Yoga & Pilates Exercises

Yoga and Pilates are two forms of mind-body fitness that share some traits, but are also different in key ways. Yoga is an ancient form of exercise and a spiritual pursuit, as well, in religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism. Pilates is a form of exercise brought to the United States in the 1920s by Joseph Pilates. Pilates exercises are not static like yoga poses, but they do borrow some body positions from yoga. Both disciplines focus on breathing and awareness.

Flexibility Exercises

Yoga as exercise promotes flexibility in the joints and the muscles. While some poses are intended to provide release for the muscles and spine, many are stretching exercises by nature. Downward Facing Dog stretches the back of the legs and Cobra stretches the front of the torso.

In Pilates, flexibility work is also inherent to the method. Single Straight Leg Stretch stretches the hamstrings and the Shoulder Bridge stretches the abdominals.

Core Strength Exercises

Pilates exercise is touted for it core strengthening properties. In “The Pilates Body,” author Brooke Siler notes that Joe Pilates’ term for the core was the “Powerhouse,” and includes the surface and deep muscles of the abdomen, back and gluteus muscles, as well as the attachments of the limbs at the pelvis and shoulders.

In yoga, the same core muscles are called upon to help with the balance required to hold many of the poses. Full Boat Pose and Crane are advanced poses which require a very strong center. Every Pilates exercise involves centering as a principal, with the Teaser, Mermaid and Boomerang being among the more advanced.

Leg and Hip Exercises

Yoga calls upon the lower body in its standing poses especially. Lunge and the Warrior series of poses use isometrics to build strength in the quadriceps, hamstrings, and muscles that surround the hip joint.

Pilates offers a series of side-lying exercises that include lateral raises and ballet-inspired movements such as passe/develope and ronde de jambe, which are bending, extending and circling exercises. All of these exercises work the legs and hips, including the inner and outer thigh muscles working in a full range of motion.

Arm and Shoulder Exercises

Pilates exercises that work the arms and shoulders often mimic the shapes of certain yoga poses that do the same. Plank pose, for example, is a yoga position that is essentially a standard straight-arm push up plank.

In Pilates, the Push-up exercise moves in and out of this plank to create shorter push-up sets. Downward facing dog is also an excellent shoulder stabilizer and helps strengthen the deltoids. The Rollover in Pilates engages the triceps on the floor for balance as the legs move up and over the head.

About this Author

Faith Watson owns Exercise In Disguise Alternative Fitness Studio in Gilberts, Ill., is a PMA-certified Pilates teacher, an NSCA-certified personal trainer, and an official Zumba instructor. She also specializes in non-diet weight management and wellness lifestyle coaching. Previously, Watson was a copywriter and brand strategist for large clients in health care and technology.