Yoga, yoga, always yoga! Just kidding. I am asked this question quite often, once memorably phrased as “Yoga and Pilates are the same, aren’t they? Except that yoga has the chanting.” And I’d agree insofar as, if you are thinking about doing one or both of them, then yes, do that. For most of us, any additional movement, strength building and improvement of posture, co-ordination and concentration is a very good thing. A regular commitment to something outside our daily work and home lives can be enormously satisfying, build discipline, boost confidence, and maybe even extend our sense of community, but there are differences. I’ve captured key features of both below.
Breathing and moving
Both disciplines ask us to bring precise attention to movement and sensation in our bodies; they use breath cues to initiate movement – for example, “inhale and raise your arm; exhale and lower it”. In either class, you will work through a series of poses and movements which mobilise the joints and take the spine through its different planes of movement. Both can be used to build strength, in particular in our ‘core’. Both use some memorable names like “warrior”, “child’s pose” and “the clam”.
Both yoga and Pilates can improve a wide variety of health conditions, such as chronic pain and tension (especially in the back and neck) and specific injury rehabilitation, as well as general fitness. To use a real-life example, my dad avoided invasive back surgery on a bulging disc through dedicated Pilates attendance, which he has maintained for more than five years. An additional benefit is that he can now walk miles without discomfort, and does so a few times a week.
So, which will suit me?
There are differences. I spoke to my fellow SW1Fitness teacher, Babs Afolayan, to get his take on what makes Pilates unique:
Yoga is harder to define, has had longer to evolve and celebrates a diverse range of perspectives. It’s impossible to summarise in just a few lines, but nevertheless…
Preaching and practicing
Me? I practise #yogaeverydamnday or as close thereto as I can manage it. Beyond the physical aspects, which constantly surprise me – as a person who did a handstand for the first time in their life as an adult – I use it to pause my pretty incessant listing of things to do and spend some time with my body, checking in and developing kind awareness.
At the beginning of the year, I took up Pilates for a couple of reasons. I wanted to try something from another discipline that works with the body, to gain another perspective and to experience being a beginner. I have been working to build more strength in my core and around my joints and reduce the effect of hypermobility. Pilates has helped with both – it is truly humbling to make shapes I know very well from my yoga practice (such as plank, downward facing dog, and goddess pose) on a Reformer machine, and look down through it to the floor and think that if I don’t engage a little more, I’m going to end up entangled in it. It has also been brilliant to feel more precisely the engagement of muscles needed to control the ascent into crow pose, or prevent the descent from handstand into wheel / a laughing heap on the floor.
I took up the ukulele at the same time, but that’s a train of thought for another day…
Babs and I firmly believe that these practices, taught and tailored appropriately, can benefit everyone – all ages, levels of fitness and body types, and can assist in rehabilitation. If you’ve got questions or would like to give one of them a go, drop us a line!
Ready to go?
To join me for yoga or Babs for Pilates (or both of them!), use your MindBodyOnline account or head to http://www.sw1fitness.co.uk/class-schedule/ and book in. SW1Fitness is located in Pimlico, and is convenient for all of St James’ Park, Westminster, Victoria and Pimlico stations. As well as yoga and Pilates, you might find yourself trying boxing, HIIT or personal training sessions there as well.
All the best with your physical and mental fitness practices.
Breathe, make space, be compassionate.