It’s the age-old question that is frequently asked by members in health and fitness centres around the globe, ‘which is better, yoga or Pilates, and which will give me the best results’? To answer the question yourself you first need to be clear about what health and fitness means to you and what you’re looking to achieve.
Yoga and Pilates have evolved independently in different corners of the world with yoga’s home in India, and Pilates in Germany. Whilst both are uniquely different, both have benefits for the mind and body and together are a powerful combo for athletic performance.
Yoga essentially means union; union of the body, mind and breath. It is an ancient system of philosophies, principles and practices that aim to cultivate health and happiness, and a greater sense of self-awareness and higher consciousness. Whilst in the West many are familiar with the physical practice of yoga, a true yogic lifestyle goes beyond this to include proper nutrition, proper relaxation, meditation, and study of the self and ancient philosophy. Yoga isn’t just about mastering a system of movement; it’s an entire way of being.
I have found yoga to be incredible for relieving stress, anxiety and developing resilience. The latter I have found is crucial for long-term happiness and getting through tough long durance racing. Its focus on correct diaphragmatic breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, the key system that allows us to feel calm and peaceful. When our body is calm and peaceful it burns energy efficiently, strengthens our immune system and calms our monkey mind. Yoga is also unsurpassed in enhancing flexibility and increasing range of joint motion. For those long distance runners, cyclists and Crossfit junkies with sore and stiff muscles, yin yoga is the perfect antidote with its key focus on breaking up stiff connective tissues in the body.
Pilates, however, is a system of exercise with emphasis on posture, alignment and core conditioning. Popular with dancers and gymnasts, Pilates is also used globally by health practitioners looking to rehabilitate clients with back injuries and other structural ailments. I have seen first hand the impact a regular Pilates practice can have on rehabilitation of a back injury. Unable to sleep from chronic pain and fearful of being on pain medication for life, I started practicing Pilates 3-4 times a week. Within 3 months I was pain free. Understanding that the foundations of functional movement and athletic performance all stem from core strength, correct alignment and posture, I knew Pilates was going to be a permanent fixture in my diary. So if you’re looking to improve athletic ability or move into more challenging yoga poses, add in a few Pilates sessions to develop that cracking core strength.
So what does health and fitness mean to you? If you’re looking for a strong core to carry you through long runs, or you’re recovering from injury Pilates would be your first choice. However, if you’re looking for reduced stress and anxiety, better mental resilience and improved mobility and flexibility, then yoga would be my top recommendation.
But, if you’re like many and want to have your cake and eat it too, then my advice is to combine them both.
Are you looking to boost your performance using the powerful practices of yoga and Pilates? Try a 1:1 session with me today.