The very beginning of yoga is traced back to at least five thousand years ago in India.  It has changed over the years to become the yoga that we are most familiar with today.  Although yoga was introduced in the West earlier, it gained in popularity when a yoga studio was opened in Hollywood in 1947, gaining momentum in the 1980s.  In stark contrast, pilates is a relatively new form of exercise or stretching.  It was developed in Germany by Joseph Pilates in the early 1900s, thousands of years after yoga.

Yoga often incorporates a spiritual aspect or, at least, meditation.  The main form of yoga practiced in western cultures is hatha yoga which has its roots in Hinduism.  While some embrace this spiritual aspect of yoga, others are put off by it either because they are non-religious or because they practice a different religion. Because of this, many people leave out the meditation or use it as a time of prayer.  Pilates does not focus on the spiritual but rather the physical only which appeals to many people who were put off by that aspect of yoga.

Both yoga and pilates use what is referred to as core strength. If this is not something you possess much of, then either of these forms of exercise could be beneficial to you.  Working on your “core” increases balance and improves posture.  Both yoga and pilates put emphasis on your breathing, exhaling completely upon exertion and inhaling completely upon your return to a resting position.

Both forms incorporate elongating stretches which can help increase flexibility and range of motion. Often while doing yoga poses or performing a Pilates exercise (which are low impact), a person may feel adjustments occurring in the neck or back.  Usually, such adjustments cause an increased blood flow which is good for your muscles.

There have been some studies done on both yoga and pilates. While these studies have not come up with conclusive evidence of any medical benefits of doing either form, most people that utilize these forms would likely say they feel some benefit.  If they didn’t feel any benefit, why would they keep doing it? These forms stretch your muscles, engage your core (abdominal) muscles, and can release endorphins. The benefit is that these things are good for your body and mind. All medical professionals agree that some form of exercise IS better than no exercise.

Yoga and pilates are challenging forms causing you to try stretches and positions that you may have never attempted.  Perhaps you are interested in trying them or have tried but struggled. These forms are not particularly used as weight loss measures but more as overall health measures, for both physical and mental well-being.

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