbed staff pose). A common move and phrase that is heard many times during yoga class is ‘plank to chaturanga”.

When you move on from the plank pose into chaturanga, this is known as the lower part of a push-up, and this is how it works in the instance of pilates.

Yoga is different and this asana is used as a transition move to upward or downward dog poses.


There are certain points of guidance that can be harness in assisting you to make an informed decision between yoga and pilates:

  • Determine what your goals are.
  • Do you require physical rehabilitation or injury recovery?
  • Would you prefer to tone your body at the same time?
  • Do you want some sort of mental calmness through exercise?
  • Are you seeking a deeper sense of self and a more in depth personal connection?
  • Familiarize yourself with the origins of each practice
  • Determine the focus you want to achieve by education yourself on the offerings the two exercises focus on
  • Read up on the focus on breathing that is required by each of the exercise regimes
  • Is your aim to become more flexible in the process?
  • Would you like to see an improvement in overall body strength?
  • Would you like to experience a difference in mental benefits through exercise?
  • Try both exercises at home
  • Then try both exercises at a studio, or book a class online


If you are still left unsure, why not try both of them for a while, and if you like the results that you are experiencing, why not balance them out and try them both. Namaste!

Quote of the day:

“The longest journey of any person is the journey inward”