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Friday, January 25, 2013

yoga v. pilates

Don't call me a traitor, but I recently started taking Pilates classes.

Yoga is a complete exercise for the body and mind, which balances strength and flexibility and helps to even out the muscles of the body and improve posture and maintain the health of the spine. But so does Pilates. So what gives? Pilates is helping me to find the centering and core strength to support my yoga practice. So, in the words of my Pilates instructor here in St. Rémy (who also teaches yoga), it's not Pilates or Yoga, it's Pilates for Yoga.  Many yogis find themselves becoming hyper-flexible in the spine and pelvis, which can lead to injuries if not balanced with core strength. That's where Pilates comes to the rescue.

I am often asked, what is the difference between Yoga and Pilates? And apparently the question gets asked a lot. Even Oprah has something to say on the subject.  The two schools share some of the same movements, exercises, and principles, such as body awareness, concentration, coordination, core strength, and breath linked to movement (flow).

While Vinyasa Yoga is more vigorous and high-energy and helps to awaken, strengthen, and stretch the whole body, Pilates teaches how to strengthen and move from the core: the muscles that surround and support our pelvis and spine, including the abdominals, hip flexors, and pelvic floor muscles. Yoga also works with core strength and stabilization, but sometime we lose focus on the core when we move through multiple vinyasas and sequences without total concentration, which can lead to strain or injury.

I borrowed this image from a fitness blog... it is a great illustration of the Yoga v. Pilates debate.
I actually like to start my yoga classes with some Pilates-inspired exercises to wake up the core muscles and move the spine and joints through their full range-of-motion.  Sometimes it is helpful, as a yogi, to take a little vacation from standing poses and arm balances to integrate or re-learn how to stabilize the spine, shoulders, and pelvis - areas which can become problematic for overzealous yogis.

All in all, Vinyasa Yoga might be a better physical workout, while Pilates might benefit you more if you are working with injuries or imbalances. But Yoga and Pilates are also a perfect couple, complementary while different.

Pilates in St. Rémy de Provence: www.essentielpilates.com

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