Which is better - Yoga or Pilates?

That’s a very common question for beginners in yoga, and a valid one too.

I mean, there are a lot of commonalities between the two forms of exercises. Both involve a great deal of stretching. Both involve exercising using a mat (although pilate may involve machines as well). Even some of the postures look very similar. Well, I have tried both forms of exercise, and to me, the real difference in the two is more in the spirit than the form.


Yoga originated in India, and is steeped in ancient Indian culture. More than a physical exercise, the practice focuses on uniting the mind, body and spirit through exercise, breadth and mediation. That is the reason why many yoga classes start with a simple om chant that is meant to clear the mind.

Pilates, on the other hand, was developed by Joseph Pilates during World War I in the 1920s. The exercises were originally designed with the objective of rehabilitating WWI soldiers to recover from diseases and injuries.

Differences in practice

Since the objectives of the two forms of exercise are so different, their practices differ in subtle ways too. Pilate focuses more on improving core strength, i..e muscles in your pelvis, back, abdomen, torso, etc, that help you to stabilize. In many moves, you hold your one part of your body (e.g. your torso) in place while moving your limbs in different directions. This helps to build up the core muscles in your body, which in turn helps to improve your stability and balance.

Yoga, on the other hand, involves bending, stretching, twisting and flexing your body in various postures in coordination with your natural breathing. Building up core strength is but one aspect of the practice. The mental aspect of clearing your mind of clutter is an equally, if not even more, important aspect.

So which is better?

Well, I am a yoga girl at heart, so I will try to be as objective as possible here.

Whether yoga or pilates suits you better depends ultimately on yourself. If you are after more physical conditioning and less of the “new age” ideas like being at peace with yourself, then maybe pilates will suit you better. On the other hand, personally, I find pilates more physically tiring than yoga. It is more common to have painful muscle aches and sores after the class, which may or may not be a good thing.

Yoga, on the other hand, is a more natural and relaxing form of exercise to me. I always think of yoga as giving yourself a good body massage. Instead of a masseur working your tensed muscles, you are the one who will work through each of your body part. At the end of the session, I always leave the session feeling very peaceful and relaxed. And for that night, I will have a very good and sound sleep.

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