YogaBoth practices enjoy immense popularity and offer benefits that extend beyond class time. These include better flexibility and strength as well as alignment of the body and mind. Although similar in many ways, there are a few differences. Let’s take a look.


Yoga originated many thousands of years ago in India. The Sanskrit translation of yoga is roughly interpreted to mean union. Pilates on the other hand is a more recent invention. Founder, Joseph Pilates developed his earliest ideas for the practice during World War I. Pilates developed and gained popularity among dancers in the 50’s and 60’s.

Class structure

There are many types of yoga. Some, like Ashtanga and Hatha provide a more vigorous workout while restorative and Yin focus more on asanas or forms with an emphasis on inner reflection. Yoga class structure can vary widely depending on the studio and instructor. Pilates is a single type of discipline. It is more structured and thus more consistent across classes. Props and apparatus are more common in Pilates.


young girl performs exercises with pilates gearYoga classes often include a meditative component. Practitioners are instructed to focus on the breath as a path to healing and centering the mind and body. There is often a spiritual aspect to the practice as well. Pilates also devotes attention to the breath but as a way of energizing the muscles rather than centering or calming the mind.  Yoga’s focus on healing breaths reduces the hormone cortisol making it a good strategy for managing stress and anxiety both on and off the mat.

Although some forms of yoga can burn a lot more calories than others, neither Pilates nor yoga burn calories comparable to other activities like running or HIIT (high intensity interval training). Both are a good complement to other forms of exercise. That’s because Pilates is concerned with strengthening the core and alignment of the spine. It is immensely helpful for activities such as running or dancing. Yoga works to strengthen the entire body and create balance. This is also of great benefit in boosting performance in everything from football to running and biking. Both can reduce the likelihood of sports related injuries.

India recently celebrated the first annual International World Yoga day with millions of people from all walks of life participating in over 30,000 locations; including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a regular practitioner. A CNN article quotes Modi as saying, “We are not only celebrating a day, but we are training the human mind to begin a new era of peace and harmony. This is a program for the benefit of mankind, for a tension-free world and to spread the message of harmony.”  Sounds like a reason to give yoga a try. Better yet, consider incorporating both yoga and Pilates into your fitness play book. Both offer good ways to add variety and challenge new muscles.