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by | Oct 19, 2017 | Pilates vs Yoga

Looking to refresh your fitness regime? Interested in taking up Pilates or Yoga but unsure what’s the difference between them and which would be better for your personal workout? There’s quite a common misconception that Yoga and Pilates are very similar and are often categorised as the same exercise, however the purpose of Yoga compared with the purpose of Pilates is quite different.

When it comes to a Pilates vs Yoga workout, yes there can be certain elements which are quite similar in terms of improving balance and building strength, however the movements and techniques can differ quite drastically which many people don’t realise. Yoga was developed to prepare the mind and body for meditation, whilst Pilates was developed to work the body through systematic movements to strengthen and improve its function.

This in-depth Pilates vs Yoga guide has been designed to straighten out any misconceptions between the two practices, answer any queries you might have and hopefully inspire you to start your new Yoga or Pilates journey today. Carefully curated with both beginner and advanced fitness levels in mind, this guide outlines some of the key differences – including the origins of each, Pilates postures versus Yoga for mindfulness, Pilates breathing techniques and Yoga for spiritual wellbeing, as well as talking you through which is better for back pain and burning more calories.

Included within the guide are also some videos which we put together to help give you more of a visual guide of the difference between Pilates and Yoga.

What’s The Difference Between Pilates and Yoga?

“Pilates takes its name from Joseph Pilates. A German-born émigré to Britain and then America, he devised the Pilates method as a new approach to exercise and body-conditioning in the early decades of the last century. His method included the use of equipment referred to by him as: apparatus. Perhaps the best known piece of equipment, is the Pilates reformer.” – Quote taken from pilatescentral.co.uk

“Yoga’s history has many places of obscurity and uncertainty due to its oral transmission of sacred texts and the secretive nature of its teachings. The early writings on yoga were transcribed on fragile palm leaves that were easily damaged, destroyed or lost. The development of yoga can be traced back to over 5,000 years ago but some researchers think that yoga may be up to 10,000 years old. Yoga’s long rich history can be divided into four main periods of innovation, practice and development.” – Quote taken from yogabasics.com


Yoga and Pilates are both fantastic mind-body workouts that can dramatically improve your overall fitness and wellbeing if a regular practice is put into place. Now you’re aware of the some of the key differences, it’s time to see how the Pilates benefits compare to the benefits of Yoga. Below is a list of some of the main benefits, there are many other physical and mental health benefits though!

Pilates Benefits
  • Develop a strong core
  • Helps prevent injuries
  • Helps to ease back pain
  • Improve your posture
  • Improve your flexibility
  • Improve your sports performance
  • Increase your muscle strength
  • Improve your balance
  • Increase your blood flow
  • Drops your blood pressure
  • Boosts brainpower
Yoga Benefits
  • Improve your respiration, energy and vitality
  • Gives you peace of mind
  • Improve your spiritual wellbeing
  • Improve your flexibility
  • Improve your sports performance
  • Increase your muscle strength
  • Improve your balance
  • Increase your blood flow
  • Drops your blood pressure
  • Boosts brainpower

Video: What’s The Difference Between Pilates and Yoga?


In terms of flexibility, both workouts can improve overall flexibility as well as increasing spinal flexibility, however with very different approaches.  Increasing spinal flexibility will really help to improve your fitness performance, as well as helping to prevent injuries as your body will become more supple.

Pilates focuses on spinal flexibility through articulation and evening out the spine. Through pelvic stability and alignment, Pilates is excellent as a strengthening exercise and supporting your back.  Yoga is also designed to enhance flexibility through joint motion range, however certain postures such as deep back bends and cobras can be a bit risky, especially if you suffer from any back pain.


Posture is the position you adapt whilst sitting, standing or lying down. With modern technology taking over our lives, office and computer jobs are now more common than ever and daily life hectic and fast-paced, you should always be aware of your posture and trying to hold a good posture whenever possible.

Whilst Yoga moves from one static posture to the next to develop flexibility and mindfulness, Pilates flows through a series of more dynamic and systematic movements, with the aim of strengthening the postural muscles whilst achieving optimal functional fitness.

Not only does good posture help to prevent back and neck pain due to proper back support but it also helps helps you to breathe properly and open up the airways. Yoga postures for core strength and Pilates postures will also do wonders for your appearance. It will help you to stand taller, exude confidence and make a good impression.


No matter what your age or fitness level, both Pilates and Yoga are great for improving balance and mobility, which is particularly great if you’re a bit older and worried about the risk of falling over. Both types of exercise focus on creating a strong support system which also allows you to work on your overall balance so that you can connect with the rest of your body.

Pilates poses do generally focus more on core strength and therefore balance, however Yoga is also good for learning how to align your body and balance your physical strength. Alignment of the body with gravity is crucial in a successful workout, and the three essential elements which a Yoga and Pilates workout focuses on include alignment, strength and attention.

What’s The Difference Between Pilates and Yoga Breathing?
Pilates Breathing

Both Yoga and Pilates bring awareness to the breath during movements. You might not be able to imagine it but the breathing techniques of each practice differs quite vastly and they both work the body in different ways. The Pilates breathing technique is called Posterior Lateral breathing. Coined as “rib cage breathing,” the Pilates breathing technique is designed to help maintain abdominal contraction and keep the core engaged.

Breathing with the rib cage, the breath is used to initiate and support movements, where a deeper breath will help to intensify and enhance the effects of a posture. This type of breathing also takes full advantage of your O2 conversion and increases blood flow to the body as well as making use of your respiratory muscles in the rib cage and diaphragm.

Yoga Breathing

The Yoga breathing technique is commonly referred to as Pranayama breathing. Coined as “belly breathing,” the Yoga breath is used to control the energy through the control of the breath.

Which Is Better For Back Pain?

Thinking of Pilates or Yoga for back strength? Depending on the severity of your back pain, Pilates is generally better for alleviating back pain due to its focus on strength building and also preventing any future injuries. Designed to help develop core strength and support the back, Pilates focuses on spinal flexibility through articulation and evening out the spine.  Yoga improves spinal flexibility and strength however certain postures such as deep back bends and cobras can aggravate back pain.

Whether you’re training, toning or recovering, Pilates is the better option for a core workout and core strength is an essential requirement of any rehabilitation exercise program. Pilates is best for both easing existing back pain as well as preventing any future back injuries. This is due to the Pilates poses helping to strengthen the muscles that support the spine.

When it comes to Pilates vs Yoga for back pain, it’s all about the strengthening of the body. Enhanced strength can help reduce pain and improve your posture, however you should always consult your doctor before starting a new exercise program. Some particularly good exercises for lower back pain include Pelvic tilts, Chest lifts, Kneeling Arm and Leg Reaches, as well as Roll Backs.

Which Burns More Calories Pilates or Yoga?
Yoga vs Pilates For Weight Loss

Does Yoga help with weight loss? How many calories burned during Pilates? Although we’d love to answer these questions for you, it really comes down to your personal efforts and fitness ability. Often categorised together for their mind-body fitness element, both Yoga and Pilates are beneficial exercises when it comes to weight loss and toning muscles.

Generally speaking, Pilates is thought to be the “tougher” workout as the training is designed to work the whole body and develop core strength. This therefore can be argued that the “tougher” the workout, the more calories are burned. Can Yoga help you lose weight? Yoga is a wonderful practice for learning how to incorporate mindfulness into not only just your practice but your whole lifestyle. Therefore mind over matter really does come into its own.

Yoga vs Pilates for weight loss really does depend on numerous factors though. It depends on how much effort you put into the class, it can depend on how good of an instructor you have, and it can also depend on what type of Yoga or Pilates it is. For example, there’s Bikram, Ashtanga, Hatha and Restorative Yoga, and there’s Classical Pilates compared to Reformer Pilates.

How To Choose Between Yoga or Pilates?
Which Practice Is Best For You?

Wondering whether it’s Yoga for you or maybe Pilates? Now that we’ve outlined some of the key differences and benefits of each, it’s now up to you to decide which one is best for you and more effective for your personal fitness goals. Whether you’ve never tried either before and looking to start, or already a bit of yogi and thinking about expanding into Pilates, both a Pilates and Yoga workout are suitable for any fitness level. The easiest option in finding out which is best for you, have a try at both a Yoga and Pilates class and find out for yourself!

What To Expect In A Class

Are you deciding between booking a Yoga and Pilates class? Although both have similarities, the two exercises are quite different and therefore the classes will also differ. Saying that though, many people who practice Pilates will also practice Yoga. This is because each of them can really influence the other and enhance your training and push your body further. For example, Pilates can help build strength and therefore improve your performance in Yoga. Learning mindfulness from Yoga can also really help to enhance your Pilates class and build up your breathing techniques to influence your movements.

What Is Reformer Pilates?

Reformer Pilates takes the practice of Pilates to the next level. Focusing on the key principles of promoting length, strength, flexibility and balance, this type of physical exercise is carried out on a specialist piece of equipment called the Reformer bed. The secret of Reformer Pilates is its ability in training multiple parts of the body in so many different ways, simply using just one sleek piece of equipment.

Reformer Machine – How Does It Work?

The Reformer Machine is often thought of as a new phenomenon, but it was actually invented by Joseph Pilates during WW1. Pilates transformed hospital beds and used the springs to create resistance for the body to work against. He called it the ‘Universal Reformer’ as it ‘universally reformed the body’ by developing core strength and stretching, strengthening and realigning the muscles.

Modern reformers have light, medium and heavy springs that can be set in various combinations, to work either global or accessory muscles and tailor each exercise to you. It’s also the action of the springs that allows us to work eccentrically, simultaneously developing strength and length in the muscles.

The moving carriage is designed to create proprioception and body awareness. Combine this with our excellent instruction and you’ll find your exercise is supercharged to become more efficient and effective. In a short time you can correct misalignments and experience changes in how your body looks and feels.

There are over 500 possible exercises on the reformer. Here at Runway we change class programmes every week to maintain variety and challenge so you and your body never get bored of working out with us.

Video: The Reformer Pilates Bed