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Exercise Showdown: Pilates vs. Yoga

Fitday Editor

Mind-body exercise classes have been blowing up the fitness scene for quite a few years now. As a mind-body exercise, they are both centered around using your breath, stretching and strengthening, and integrating your total body into each move. Both classes can give you a strong workout that strengthens, lengthens and stretches from head to toe. With many similarities, it can leave you wondering, which one is more beneficial? It all boils down to what you are looking for.


One of the biggest ways to figure out which is more beneficial is to look at the origin of the workout. Although both are therapeutic and can give you a little more zen in your life, they were originally based on very different concepts. Pilates was created in the 20th century as a form of therapy to heal and prevent injuries, much like a form of physical therapy. Yoga was originally formed in ancient India as a way to prepare the body and mind for lengthy seated meditation sessions. While both will help to clear your mind, release stress and improve or prevent injuries, each brings its own benefit to the table.

Core Work

Both yoga and Pilates will help you tone your core, but core strength is the main focus of Pilates. Yoga classes will encourage you to "engage your core," but the main focus is on using the entire body for each move. During Pilates, you'll focus on engaging all parts of the core, no matter what the exercise. In a Pilates class, the core is referred to as the Powerhouse since it consists of the entire center of the body, not just your abs. If you are looking for a strong core to relieve back pain, improve your posture or sculpt the waistline, Pilates is your best bet.

Total Body Workout

If you are looking for a more total body approach to your workout, yoga might be a better choice. Pilates does help to tone the arms and legs, but it is mostly focused on the core muscles and spine. Yoga uses the entire body in each movement, giving you a more dynamic and total-body workout. The legs are sculpted in lunges balance poses, while the arms, back and chest are strengthened during poses such as Baby Cobra, Plank and Chaturanga (aka Low Push-up).

Cardio Workout

Pilates and gentle yoga don't always cut it as far as cardio goes. While they are beneficial for strength, these exercises won't necessarily get you to break a sweat or increase your heart rate. Head to a power yoga or high intensity vinyasa class and you are sure to get your heart rate up. Add in a little heat and feel your heart rate increase even more. In a vinyasa-style yoga class, you are continually moving on each inhale and exhale, which means you are raising the heart rate and keeping it up until you head to the mat at the end for your final stretches. You'll burn more calories, sweat more and keep your heart rate up than you would throughout Pilates.


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Jessi Andricks isn't just passionate about healthy living, she's made healthy living her life. Through her training in Health Coaching, Yoga and Fitness, she is able to blend together the best of all worlds, creating innovative online wellness programs and Detox Yoga Workshops, as well as teaching daily yoga, barre and fusion fitness classes. Jessi uses her knowledge to help others live healthy, happy lives. Look for her upcoming book, Detox 101, and check out more at

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