Yoga Pilates Classes: Intro to Getting Started

pilates ball, yoga position

If you're relatively new to the study of yoga, you may be wondering how a yoga Pilates workout differs from a regular yoga practice. While yoga and Pilates do have many similarities, Pilates focuses less on breathing and more on developing a fuller range of motion. When Pilates exercises are added to a yoga practice, the result is a more complete workout that strengthens the body while calming the mind.

What Is Pilates?

According to the Pilates Method Alliance, Pilates is a type of exercise and physical movement that is designed to stretch, strengthen, and balance the entire body. When done on a regular basis, Pilates exercises provide numerous health benefits. Studies have shown that Pilates increases lung capacity and strength and improves posture, flexibility, coordination, and balance. In addition, bone density and joint health may improve as well.

While yoga has a 5,000 year history, Pilates exercises were developed by Joseph Pilates in 1914. Mr. Pilates was a performer and boxer who worked with his wife Clara, an experienced nurse, to develop exercises that would help bedridden patients regain their strength and mobility. As time went on, the original Pilates exercises were slightly modified to provide benefits for people of all ages and fitness levels.

Mr. Pilates believed that by improving the "powerhouse" of the body - the abdomen and buttocks - as well as the muscles around the joints through a series of controlled and precise techniques, a body would gain strength without bulk and an increased range of motion.

Incorporating Pilates into Your Yoga Practice

In recent years, both beginning and advanced yogis have been incorporating Pilates principles into their workouts. The yoga Pilates combination is only natural, since both forms of exercise stress the creation of a balanced mind, body, and spirit. Adding basic Pilates exercises to your workout will help you become more mindful of your physical limitations and provide you with a new insight into how your body moves. In addition Pilates focuses on core strengthening, which emphasizes a strong abdominal and back area; a strong core will help your overall health, strength and flexibility.

There are two ways for you to enjoy a yoga Pilates workout:

  • You can do Pilates exercises before you begin your asana practice. This lets you warm your muscles and work on developing a stronger core without disturbing the quiet of your practice.
  • You can incorporate Pilates principles throughout your workout by modifying various yoga poses. For example, you can try scooping your abdomen inward as you move into the Paschimottanasana, or Seated Forward Bend.

Check your local yoga studio or gym for Pilates yoga classes, sometimes called Piyo or Pi-yo. Taking one of these courses can help you see how natural the two practices are together.

Yoga Pilates Workout DVDs

If you're interested in trying a yoga Pilates workout, check out the following instructional DVDs:

  • Combining Pilates & Yoga for Balance features instructor Tom McCook in a workout designed to improve spinal flexibility and core strength while increasing mind and body awareness. The basic workout is 45-minutes long, but there's also an instructional section that discusses techniques for proper form and positioning.
  • Crunch - Super SlimDown: Pilates Yoga Blend features instructor Ellen Barrett in a 40-minute workout that starts with standing yoga and moves into a series of floor/mat Pilates exercises. It's intended for beginners or intermediate level yoga Pilates exercisers.
  • Complete Yoga & Pilates is a four-disc boxed set that includes the Basic Yoga: Strength and Flexibility, Power Vinyasa: Whole Body Workout, Basic Pilates Mat: Core Essentials, and Intermediate Pilates: Whole Body Conditioning workouts. Each workout is designed to help you improve your posture, coordination, flexibility, and strength while increasing your energy levels and promoting longer and leaner muscles.
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Yoga Pilates Classes: Intro to Getting Started