As society is becoming more and more sedentary, the need for organized exercise is increasing, with more gyms opening every year. The programs offered become more diverse and specialized, and it isn’t uncommon for a yoga class to look so different than what you would have expected to make you think you’ve entered the wrong room. People are boxing, and running on treadmills, and jumping on Kango equipment in an endless course to fitness, beauty, and health.
But is this the only purpose of sports today? What happened to the harmony between body and mind, so praised by the ancient Greeks? Can regular exercise sessions strengthen your body’s inner vitality? Or can they help you recover after injuries and make the pain more bearable? Most yoga and Pilates enthusiasts will ensure you that this is the case. And they are probably right, as these practices are already so old, especially yoga, that there’s no point to try and contest their benefits.
Nevertheless, these are two distinct practices, and even if they both imply the use of mattresses and a sustained correlation between breathing and moving, they include different postures and routines, and, in general, focus on different aspects. This is why you will want to know what to expect before joining one of these classes, and this article is meant to clear up all the fogginess that floats around these methods, so stay with us for an insight in their history and customs.
This meditation technique is rooted in India and is thought to be more than 5,000 years old, being practiced at first by Indian men and women, called yogis and yoginis, who taught the technique to their children and adepts, thus ensuring its survival over the years.
Yoga only came to be known and practiced in Western countries recently, but the 21st century is dominated by an explosion of popularity in yoga classes. Although the spiritual part is still present throughout the sessions, the fact that it is practiced in gyms, and not in temples or nature, lowers its connection with the sacred. Today, yoga is regarded as a method of regaining interior balance through intense relaxation. Moreover, many people use it for health purposes. But it was taught as a way of connecting with the universe and letting go of the daily worries. According to the Buddhist religion, the world is Suffering, and only by letting go of our desires and purposes, we can free ourselves of the mundane preoccupations and find our peace in Nirvana.
No one is willing to give up their wishes, at least not in non-Buddhist countries, so most people seek in this method a way to get a temporary break from their stressful lives. Some go for the ancient Ashtanga method, which is the old system and the most popular among beginners, while others are drawn towards heated room types or methods that imply chanting and dancing.
It decreases the secretion of cortisol – This hormone has been associated with high levels of stress and anxiety. Regular sessions can, in time, induce relaxation and improve the quality of life, being recommended for persons with stressful jobs.
It can reduce inflammation – Most pains are associated with inflammation, which can appear after a physical injury or severe conditions like cancer. In these cases, the pain is usually chronic and difficult to control through means that don’t imply the use of drugs, but studies have shown that yoga can be an efficient way to reduce it.
It can help with high blood pressure – Many studies have been performed in this field, and the results are impressive. Regular yoga sessions have been proven to help decrease cholesterol and prevent heart attacks and strokes by lowering blood pressure.
It promotes sleep quality – One of the effects is that it increases the secretion of melatonin, which regulates sleep. A study performed in 2005 on 69 elderly patients, showed that those who attended yoga sessions found it easier to fall asleep, slept longer hours, and woke up more rested and optimistic.
Beginners should be careful not to try difficult positions until they are prepared for them, as this can result in physical injuries.
Pregnant and people suffering from sciatica or glaucoma should first talk to their doctor, who may advise them to try a certain type of yoga or to avoid some positions.
This system has been developed by Joseph Pilates in the 20th century and its initial goal was to improve the health of the body and mind and help soldiers recover after serious injuries. The German inventor used additional gear, which he called “apparatus”, and which can still be found in modern Pilates classes. Therefore, if you are going to join one of them, you should get prepared to meet the reformer and the cadillac.
Although the main purpose of this series of exercises is to strengthen the muscles and the entire body by exposing them to pressure, its inventor wasn’t a stranger of the body-mind connection theory, and he tried to regulate not only the physical aspects of the body but also stimulate relaxation through controlled breathing.
It adds strength without bulk – If you wish to be able to open that pickle jar on your own, but you are not a big fan of muscular bodies, then this is the way to do it. There’s no reason to make yourself bulky if you are not building this for a contest. In fact, muscular individuals tend to get tired faster than people with strong but long and lean muscles.
It develops core strength – They are not visible at the surface of the skin, but these muscles, also called core muscles are the ones in charge with maintaining good posture and good movement patterns. If they are strong enough, the back will stay supple and strong. Plus, core training means that you can, in time, get flat abs, which is actually a nice bonus.
It increases energy – As it improves blood circulation and stimulates the muscles, this routine will make you feel more optimistic and fit after each session, so you will actually want to exercise more.
It promotes mindfulness – The body and the mid are united during the exercises, as each movement requires prolonged concentration. Thus, the mind is disconnected from the exterior worries and can relax.
If you are going to practice it on the apparatus, then you should do it under the supervision of an instructor, who can make sure you are exercising at the right rate and that you won’t fall and get yourself hurt.
If the exercises aren’t carried the right way, you can get your muscles or joints injured.
As shown, each of these techniques comes with a plethora of benefits that can overturn your life, and, if you follow the instructor’s indications, the risk of getting yourself injured is minimal. So, which is the right one to choose? Well, this decision doesn’t even need to be taken. Many people are practicing both methods. Nevertheless, it is better to start with one, and only after you’ got the hang of it, move on to the other one.
So, here are some differences you could consider before joining your first class:
For yoga, you will only need a mat, and, in some cases, a blanket or straps, as you will rely on the force of your body for most exercises. On the other hand, even if Pilates can be practiced on a mat as well, there’s a variant that requires the presence of equipment. This means that won’t be able to do your exercises at home. First, because the equipment can be expensive, and, secondly, because you will want to be supervised at the beginning to avoid accidents.
While the purpose is similar, namely focusing on respiration and alignment while executing the poses, the moves are longer in yoga and can be repetitive, a practice that allows you to fall deeper into each pose. When it comes to Pilates, the moves are usually shorter, and the accent is put on making them precise. Once one pose has been executed, you will move to a new one and won’t return to it throughout the session.
They are both based on the concept of the body-mind bond, but they emphasize it in different ways. In yoga, relaxation and mindfulness are essential, and most session end with meditation and a relaxation technique called savasana, while in Pilates, the accent is put on the body, but the need to concentrate on respiration and executing the routine is the one that disconnects the mind and helps it relax.
Still confused about which method can be more beneficial to you? The truth is that both techniques are attractive and can have an impressive impact on your lifestyle. But you need to start with one of them, so we’ve prepared a short questionnaire that can help you decide, so answer the questions and see which is the best fit for you.
Are you trying to lose weight?
Neither yoga nor Pilates is the best choice if you are trying to become slimmer, as you will need to increase your heart rate to burn calories, but both of them can help you change your body’s shape. While yoga will make you more flexible and encourage a more gracious posture, Pilates can elongate and strengthen your muscles, making you look suppler.
Are you struggling with depression or anxiety?
Any type of physical work can help you feel better and move your mind from the problems that make you feel sad, bored, or anxious. However, as yoga is based on meditation, and regular practice has been linked to lower levels of cortisol, it may be more suitable to fight depression and anxiety.
Are you trying to recover from an injury?
It can even be a yoga injury or one resulted after an accident. They can be painful and often difficult to cure. But this is the first reason for which Pilates was invented, so it is surely the better solution. The movements are thought to improve muscle strength and realign everything, so you can get full control over your body as soon as possible.
Is your purpose to strengthen your body but you don’t want it to become bulky?
It’s time for Pilates. The exercises will work your core muscles, making you more resistant to effort and making you move easier and with more grace. But your muscles won’t grow so you won’t turn into a bodybuilder.
Are you looking for spirituality?
The world today seems to lose the connection with the sacred, and, thus, all things seem to have the same measure. The miraculous is missing, and this reflects on people’s spirits, which become less aware of what is truly happening around them. So, if you are looking to connect to the energy of the universe and feel it running through your body, you are definitely a yoga person.
Even if our analysis is based on scientific facts and was designed to highlight the differences between the two techniques, along with all the benefits and disadvantages they can bring, this doesn’t mean that the answers to our questionnaire must be fully followed. Even if we suggested that you should pick a certain method, it doesn’t mean you cannot pick the opposite one if you feel so. In the end, both techniques have similar purposes, namely to help you stay fit, feel better, and relax.