Contents

What Dr. Melinda Ratini Says:

If you are looking to strengthen your abdomen and pelvis as well as maintain good posture, then Pilates is for you. It also has a strong mind/body connection, so you may like it if you enjoy yoga but need a more intense core workout.

Pilates is great for strengthening and toning with a focus your core and for increasing your flexibility. Since it is not designed to be an aerobic activity, don’t forget your cardio!

Pilates involves precise moves and specific breathing techniques. It’s not for you if you prefer a less structured program. It also won’t fit your needs if you are looking for an aerobic workout.

Pilates can be very demanding, so start slowly. Instructors do not have to be licensed, so it’s best to get recommendations before selecting one.

Is it good for me if I have a health condition?

You can tailor Pilates to your individual needs, so it can be a great addition to your aerobic workout, even if you have health issues like heart disease, high blood pressure, and cholesterol. Check with your doctor first.

If you have diabetes, you may need to make some adjustments in your diabetes treatment plan, since adding muscle mass helps your body make better use of glucose. Your doctor can tell you what changes you need to make. Tell your instructor that you have diabetes and particularly if you have any complications such as diabetic retinopathy. You may need to avoid certain Pilates moves.

If you have arthritis, a strength-training program such as Pilates is a very important part of your exercise program. Research shows that a combination of aerobic exercise and strength training can help curb symptoms, maintain balance, keep joints flexible, and help you get to and keep an ideal body weight.

If you have had a recent back or knee injury, put off Pilates until your doctor clears you. Pilates strengthens the thigh muscles (quadriceps), and this may help prevent arthritis and knee injuries. It may also help prevent greater disability if you have arthritis.

Ask your doctor if Pilates would be a good choice if you have chronic low back pain. It will help strengthen your weak core muscles that may be adding to your pain. For the best results, seek out a Pilates instructor who has at least several years of experience working with people with low back pain.

If you are pregnant check with your doctor. She will probably let you continue Pilates if you are already doing it, as long as your pregnancy is going well. There may be some changes needed as your belly grows. For example, after your first trimester you shouldn’t exercise while lying flat on your back because this reduces blood flow to your baby. There are also special Pilates programs for pregnant women that you can try.

13 Pilates FAQs: Expert Ana Caban Fills You In

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Author: Guest Contributor

We talked with Pilates expert Ana Caban and asked her to answer some of the top questions about Pilates.

1. What is Pilates?

Pilates is a full-body exercise system that uses a series of machines and exercises. It works the entire body, both the right and left sides, in unison. It focuses primarily on what Joseph Pilates called the “powerhouse” or the group of muscles that begins two inches below your navel, goes two inches above your navel and then wraps completely around your front and your back-kind of like a corset. It also includes your buttocks. With Pilates, no matter what exercise you’re doing, you are focusing on this powerhouse area.

2. What is a typical beginner Pilates exercise like?

The first exercise you do is “the hundreds” which consists of 10 breaths of 10 counts to equal 100. You lie on the floor, lift your legs up to about a 45 degree angle, or wherever you can hold them, and keep your back flat. While holding your legs in the air you engage the abdominals and lift your head and shoulders off the mat so you are in a scoop. Then you pump your arms by your side, almost as if you were slapping on water, pumping them up and down.

Because both your legs and head are up in the air it forces the blood to go to your heart and pumping your arms back and forth forces the blood through your body. You’re getting your circulation going and stimulating your organs making it both an internal and an external workout.

3. How is Pilates different from other forms of exercise?

Pilates is different from most exercises out there because it’s non-impact and safe, and it really works on using the body as a whole. You’re either lying on your back, on your side or kneeling on the floor where it’s safe. When you move the body, you’re trying to move it from the powerhouse, using your abdominal wall to protect your back. You’re also working the body very evenly and symmetrically, making sure one side is not working harder than the other.

4. What would you say is the key difference between yoga and Pilates?

There’s definitely a mind-body connection and a very similar fluidity in both. But one difference is that there’s a whole line of equipment in Pilates that doesn’t exist in yoga, so it provides a different angle: You’re doing exercises with the assistance and resistance of springs and pulleys. The springs may assist you or they may make an exercise more difficult, depending on the exercise.

5. How do I know if Pilates will benefit me?

I can’t say that it’s great for everyone in every scenario, but in my experience, I’ve only had clients feel better after doing it. Injuries begin to cause less discomfort or go away completely.

Pilates can help you lose weight, get relief from back pain, tone your trouble spots, or recover from injury. It’s also being used more and more as therapy to help people with certain serious illnesses such as cancer.

6. Is Pilates a cardiovascular workout?

Initially the workout is slow moving because everything is being explained to you. Eventually, once you learn the workout and you’re going through the motions, it becomes aerobic. You can get a cardiovascular workout when you’re on the equipment and working on an advanced level because it’s more physical. And some classes and Pilates DVDs alternate classic Pilates moves with sequences of heart-rate boosting exercises for a double-duty effect. You have to work towards it, but Pilates can be cardiovascular.

7. Many claim that Pilates reshapes the body. How does it do this?

Pilates has completely transformed my body and the bodies of most of my clients. I think it comes from using the powerhouse and really focusing on and strengthening the abdominal wall, teaching it to lay flat and be strong. If the stomach is sticking out, you’re going to train it to stick out. In Pilates you’re always thinking of this inward pull as if the navel is going in towards the spine and then lifting up slightly, pulling all of your abdominal wall very flat.

You also make long, fluid, larger motions that lengthen and stretch the muscles.

If you’re consistent with it and make a commitment to yourself, you can see a change in your body.

8. Pilates machines look like torture devices! Why would I want to get on something like that?

Some Pilates equipment can look like some kind of medieval torture device, which is ironic because it makes you feel so good. The most commonly used pieces are the reformer, the cadillac and the mat, but there are several other small pieces of equipment, too.

The reformer is a rectangular frame with four legs and a cushioned mat, or carriage, that slides back and forth on wheels with the resistance of springs and pulleys.

The cadillac is a trapeze-like table that’s 26 inches off the floor and has a canopy from which a trapeze, springs and pulleys hang. Because it’s elevated, it’s nice for older people if they have trouble getting down on the floor.

Finally, there’s the mat — the ideal apparatus for Pilates because there’s nothing helping you. It’s only you, your body weight and your alignment making the exercises fluid, controlled and precise. Get advice here on whether you should do Pilates on a mat vs. on a Pilates machine.

9. What should I look for in a Pilates instructor?

Because Pilates is so hot right now, there are a lot of different organizations claiming to offer certification using the movements of Joseph Pilates. So it’s important to use your judgment and really get a feel for an instructor. Become knowledgeable about their certification and education — and their years of experience.

I studied for 600 hours. When I finished those 600 hours of observation, practice and written and practical exams, I had barely scratched the surface.

Also, make sure they have insurance. Ask questions.

10. How often should I do Pilates? Is it like weight training in that you need to rest your muscles for 48 hours between workouts?

Pilates is safe enough to do every day. Initially you may want to do it every day so you get a rhythm and become consistent; then a good goal is to do it every other day. Joseph Pilates used to say to do it three times a week.

11. Can you talk about the six “principles” of Pilates?

  • Concentration. This is the most important principle in Pilates. You must be very mentally present as you do the exercises, aware of every aspect of your body’s movement, alignment, sensations, muscle flexes…
  • Control. Every movement is to be done with control, so you aren’t just throwing your body around.
  • Centering, so that you are evenly using your body. Think of a plumb line down the middle of the body working both sides evenly.
  • Fluidity. A smooth transition from one exercise to the next important because once you’ve learned the routine, it should look something like a dance, where every movement flows into the next.
  • Precision. You try to make each movement as precise as possible; alignment, placement of your limbs, position of each part of your body is paramount and a central aspect of how and why Joseph Pilates designed this system of exercise.
  • Breath. How you breathe is very important in Pilates exercises. You don’t want to hold your breath at all. Deep, steady breaths will help you maintain concentration and precision, too.

12. Will my body be sore after a Pilates class?

Feeling sore is a very individual thing. Some people don’t feel sore. Pilates is what you put into it. If you’re really conscious and making an effort to make every movement count, you’ll most likely feel something the following day. It also has to do with your athleticism. If you’ve been sedentary, you’re probably going to feel it more than someone who’s very active. It’s all relative.

13. How can beginners get the most benefit from Pilates?

Be consistent, especially in the beginning. Don’t just try it once. Give it a few shots and do it in succession. Make it your reward, your break from a hectic day. Also, listen to your body and really concentrate — it makes for a better workout.

Someone once told me that you need to “arrive” for Pilates, meaning you have to be there mentally as well as physically. To get the most out of Pilates, you have to be very present. Your body and mind will thank you.

I took Pilates every day for a month — and was shocked by the physical and mental results

  • I tried going to a Pilates class every day for a month.
  • Though I didn’t go every single day, I made it to 26 classes over the course of the experiment.
  • At the end of the month, I had a stronger core and much better posture, as well as slightly lessened anxiety.

In May, a fancy Pilates studio in Brooklyn sent me an email. Inside was an opportunity to get unlimited Pilates classes for a month for a ludicrously low price (a deal that, at the time, was offered to anyone who had attended a class at the studio through ClassPass). Drawn like an athleisure-clad moth to a Lululemon flame, I signed up without a second thought.

Then, I thought about it some more. I know myself, and while I have a history of being attracted to any and all things wellness-related, I’m more prone to talking about wellness endlessly than I am to actually doing the things I need to achieve it. No matter how good the deal was, I knew it was useless if I didn’t have an accountability principle that actually got me in the studio frequently.

So, I forced accountability upon myself and pitched my editor an idea in which I would see what happened to my body if I were to try going to a pilates class (at East River Pilates in Williamsburg) every day for a month. Here’s what happened.

My first week of Pilates was uneventful.

Pilates, if you are unfamiliar, is a type of exercise routine founded by German physical trainer Joseph Pilates. According to Pilates.com, it was originally intended it to be a rehabilitative exercise. It has a focus on the core, and, over the years, it has become a standby as far as standard celebrity workouts go — Jennifer Lawrence, Miley Cyrus, and Selena Gomez reportedly all practice Pilates. Because of this, the workout is more or less ubiquitous. Even if you haven’t practiced Pilates, you’ve probably seen photos of people doing its exercises, like “100s” or “teasers,” which target the abs.

Most studios offer classes on a mat — usually with props like weights, elastic bands, and a squishy plastic circle called a Magic Circle — or a machine called a reformer, which basically looks like a hospital bed with pulleys, ropes, and levers attached. The intensity level depends on the studio but, for the most part, Pilates is comparable to a barre or somewhat-intensive Vinyasa yoga class. It can be tough, but the focus is mainly on toning, not cardio, so it is unlikely that you will leave a class dripping in sweat.

My first week was pretty uneventful. I’d done Pilates before, and I work out fairly regularly already, so, other than one class in which an instructor hold a plank for several more minutes than I personally would have chosen, I made it out OK.

At the end of the first week I looked like this.

Me after a week’s worth of Pilates classes. Sara Hendricks

By the second week, I learned that I had to take the lessons from Pilates outside of the studio to see true results.

To find out what might happen to me after a month of Pilates, I talked to Kimmy Kellum, an Australian expat and ex-dancer, who founded East River Pilates several years ago while recovering from a hip surgery due to an old dance injury.

“Are you sore?” she asked me when we met in a coffee shop in Williamsburg. I was, kind of. But I didn’t feel the same kind of agony that I had felt after the first (and last) time I had ever tried a CrossFit class.

This, as I found out, is kind of the point.

“One month is a great introduction, but in terms of permanent change, you have to develop habits,” Kellum told me. “The way I see Pilates, it’s a chance to redefine patterns in your body for daily activities. We all have these little habits where we may sway our back too much, or we may put too much weight on one leg, or we don’t have even strength in both legs, and Pilates highlights those weaknesses as well as the strengths in your body. Because of this, it also gives you a chance to realign your strengths.”

Mats, balls, and Magic Circles at East River Pilates. East River Pilates

To see real results, Kellum advised me to take a more holistic approach to Pilates — as in, doing my best not to forget every single thing I had learned in a class as soon as I left the studio.

“It’s great if you practice Pilates regularly, but if you get off your mat and you don’t bring anything that you learned in class into the real world, it might not benefit you as much,” she said. “Ideally, in a successful Pilates experience, you would come away with an ability to take in new knowledge and understand what you need to improve in day to day life.”

This hit close to home. On a physical level, I have always had terrible posture. Whenever I sit down — which, as someone who works at a desk eight hours a day, happens pretty frequently — I inevitably end up slumped over with my shoulders hunched up by my ears, which probably isn’t great for my spine.

And, on a mental level, I have also always had genuinely terrible anxiety. Exercise helps — which is why I do it frequently — but any effect it has rarely lasts longer than a few hours afterward. I always feel balanced right after a long, hard run, for example. But sooner or later, my feeling of disembodied dread returns.

After talking with Kellum, I thought about what it might be like if I could carry the satisfaction I felt after a Pilates class throughout the rest of my day. I began to try and push my shoulders back and keep my chin up, even when I didn’t have a Pilates instructor telling me to knit my core together so I had a foundation to do so.

By the third week, everything was going a little too well, so I decided to challenge myself.

The open-level classes I was taking weren’t exactly easy, but I had gotten significantly better at them than when I had first started. (Long planks, for example, were literally no sweat by this point.) So, I figured, it couldn’t hurt to up the ante a little and try my hand at an advanced class.

Pilates reformers at East River Pilates. East River Pilates

As it turned out, this did hurt. I don’t fully remember everything that happened in the class — it was 7 a.m., and I try not to register much of anything before 9 — but I remember being in a good deal of pain as we did some things that I had not thought were possible with a Magic Circle. (To be clear, the rest of the class seemed fine with it.) I was inconsolable and shaking for the rest of the day.

But then, I went back to the same advanced class a few days later, and it was a smidge easier. See — growth.

I did not go to Pilates every day, but I still saw major results physically and mentally.

As is often the case in life, stuff just got in the way sometimes.

But I did try, and, as far as “trying” goes, I think I did a pretty good job — over the course of the month, I went to 26 Pilates classes, which, if I am allowed to round up, counts as a success.

Here’s how I looked by the end of it.

Post-pilates month. Sara Hendricks

I’m not putting a ton of stock in the before-and-after photos, which usually have more to do with what you’re wearing, what you ate that day, the angle of the photo, and how you’re posing than anything else.

Weight loss also wasn’t a goal for me in this experiment, so I can’t say how that ended up changing for me (if at all). But I did notice a pretty big difference in how I felt. I was more aware of my body, in a good way — even when I wasn’t in a Pilates class, I felt much more in control of my movements than I had before. By the end of the month, my legs felt firm, my core felt strong, and, when my mom visited one weekend, right before the fourth week of my Pilates training, she told me that my posture looked “much better than usual.”

More importantly, I found that I liked Pilates quite a lot, if only for the ritual that went along with it. I liked packing my gym bag before I went to bed, setting my alarm for 6 a.m., hustling to the subway by 6:30, and sliding into the morning mat class right around 6:58 a.m.

Once I got to class, I knew I would work my right side, my left side, and some things (or, more likely, many things) would happen to my core. Then, it would be over.

This kind of guaranteed symmetry is very satisfying, and not often found in real life outside of a structured workout class. I also found that the simple task of exerting some energy in a measured, balanced way seemed to temper my nerves a little bit.

I can’t guarantee that exercise (and Pilates specifically) will work for everyone with anxiety, but there is some evidence that it could. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, regular exercise can be as effective as medication for some people to reduce the symptoms of anxiety, and a study done at Princeton in 2013 found that exercise can help create new brain cells and limit anxiety.

All the same, scientific studies notwithstanding, I am not trying to say that attending classes at a Pilates studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn is the equivalent of therapy. But establishing a state of equilibrium before 8 a.m. every day somehow made going through each day a little bit easier for me.

So, did Pilates change my life? Hardly. But, for me, it was something that worked — and, for now, I intend to keep doing it.

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Yoga? Yes. Spinning? Yes. Reformer Pilates…ummm no.

That is until I committed my yoga-doing butt to doing Reformer Pilates at Heartcore three times a week for three weeks.

I wasn’t going to get over my fear of those huge, terrifying machines for just anyone – Heartcore have a faultless reputation so at least I’d be safe hands (I thought as I waved goodbye to my usually stationary lunch hours).

Heartcore describe their Dynamic Pilates classes as ‘the most effective body + mind workout’. I don’t disagree but the notes I made after my first week there read: “Pain. Such agonising pain. Pain like never before.”

I’m not even being that dramatic but just to clarify, by ‘pain’ I mean that telltale muscle ache you get when you’ve really pushed it in a workout. The notable thing about this ache, though, was that it was all over – in places I didn’t even know I had muscles before.

Pilates has been loved by many for years for its low-impact, spine-aligning, muscle-sculpting effects but reformer pilates takes it one step further. By adding in the reformer machine you’re able to test and stretch your body in more dynamic, powerful ways. In the hands of Jess Schuring, founder of Heartcore, this means a carefully constructed workout that combines high intensity reps with challenging postures which together sculpt and define your body in a unique and effective way.

There’s no getting around how genuinely difficult Heartcore’s pilates classes are, thankfully the classes are small so you get plenty of support and attention from the instructor who will adjust the resistance and postures to suit you.

In my first class I found just rolling on the bed of the reformer and ignoring the fear of falling flat on my face a challenge, but by week three I was doing pikes with added resistance – the challenge is high at Heartcore but you improve rapidly. The classes are also soundtracked by upbeat, uplifting music and the moves are timed to the beat meaning the class whizzes by in what feels like minutes.

Here’s how my pilates journey progressed…

Week 1

Honestly, week one was just about feeling the fear and doing it anyway. It takes a few classes to get used to rolling the bed with different moves, adding and removing resistance and getting your posture correct.

In fact I was so focused on executing the moves correctly I barely noticed the fact I was actually challenging (and changing my body). Until the next morning of course when PAIN, SUCH PAIN.

Week 2

Three classes in and suddenly the reformer machine seems much less intimidating and I’m starting to put more energy into the amount of repetitions I’m managing and what resistance I’m using. I’ve noticed that my body craves the class too, sliding into the postures feels so gratifying and stretching out at the end is pure bliss.

Even though it’s only week two I’m already so much better than during my first classes. It’s partly confidence but it’s also increased strength and focus meaning I can push myself into the more challenging postures like plank to pike repetitions.

Throwing myself into each move more also means more pain after class. I spend this whole week incredibly conscious of my muscles, all of which feel worked. It’s nothing an epsom salt bath can’t soothe and it feels amazing to know I’m working my body properly.

Week 3

It’s official. I’m stronger, I’m also leaner. No one but me would notice the change in my physique but after three weeks that’s enough for me. My stomach is definitely flatter but most noticeably my posture is better, I’m holding my head high and my alignment is much improved and this people do notice.

Importantly even after doing the same class three times a week for three weeks I’m nowhere near bored. Each class brings with it a fresh challenge and as you master a move there’s always a way to go deeper or adjust your positioning to step it up a notch.

Sign up for classes at Heartcore here

Roanna Day Roanna is the Digital Editor of Red Online.

7 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting Reformer Pilates

Reformer Pilates is a lot like regular Pilates, but instead of being performed on the ground, it involves an elevated machine called a reformer. Said machine includes a footbar, resistance springs and straps and requires some serious balance. It’s tough, and if you’re considering Reformer Pilates for the first time, it can be intimidating.

But don’t let that sway you from giving it a whirl, because it’s a healthy, low-impact workout that can result in significant gains in strength, muscular endurance and flexibility.

After months of trepidation, I finally tried it. And now, it’s a mainstay in my exercise regimen. My only regret is I didn’t start it sooner.

So below: seven things to know before trying Reformer Pilates yourself. Here’s hoping they make your first time easier than mine.

1. PILATES SOCKS ARE A THING AND THEY ARE MANDATORY

Plenty of workouts require equipment, from yoga mats to spin shoes. In Pilates, you go shoeless and don socks instead — very specific ones, with rubber grips on the bottom to prevent your feet from slipping. They’re important for maintaining solid purchase throughout class. Because …

2. THERE’S A PLATFORM, AND IT MOVES

OK, this one I was peripherally aware of, but as someone who’d only tried Pilates on the very stationary ground, it still took some getting used to. Expect to perform all manner of lower-body and upper-body exercises on a moving platform — one that, yeah, you could fall off if you’re not careful.

3. YOUR LEGS WILL SHAKE UNCONTROLLABLY

It could be during a lunge, it could be during a one-leg squat but at some point during class, your legs will shake violently. It’s a product of burning out the muscles with a mix of resistance and high reps, and boy is it a doozy. Don’t worry: It happens, and it might continue happening as you build your endurance. So, if you start to feel extra wobbly, take a quick rest to recover.

4. BRUTE STRENGTH WON’T HELP YOU

Put me in a squat rack with the usual Pilates participant, and I like my chances. But when burning through a series of lunges … no. Different story entirely. Pilates requires a potent mix of strength, flexibility and endurance — and no matter how much weight you can lift, nothing quite prepares you for Pilates. Except doing more Pilates.

5. WHEN IN DOUBT, SLOW DOWN

Slow and steady wins the race. For the best results, concentrate on your form, not your speed. Deliberate, controlled movements target your muscles and provide the most gains for your efforts.

6. NOT ALL SPRINGS ARE CREATED EQUAL

Reformer Pilates machines have springs that allow you to quickly increase or decrease resistance. At many studios, they’re color-coded, with different colors representing different levels of resistance. So “put on one red and one yellow” is your cue to do exactly that. If the weight is too heavy (or too light), ask your instructor for modifications, and she might have you changing colors or dropping a spring.

READ MORE > 8 THINGS I WISH I NEW BEFORE STARTING HIIT

7. YOU’LL HEAR WORDS LIKE “MERMAID” AND “DANCING BEAR”

Which are, admittedly, a lot easier to understand than yoga’s Sanskrit terminology, but still confusing for the uninitiated. Just look around if you’re unsure of exactly what to do, and mimic the instructor or the person next to you. After a while, those terms sink in, and you’ll be flowing from a 100 to a frog without missing a beat.

In this time, I’ve gone from 84kg to 88kg.

Not only do I feel taller and with a far stronger core and glutes than before, but I have also seen my entire body get more muscular and better balanced as a whole. All without putting any extra fat on my physique.

As someone who’s spent most of my life working as an elite athlete, I’ve been genuinely intrigued as to how this is possible. Here’s my explanation of it.

The exercises we do when training on a reformer require total body movements with resistance from the springs we use on the machine, plus our own body weight.

This is done over a period of time – sometimes up to two minutes in one exercise without a rest, which is exhausting to the muscle group we’re working. Stretched over a 50 minute workout, hitting every muscle group, and the result is muscles that want to grow. What’s more, throughout the workout, the reformer holds us in a neutral alignment, protecting against incorrect form.

But unlike the gym, the movements work by both strengthening and lengthening the muscles giving an intensely toned, athletic look over time. The workout also really focuses on core strength and glute strength – and getting these right helps to create a body that holds itself straight and moves like it’s meant to, properly supported.

Thankfully for women, we’re seeing a shift away from an impossibly skinny look as an aesthetic ideal, towards a stronger, healthier aesthetic with defined musculature. This is exactly what I call a ‘pilates body’ – long, athletic and incredibly toned across every muscle group. And that’s exactly what our clients are seeing and coming back for.

Whether you’re female or male, it seems more and more people are finding this look far more attractive than the stockier ‘shorter’ look you see from people that pump weights regularly in a gym. It’s a body that looks like it’s really worked hard all over, not just focused in one spot.

Plus, it’s unfortunately extremely common to see people lift weights incorrectly at the gym or at crossfit and shortening their muscles, which can cause injuries too.

My belief is that as Pilates becomes more mainstream and users get to see the benefit for themselves there will be a significant shift from the gym body to the pilates body.

Of course, for some people, they really want to shift a lot of excess weight, in addition to achieving more tone, which is why we’ve added our Vive Cardio class to the schedule, which is a seriously calorie-burning workout. But for those that are closer to their ideal weight, our signature Vive Essential workout is enough to keep the fat off and build impressive muscle at the same time.

One is a holistic discipline originating from ancient India, the other a specific physical system devised by a German anatomist in the early 20th century, but there’s much cross-over – and therein lies confusion – between yoga and Pilates.

As practices today, yoga and Pilates are both celebrated for their numerous health benefits, from offering connection to the body and stress relief, to developing flexibility, strength, control and endurance. There are countless interpretations of both disciplines (and one person’s balance class is another person’s cardio) but what links them both is breath work.

Put simply, “the biggest difference between the two,” Jill Simpson, founder of yoga, Pilates, ballet and barre studio Ebb&Flow explains, “is the emphasis on the spiritual side in yoga classes.”

Zoe Bertali, yoga teacher at studio The Refinery elaborates: “Yoga is an integrated health management system using breath, movement and meditation to unite mind, body and spirit. It also incorporates elements of philosophy, science and an ethical way of living. Classes can range from gentle and nourishing to challenging and sweaty.” Indeed, there’s a yoga class for everyone out there; from the various more traditional forms like hatha and ashtanga to the creative interpretations such as antigravity yoga, laughter yoga, and even karaoke yoga.

“Pilates was created by Joseph Pilates who was an anatomist and a mechanical genius,” Bertali says. “It is a physical system that uses very specific targeted exercises to improve strength, flexibility and posture with particular focus on the core. It is a disciplined practice that needs to be done on a regular basis to provide benefit”.

There tends to be fewer wild variations of Pilates teachings, with traditionalists favouring mat classes and those seeking more fitness-focused workouts opting for classes on resistance-based reformer machines. Classical Pilates, which marries mat work with a whole host of Pilates apparatus, is considered to be the practice in its truest form.

The benefits for physical wellbeing

If you’re looking to develop core strength and balance, when practiced regularly yoga and Pilates are both ideal exercises for this. Given that many of the poses in yoga and exercises in Pilates involve supporting your bodyweight, they also work various muscles all over your body.

Generally, Pilates is a disciplined practice that requires small movements focusing on various areas of the body. Simpson says that while Pilates students primarily work on core strength (as noted above), they reap “added benefits of muscle toning, overall strength, body control, and flexibility”.

Bertali adds that “if you like a more structured workout without the cardio component this could be the workout for you.”

She also notes that yoga can help increase strength and flexibility through muscles and joints. “In active, fast-paced classes you are likely to build a lot of heat in the body which has a great regenerative effect” and, of course, you will burn calories.

“In slower practices such as Yin yoga, where you hold the postures for longer, you begin to work on stretching and moving the fascia which is the deeper connective tissue around the muscles and joints, which ultimately helps with flexibility.”

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The benefits for mental wellbeing

Research from MINDBODY has shown that 70 per cent of those who do yoga or Pilates say that it relieves stress for them. Both practices teach breathing techniques that can help to combat feelings of stress and anxiety, while both traditionally encourage students to align the body with the mind and spirit, taking time to focus on self-care.

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Being a holistic system, yoga is as concerned with the mind and spirit as it is with the body. Simpson says, “As well as yoga being a physical practice, it also includes a meditation practice. Taking the time to connect with the body, breath and mind – having the opportunity to slow down in our busy lifestyles and focus inwards to ourselves”.

However, Bertali feels that the physical postures in yoga, in addition to the breath work and meditation, can benefit the mind as much. “Yoga has an extremely balancing effect on the nervous system through the use of deeper breathing. It is a very detoxifying practice through the twists and turns of the postures, helping to bring hydration and fresh blood supply to the organs and joints. The focus and concentration required in some of the postures keeps you very anchored in the moment and out of the distractions of the day, which helps to create a bit of space in the mind.”

This is true of Pilates too. “As Pilates is a slower paced discipline that also focuses on the breath work, it can be extremely meditative and stress relieving,” Bertali says.

Simpson adds, “Pilates joins the body with the mind, it requires good concentration of your body and breath with a deep focus needed for advanced level Pilates all of which can help to boost your mental health.” But don’t expect classes to focus on meditation.

It’s also likely that with both yoga and Pilates – as one could argue with all workouts – that the simple opportunity to steal some ‘me time’ is another reason they’re celebrated for stress-relief, as MINDBODY’s Wellness Index demonstrates with a correlation between the amount of headspace people get and their levels of overall wellness.

The benefits for rehabilitation

Both yoga and Pilates are often recommended by doctors and sports therapists as aiding rehabilitation post-injury and also to complement various high-impact sports.

Bertali explains that “As they can both be slower, controlled practices, they can be used for rehabilitation for specific injuries through use of targeted postures. Equally for people recovering from depression or trauma, the re-balance of hormones created via physical movement and breath can have a beautiful calming effect on the body and the mind”.

Specifically, Simpson feels that Pilates may be more beneficial for recovery, while yoga may help prevent sports injuries and ailments. “Pilates is a series of targeted movements and adaptable solutions when injury or chronic pain impairs movement and performance. Specifically, Bertali says, “it can have a very restorative effect on lower back pain and poor posture”.

“Yoga is fantastic to aid with the stretching of muscles for people who play a lot of sports/run/cycle,” Simpson says. “Yin yoga would help support these people with their training and recovery to slow down and stretch into targeted areas”.

The benefits in pregnancy

With specific adaptations, yoga and Pilates are both considered safe – and highly beneficial – in pregnancy.

One of the most popular prenatal classes, yoga, helps to strengthen your core muscles, ease back pain and maintain muscle tone while being a gentle exercise that’s also kind to your joints and helps you to relax.

Simpson says that in prenatal classes, “We address the key areas of pelvic floor, aching neck and shoulders, loss of stamina and maintaining flexibility. I would really encourage expectant mothers to practise yoga, as it can improve sleep, reduce stress and help maintain a healthy posture during pregnancy too.” Indeed, students report a whole host of benefits.

Pilates is considered one of the most effective exercises in pre- and postnatal women as it targets the muscles that generally weaken during pregnancy.

Erica Foulds, master trainer at Ten Health & Fitness (where they offer prenatal reformer classes) explains: “During pregnancy, the body is constantly changing. Pilates is an effective and safe way to build the strength and endurance that will help you cope better with those changes. It’s also great for keeping the pelvis strong to assist the process of a natural birth; labour can last for several hours and core muscles will fatigue easily if they have not been trained throughout pregnancy.”

Foulds also states that “mothers-to-be who regularly exercise their core muscles can expect reduced lower back and pelvic pain and even shorter labours”. Well, here’s hoping.

Bazaar’s five favourite studios that offer both yoga and Pilates in London:

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Pilates vs. Yoga: The Differences and What’s Right for You

Pilates, yoga, Yogilates, PiYo. They all seem to offer similar workouts, so how do you choose? Pilates and yoga have significantly evolved in recent years. With different variations available at gyms and studios around the world, there’s something for almost everyone.

Yoga and Pilates are both low-impact workouts that focus on using bodyweight resistance. The benefits are vast. Both workouts can increase overall health, leading to a better quality of life.

As with any exercise, proper form is crucial. Modifications must be made for those with physical limitations.

Pilates

Pilates was developed by Joseph Pilates at the end of World War I. It was primarily used as rehabilitation for wounded soldiers. Pilates brought his method to the United States in 1923 and spent years refining his approach.

Pilates may:

  • increase muscle strength and endurance
  • improve flexibility and posture
  • lead to better balance
  • result in decreased joint pain

Pilates focuses on small movements that require the use of important stabilizing muscles of the back and core. There is a strong emphasis on starting each exercise with a controlled breath that initiates a contraction of the core muscles. Pilates can be done on a mat or on specialized equipment. The equipment is unique as it only uses springs, levers, and your own body weight to provide resistance.

Evidence suggests that Pilates may be beneficial for those with the following conditions:

  • arthritis
  • urinary incontinence
  • respiratory conditions
  • joint injuries
  • back pain

Yoga

The exact origins of yoga are unknown. But it’s been around for at least the past 3,000 years. Yoga has roots in shamanism, Buddhism, and other Eastern religions. It’s centered around the five beliefs of:

  • proper relaxation
  • exercise
  • breathing
  • diet
  • positive thinking and meditation

Mindfulness and deep breathing are key features in a yoga practice. Although there are many different types of yoga, holding various poses and flowing through different series of movements is standard in most classes. Yoga can be seen as a form of mind-body fitness. It combines physical activity and mindful focus. This brings increased awareness to the breath and energy.

The benefits of yoga have been studied extensively. In addition to physical and mental benefits, yoga is also known to have positive effects for medical issues, including:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • multiple sclerosis
  • arthritis
  • respiratory conditions
  • high blood pressure
  • chronic pain
  • type 2 diabetes

Yoga and Pilates similarities

  1. Both yoga and mat Pilates can be done with little equipment. They require only the use of a mat and a few additional props like a block or a Pilates ring, if desired.
  2. They both focus on using the breath properly during exercise and emphasize diaphragmatic breathing, or breathing deep into the belly.
  3. Both yoga and Pilates require mental focus and can help reduce stress. They can also be tailored to different fitness levels.

Yoga vs. Pilates: Which is better?

Yoga and Pilates are both great workouts. If you have a health condition, you may want to consult an instructor to determine what’s best for you.

Many forms of yoga require substantial flexibility and mobility of the joints, especially the spine, hips, and wrists. Although most poses can be modified, a person with severe limitations or pain may find it challenging to follow along in more advanced classes.

There are many different styles of yoga, including restorative yoga, acro yoga, and chair yoga. Finding what works best for your body is key.

Pilates can be a great exercise for older adults or those recovering from injury due to its low- impact exercises and subtle movements. There are many forms of Pilates. The main difference between them is the type of equipment used.

Equipment-based workouts use many of the same movements as in a mat class, but with added resistance. Mat Pilates is great for many people, but it can be more challenging for those with decreased mobility or poor core strength.

Pilates can be expensive, and access to equipment is mandatory for some forms of Pilates. As with yoga, Pilates can be modified, but proper teaching and performance of the exercises is crucial to avoid injury.

Warnings

Modify your workouts if you suffer from back or neck pain, or have respiratory problems. Talk to your doctor before trying Pilates or yoga if you’re pregnant or have other physical restrictions.

Always consult your doctor and a certified instructor before starting any exercise program. You may want to think about taking private lessons before jumping into a class or following a workout video. Incorrect form or pushing yourself past your limits may cause injury.

Next steps

Yoga and Pilates are both great additions to your weekly exercise routine. These workouts will help you reach your goals if you’re looking to:

  • build long, lean muscles
  • increase your flexibility
  • gain mental clarity
  • improve your core stability

Yoga can help deepen your meditation practice, improve your flexibility, and help with balance. Pilates may be better for recovering after injury, improving posture, and for core strength.

7 Key Differences Between Yoga and Pilates

Curiosity is probably one of the best qualities that an avid exerciser can possess. It keeps you intrigued and excited to try new and different types of exercises and Aaptiv classes.

Sometimes, however, it’s difficult to determine which exercises are best-suited for your strengths, your goals, and your body. Many people, for example, have a tough time choosing between yoga and Pilates.

The two exercises are often considered similar, but are, in fact, starkly different.

Here’s a basic guide to help you understand the ways in which these two popular exercises differ so that you can choose the one that’s best for you—or try them both!

The Varying Histories of Yoga and Pilates

Yoga is a sacred tradition that spawned in India some 5,000+ years ago. Its purpose was to connect the individual consciousness to the universal blissful consciousness.

“Together with asanas (postures), breath control, and simple meditation, it improves your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health,” explains Nichola Dunne, yoga instructor at YogaWorks in Brentwood, California.

“The repetition of the asanas and the attention to the details of the poses, helps to calm and quiet the busy mind while building flexibility and strength.”

Pilates is more new-age, although it’s been around for nearly a century. “Pilates was founded around 1925 by Joseph Pilates and was mostly used for physical rehabilitation,” according to Dunne.

“The main goal is to strengthen the core, improve posture, stabilize and elongate the spine, and develop balance and overall strength.” It’s since changed and developed dramatically over the course of the last several decades.

However, it’s main goals of strengthening the core, improving posture, stabilizing and elongating the spine, and developing balance and overall strength, remains intact, Dunne adds.

Aaptiv has yoga workouts that can help strengthen and tone your core. Download the app today and see all our workout classes.

More Than Just a Mat

While both exercises work the body in effective ways, they utilize totally different equipment. For example, Pilates uses machines such as the reformer, Cadillac, wunda chair, spine corrector, small barrel, tower, etc.

“These machines (for the most part) use a pulley system with varying springs for resistance and are used to assist the body in perfecting alignment, improving strength, and improving inconsistencies in the body,” explains Kit Rich, Los Angeles-based Pilates and fitness instructor who’s worked with Ke$ha and other celebs.

Yoga, on the other hand, uses mainly a mat, as well as minor equipment to aid in the poses, such as blocks, straps, or a blanket.

The Spiritual Component

This is perhaps one of the biggest differences between yoga and Pilates. To put it simply, yoga is a meditative practice.

This means that it works your mind just as much, if not more than your body. It also focuses on breathing techniques to help reduce stress, explains Stephanie George, certified yoga instructor and personal trainer.

“Pilates is more of a traditional exercise routine originally developed to help injured athletes, whereas yoga was created as a path to spiritual enlightenment through a series of poses,” she says.

The Method

The mind-body connection is the center of yoga. Therefore, it forgoes exercise machines of any kind. Instead, it allows the body itself to serve as resistance.

For this reason, the class runs starkly different from a Pilates class. “In yoga, each class typically ends with a guided meditation and savasana (relaxation).

While most Pilates classes incorporate equipment that’s used to challenge the body to ‘turn on’ and control muscles and body positioning in unstable environments,” says Sara Grout, master trainer and Pilates instructor at Club Pilates in the Denver area.

“Because of the ability to build stability in the core and throughout the body, Pilates is often used as a rehabilitation tool.” In fact, she also points out that many physical therapists use Pilates as part of their repertoire. Or they recommend clients begin doing Pilates once they have finished with physical therapy.

The Moves

The poses and moves performed during yoga and Pilates are quite different. The amount of time spent holding them is also quite different.

Typically, in yoga, you hold poses for far longer. This allows you to fall more deeply into each pose. You often repeat the flow of these moves, which you do not always do in Pilates, adds Rich.

In classic Pilates, you do not hold poses or repeat them in sequences in the same session. “The movements are shorter and with few repetitions with a major focus on control and precision. But once the move is done, you are onto a completely different move,” says Rich.

“However, both yoga and Pilates have the same goal of focusing on technique, breathing, and alignment when doing the poses.”

The Intention

Yoga emphasizes the mind-body and spiritual connection, and aims to focus the attention of the practitioner inward, Grout explains.

However, she continues, Pilates pays attention to the alignment of the body, in addition to the precision and control of each movement. “The focus is on the control of the movement,” she adds.

“Originally, Joseph Pilates designed these particular movements systematically with careful thought to their progression and benefit to the body.”

The End Result

Depending on what you’re trying to achieve from attending class, one or the other exercise might be more well-suited for you. As Rich explains, yoga works your entire body, whereas Pilates mainly focuses on the powerhouse muscles.

These are the deep muscles of the core and the muscles of the spine and hips, such as the lats and outer thighs. “If you’re taking a flow yoga class, it often focuses on the extremities—the arms and legs,” she adds. View our top yoga trainers in the Aaptiv app today.

It also depends on what you want to experience during class. If you’re looking for something more physical, George suggests going with Pilates.

But if you’re looking for something more mental, she suggests choosing yoga. “Many people choose to do both, however, and reap the benefits of a long lean body and clear mind free from stress!”

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