Pilates vs yoga: which is better for you?

When you want to shake up your fitness regime and do something bendy, should you pick Pilates or yoga? Health and fitness writer Amy Abrahams gives a balanced view for Benenden

Benenden

Pilates and yoga are both fantastic for improving muscular and postural strength. While similar, ‘yoga is made up of a series of static postures and pilates is based on putting yourself into unstable postures and challenging your body by moving your limbs’, says Dawne Likhodedova, founder of Be Pilates. 

Each practice has its own benefits. So before hitting a class, consider these options:

If you want to build strength…
Pilates uses resistance, positions and apparatus, such as the Reformer machine, to engage muscles, leading to impressive body conditioning. ‘It’s good for the mind-muscle connection,’ says Dalton Wong, founder of Twenty Two Training and co-author of The Feelgood Plan. ‘The older you get, the more muscle mass you lose, so pilates targets the specific muscles responsible for a strong, stable body, leading to muscle definition.’

If you want flexibility…
Yoga is recognised for improving flexibility, posture and balance. But its benefits for your bones and joints go further – a study last year found just 12 minutes of yoga a day can lead to an improvement in bone quality. If you’re a beginner, try something gentle like Hatha yoga, or Iyengar, which uses props, such as blocks and straps, to help alignment. For something more dynamic, try faster-paced Ashtanga.

If you have back pain…
For non-specific lower-back pain, the NHS says there’s some evidence pilates can offer relief, thanks to its focus on the core and use of supportive apparatus. Meanwhile, a University of York study found that regular yoga can lead to a significant improvement in back function and ability to undertake activities. So it’s a tie.

If you want to hone your abs…
While yoga works the abdominals in a generalised way, pilates ‘particularly increases strength and tone of abs and core muscles’, says Likhodedova. Try this ‘hundred’ move: lie on your back with legs in tabletop position (hips and knees bent at 90 degrees, so the shins and feet are parallel to the floor), lower back slightly flat to the floor, and arms by your side with palms down. Draw in your stomach muscles. On an exhale, lift the head and shoulders from the floor. While flexed forwards, pulse arms up and down – building up to 100 times – before lowering head, shoulders and feet back to the floor.

If you’re feeling stressed…
Yoga’s focus on spiritual wellbeing and meditation (especially the relaxing savasana, or ‘corpse’ pose, that often ends a class) makes it ideal for improving mood. ‘Yoga is great for breath and reduces stress levels,’ says Wong. Not just that, researchers at Boston University School of Medicine found that three sessions of yoga a week can lessen anxiety and help fight off depression. And breathe…



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  • 3x4_34

    Feldenkrais is even better than Pilates and Yoga.