Whats The Difference Between Pilates and Yoga?

Are yoga and pilates the same thing? This is a common question that I hear from patients as they seek other forms of safe exercises outside of their physical therapy regimen. The answer is no- they are very different forms of exercise and are not indicated for certain musculoskeletal conditions. Each follows a certain philosophy and methodology.


All poses or asanas are done on a mat on the floor. You will be introduced to poses done while standing, sitting, kneeling, on your back or stomach, and on all fours. Poses are taught in certain sequences, usually starting with sun salutations and ending with cool down stretches and rest (savasana). Advanced classes introduce challenging poses, like balancing on your forearms or hands or full binds (wrapping your arms around your body with fingers interlocked) that require a lot of strength and overall flexibility. Classes will also use props, like straps, blocks, and blankets to provide stability and decrease joint/ muscle tension during poses.

Different styles of yoga include iyengar, restorative, chair, astanga, vinyasa, kundalini, bikram that are all derived from hatha yoga. Some styles, like astanga and vinyasa, are more rigorous and others, like kundalini and restorative, include breathing techniques (pranayama).

Precautions/ Contraindications:


Pilates is a set of exercises done on a mat or on a pilates apparatus. Pilates focuses on building strength of the core and hip musculature and are executed while sidelying, seated, back/ stomach, and on all fours. Props, such as a pilates ring, ball, foam rollers, and yoga blocks are used to cue awareness of alignment, muscle contraction or to make exercises more challenging. Percussion breathing is taught to pair a series of inhalations and exhalations with rhythmic coordinated movements and is used to help build overall endurance. Mat classes follow a certain sequence, usually starting with warm up exercises lying down, then progressing to more challenging exercises holding the pilates abdominal curl (double leg stretch, criss cross, teasers, rolling like a ball- open leg rocker, pilates 100, single/double leg pull), sidelying hip series, and then ends with stretches done in sitting, kneeling, or standing.

Pilates apparatuses include the reformer, cadillac, guillotine, tower, and chair. The pilates reformer is commonly used in a small class format, while the other equipment are used in private sessions. Spring attachments on the apparatuses are adjusted to modify resistance.

Precautions/ Contraindications:


by Helen Kim, PT, DPT

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