Conscious breathing. Mental focus. Centering. Controlled movement. Energy flow. What are we talking about here — Pilates or yoga? Apart from the name, time and place of origin, is there even a difference between these exercise disciplines? The answer is yes, certainly!
Myth #4: The Pilates method is a Westernized, more modern form of yoga.
A short rebuff to this myth could be, “No. Pilates is Pilates.” Yoga is a school of Hindu philosophy that has been around for thousands of years. Hatha yoga — the poses, stretches and breathing exercises that have become popular in the Western world over the last several decades — are actually only one part of the spiritual discipline that is yoga.
Hatha yoga and Pilates can look very similar on the surface. While Joseph Pilates studied many different disciplines of physical, mental and spiritual wellness as he developed his fitness system, there is no evidence to confirm that Joe was a student of yoga or actively incorporated hatha yoga into his own methodology.
One basic difference between yoga and Pilates is that yoga emphasizes stretching poses that improve flexibility, and Pilates focuses on muscle exercises that build core strength and a strong, flexible body. The movements appear graceful and flowing in both fitness methods, but in reality the exercises themselves are very different. However, many people who practice both Pilates and yoga report that the progress they make in once discipline often complements their training in the other!
Breath is important to Pilates and yoga alike. In Pilates, the breath serves to connect the mind with the body as you concentrate on precise muscle control. The same can be said of yoga, but traditionally speaking, the yogic breath is a channel for physical and mental purification that prepares the practitioner for more advanced meditation techniques. As mentioned earlier, yoga exercises are just one aspect of a full mode of spirituality, and meditations on the breath alone also exist within the scope of yoga.
Ultimately, Pilates and yoga offer many of the same physical and mental benefits, but they are complex and unique systems that require experienced teachers and commitment to regular practice in order to reap those benefits. You can definitely practice both, but you should not make the mistake of assuming yoga and Pilates are one in the same.