Is Pilates a Type of Yoga?

Tracey Kelley
pilates woman

It's always interesting to see how different exercises relate to one another, and it's common for people to ask, "Is Pilates a type of yoga?" Technically, it's not. But, for people who practice both, it's easy to see how Pilates creator Joseph Pilates may have been influenced by certain yoga postures.

How Yoga and Pilates Differ

Yoga is a mind, body, and spiritual practice that is more than 5,000 years old. While it can most certainly be a beneficial exercise, the core philosophy of yoga, or the Yoga Sutras, is that the physical vessel is simply a conduit to uphold the broader concepts of a full yoga practice.

The Yoga Sutras are the tenets yogis desire to maintain. There are eight of them:

  1. Yamas: explores truth and morals
  2. Niyamas: contentedness
  3. Asanas: concentrated poses
  4. Pranayama: using breath as energy
  5. Pratyahara: withdrawal of the senses
  6. Dharana: focused mind
  7. Dhyana: meditation with intent
  8. Samadhi: achieving the higher consciousness

There are numerous styles of yoga, including Hatha Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga Vinyasa Yoga, and Nidra Yoga.In 1914, former boxer and performer Joseph Pilates developed a series of therapeutic exercises to help individuals bolster strength and mobility. Collaborating with his wife, Clara, Pilates believed that the core of our body, or in his words, the "powerhouse", enabled all movement. By improving the powerhouse, you strengthen the entire body. Pilates, as the practice is known, was popular among ballet dancers, because they could increase muscle strength and flexibility without adding bulk. As fitness centers searched for new exercises to entice members, Pilates became a regular feature, and is now a mainstream exercise.

While there are many instructors for Pilates, the primary styles include Classic Pilates, Stott Pilates, and Windsor Pilates.

There is not a deeper mental or spiritual philosophy associated with Pilates, but honoring the body does correlate to one of the eight Yoga Sutras.

The Difference in Breath

Another difference between the two practices is the use of breath. While both Pilates and yoga use breath to ease into movement, it's common in Pilates to "pulse" a breath if also pulsing a movement, synching the inhale and exhale to the movement. Most yoga styles require individuals to do long inhales and exhales while moving into postures and transitioning out. Additionally, some Pilates instructors want to hear loud exhales through the mouth, and occasionally a bit of noise on the exhale. Most yoga styles require inhales and exhales through the nose.

Is Pilates a Type of Yoga?

Is Pilates a type of yoga? No, it's not. However, you may also notice some positions in Pilates are similar to those in yoga. This is where Joseph Pilates may have been influenced by some yoga poses to form his restorative movements. Crossover postures include variations of Boat Pose, Dolphin Pose, Plank, and Bow Pose.

The practices also provide many of the same benefits, including:

  • Increased flexibility. Both practices offer terrific opportunities to increase range of motion.
  • Improved lung capacity. Even though Pilates and yoga styles use breath differently, it is still a vital component of each exercise.
  • Enhanced coordination and balance. The mind-body awareness that you develop through certain yoga postures and Pilates movements enables you to develop much better coordination and balance.
  • Increased strength. Even if you do nothing but mat work in both practices, you'll firm and tone muscles. Both practices also have an impact on the core of the body, which supports everyday activities.
  • Reduced stress. Taking care of your body through regular exercise and focused breathing allows you to alleviate stress. Both Pilates and yoga are a wonderful outlet for this.

Combining the Practices

Instead of wondering "is Pilates a type of yoga", just combine the two practices for a dynamic workout! Here are some DVDs to try:

Is Pilates a Type of Yoga?