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What is the difference between Pilates and Yoga

What is the difference between Yoga and Pilates.

Although they have vastly different histories, Pilates and Yoga do have many similarities. 

Both practices are undeniably good for your health, utilise the breath, and strengthen the entire body in a low-impact way. 

Pilates and Yoga are hugely popular around the globe. There are even hybrid classes such as Yoga-lates found in some studios! 

However, despite the similarities, there are some distinct differences separating the two. 

Read on to discover what makes each practice unique and which we recommend.

What Is The Difference Between Pilates and Yoga? History

Yoga originated in India an estimated 5000 years ago. While it has morphed into countless styles over the last 50 years – including hot yoga and laughing yoga – the original intent was one of taming or quietening the body to sit for meditation. 

Comparatively, Pilates is still in its infancy!  Joseph Pilates developed the Pilates system of holistic exercises from about 1920. Initially Joe developed his method while he was imprisoned in a WW1 POW camp. Like many guys in prison he worked out to improve his body and found that his mind and spirit benefitted too.  He worked with other inmates and the sick and wounded soldiers, in the camp hospital and got great results for his fellow prisoners.  After the war Joe emigrated to New York and started the first Pilates studio there. The Pilates Method did not become widespread until about 20 years after his death in 1967.  


With roots in ancient Buddhism, Hinduism, and other Eastern religions, yoga has a more spiritual focus. Although this aspect isn't compulsory to experience the physical and mental benefits of a regular yoga practice. The emphasis in yoga is to unite the body, mind, and spirit, using the breath to guide you through a series of postures and movements. Mindfulness is an integral part of yoga, and meditation is usually included in a class.

While Pilates can fit in with a spiritual practice, it was primarily designed as an holistic and whole body exercise routine to build strength, youthfulness and resilience, through controlled and focused movements. Because of the breath patterns and points of concentration used, Pilates really benefits mind, body and spirit too .


 Because of the intelligent approach Pilates takes, age, fitness level and capability are no barrier when it comes to Pilates exercises. You can even partake in Pilates with some forms of injury. While Yoga is meant to be more spiritual, many people find the breathwork and mindful, controlled movements of Pilates to be calming and meditative.


The breath is important for Yoga and Pilates. However, it is used slightly differently. 

In yoga, breathing helps provide a point of mental focus. The idea is to quiet or still the mind by focussing on the breath.

In Pilates, the breath is used as a tool to find the core muscles, switch them on and strengthen those muscles during movement. It is one of the points of focus used in Pilates to deepen the experience.

The deliberate and controlled use of breath work benefits your health whether from a Yoga or Pilates practice or both.


Pilates and yoga can both be done with no props other than a mat. Yoga, in particular, tends to use only the body as resistance, whereas Pilates commonly incorporates equipment designed to support and challenge the body as you progress.

Yoga has a big emphasis on static stretches, especially Yin yoga. 

Yoga is not recommended for hypermobile (already very flexible) people for this reason. 

Pilates uses active stretches so that you stretch as you strengthen.

Reformer Pilates or studio Pilates uses large equipment designed to strengthen, lengthen and invigorate the body, while supporting the joints. The practice allows you to build muscle and tone faster, all while receiving the nourishing benefits of breathing well, mental focus and exercise induced endorphins.

​Postures And Movements

Yoga is about slow, deliberate movement. As you flow through different postures using your breath, you will hold them for longer and often repeat the sequences.  The sequences in a Yoga class are taught to the whole class as one, with some modifications for the more challenging postures.

Pilates movements are shorter in sequence often, with fewer repetitions. The focus is more on precise control before moving onto the next sequence. Pilates movements can be more individually targeted, improving posture and building core strength. Pilates is even more adapted to the individual and their unique physiology. 


Both practices can provide a whole-body workout, but target different areas of the body. Yoga works through the entire body, often focussing on the limbs, the balance and the breath. 

While Pilates is more focused on the core and moving from the core.

Core strength is a key part of good posture, preventing the body from having unnecessary injuries. It also keeps everything in alignment so that your body can function at optimum efficiency.


Both Yoga and Pilates are considered to be low impact exercises, suitable for all ages and fitness levels. You can complete the movements at your own level with guidance from your teacher and the exercises can be specifically designed for your own athletic ability

.However, with Pilates in particular, the intensity can be ramped up quite high if you choose to take your workout up a notch or two. As such, if you are looking for defined physical changes or injury recovery, Pilates will usually deliver more targeted results more rapidly. 

​The Similarities

In spite of the contrasts between Yoga and Pilates, there are a number of similarities. Both are low impact and use your own body weight as resistance. They use the breath as part of specific sequences to build core strength and balance. Pilates and Yoga have been shown to relieve stress and anxiety, and Pilates is often recommended as part of a rehabilitation program for injuries. 

​Which Is Best?

A lot comes down to finding your right teacher. 

We strongly believe that Pilates is a great solution for anyone looking to improve their health and wellbeing. Known to be great for physical and mental health, Pilates reduces stress, builds core strength and improves your posture.

Here at Turning Tides Pilates, we offer a selection of Pilates services. Whether you are looking for one-to-one training, small group classes, online classes, or rehab or retreats, we offer it all!

We even offer specialist Pilates programmes such as injury recovery, Pregnancy Pilates, Reformer Pilates and Studio or Equipment Pilates. All of our practices follow the guiding principles of Joe Pilates.

We live and breathe Pilates and would love to use our expertise to help you live your best life. Join us at Turning Tide and take your first step towards a stronger, healthier you.


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