How can Pilates complement your Yoga practice?
Are you a yoga practitioner and curious about Pilates? A Pilates enthusiast wondering how many of your favourite exercises are yoga-inspired? Or maybe you haven’t tried either and interested to
know what the difference might be? This month, we shall be answering some of the most popular questions such as the similarities and distinctions between the two disciplines, and the benefits of experiencing Pilates for yogis.
How is Pilates similar yet different to Yoga?
There are great many different types of both Pilates and yoga (referring to just the physical part of the practice here) and whilst both focus on low impact mindful movement, breath, and the best possible body alignment they are indeed quite dissimilar. The major differences are in the approach to muscular activation, breathing, the structure of the typical class and the use of equipment.
Pilates is focusing on the movements from the ‘core’ (stabilisers, local muscles) and builds upon this strong foundation. Yoga movements are typically much bigger, involving larger global structures
The breathing is different also – Pilates breath is typically lateral and thoracic, thus supporting the upright posture and lengthening the spine. The inhales and exhales serve to facilitate certain movements of the body. Yoga breathing aka pranayama is often a separate practice to the physical one and the breath is coming from the lower abdomen.
We typically see repetitions in a Pilates classes vs longer holds in yoga; yoga classes (especially vinyasa) also quite often lead to peak pose (a complex asana) and would therefore focus more on specific body parts whilst Pilates covers the total body workout.
And lastly (but by no means least) – whilst yoga is a mat-based workout there is an option in Pilates to use special pieces of equipment known as Reformers. The feedback from the machines is remarkable and helps you find proper alignment, whilst the assistance or resistance of the springs will intensify or modify workouts to suit your needs. It also makes the class varied and fun whilst keeping it very safe and effective.
“Bearing in mind that it’s not 100% possible to clearly define both Yoga and Pilates movements, classes, and emphasis. Each can vary widely depending on the style being taught and the background of the instructor.”
How can Pilates add benefit to your Yoga practice?
Pilates complements yoga by strengthening the ‘core’ including but not limited to the deeper muscles of the lower abdomen, back and shoulders – all of those you are required to engage to be successful in mastering inversions, arm balances, or to even hold a Downward Dog position without your hands sliding forward. Furthermore, engaging those muscles would become second nature and really boost your yoga practice.
Pilates provides excellent stability to counter your flexibility training (hip openers are a perfect example – your Pigeon and Lizard Poses will be a lot safer if the knee and ankle stay stable and the movement comes from the hip. Use your yoga practice to gain range of motion and Pilates to stabilise pelvis and knees and you will have longevity to your practice in an injury free balanced body.
Pilates gives you another point of view as some movement will be familiar yet may be performed differently (shoulder bridge is a great example – in yoga we lift and hold in preparation for Shoulder Stand or a Wheel, whilst in Pilates we articulate vertebra by vertebra. Experience both and choose the way that suits your body)
As a Yogi and a Pilates instructor myself, here are some of the tips I would like to share if you are thinking of giving Pilates a try!
Keep an open mind – I was a yoga practitioner long before I have experienced Pilates – it felt very different in my body but that variety and almost contrasting approach to body movement was the very thing that made me come back to class again and again.
Listen to your body – The pace could be a little slower than you are used to, and some of the movements may look very small but do not underestimate their impact. Chances are you have never worked the muscles we are focusing on in a Pilates class before! The great news is you will see the positive impact on your life and yoga practice very soon, and that is extremely rewarding. I still remember how tough it was to isolate different parts of the spine in Pilates extension exercises like the “Swan”, but it had made my yoga backbends a lot safer and deeper.
Be patient – remember your first yoga class and how tough the simplest balance or even the breath was? Give your mind and body a chance to truly experience this wonderful form of movement. I have been practicing them both side by side for well over 10 years and can safely say it is a beneficial combination. Pilates would be a great way of supporting your yoga practice and giving it longevity so you could practice injury free for life.
Zoya Holland, Pilates Instructor
We have a regular Yoga Reformer group class by Zoya every Thursday at 6.15pm, If you are new and would like to experience Yoga Flow on the Reformer, email us at email@example.com or call/WA us at 9850 8156 to make your first class booking.
If you already have a package with us, click here for our group class schedule and to make a booking.