Yoga vs Pilates

For the past three years, I’ve been either taking or teaching Pilates classes at the Student Recreation Center. I got into it for fitness freshman year and became a teacher sophomore year because what could be better than getting paid to stay in shape?

If I had a dollar for every time, in the course of those three years, someone has referred to what I do as yoga, I wouldn’t have to buy groceries for quite a while. It’s been an unstated pet peeve of mine because the same people have made the mistake multiple times, even after I’ve corrected them.

So, once and for all: Yoga and Pilates are not the same thing.

They might both be workout philosophies fairly new to the mainstream, they might both involve controlled breathing and stretching, and I might not sweat in either of them, but that’s where the similarities end.

The best way to differentiate is that yoga is poses and Pilates is exercises. In yoga you take your stretching, toning or balance pose and hold it for several breaths, engaging a lot of core, shoulders and hips. In Pilates you go through a series of exercises, rooted in the idea of strength training with your own body weight. Pilates focuses big-time on the core, but also works arms and legs in the process. You feel the exercises in your muscles as work, not stretching.

This difference is so important to me because, for the most part, there are Pilates people and there are yoga people. Pilates is for the multitaskers and ADD among us, who like to move pretty quickly from one thing to the next. Pilates people like to do the exercise, exhaust the muscles and move on. That’s me. I also like that after Pilates I can tell I’ve gotten a workout because my muscles all feel tired. Yoga might stretch me out and relax me, but I don’t feel it in my muscles. (Some people do; I just don’t). To me, yoga has always been boring, and although good for stretching, not something challenging to my body.

So now that I’ve clarified how crucial this difference is and that I am a Pilates person, not a yoga person, here’s the kicker: I’m now doing yoga every week.

This semester, for the first time, I signed up to assistant teach a Yoga for Athletes class. For about a year, I’ve been consistently reading about how great yoga is for stretching and lengthening muscles, which I don’t do enough of and which I need given how much I run. It’s also supposed to help calm your mind, which I could use.

So I went to a handful of yoga classes over the summer in an effort to get myself into it, and I was bored and distracted. Instead of focusing on my pose, I would look at my chipping nails or figure out what I was going to have for dinner. Not how a yogi is supposed to be. But at the same time, the stretching was good for me. I realized that I shouldn’t go into yoga looking for a workout, but I can look at it as a recovery method for my overworked muscles.

Which leads me to Yoga for Athletes. In my efforts to continue acclimating myself to yoga, I picked up this class. It’s different from other yoga classes because it targets muscles athletes wear on and it’s more dynamic, so instead of holding poses for a long time, we go through a series more frequently, staying in motion while stretching.

I have to say I really like it. I don’t know if I’m seeing much difference in my body or muscles, but this once-a-week stretching and lengthening feels really good and is likely helping my flexibility and recovery.

So, now that everyone finally knows the difference between Pilates and yoga, I give. Turns out, I do both.


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