The Differences Between Yoga and Pilates (and How They Work Together)




Should you be practicing yoga and pilates? And if so, do you practice them together? The same day? Different days?

Or maybe you should just be practicing one or the other? But why?

These are some common questions yoga teachers get from their students and potential students. I’m here to set the record straight about the differences between yoga and pilates and how yoga and pilates both benefit you in different ways!

As a yoga instructor with a Masters in Science in Yoga Therapy and a certified Pilates instructor, I’m passionate about the benefits of both yoga and pilates. I believe so much in the power of both of these types of practices that I started a Pilates for Beginners class at MyYogaTeacher!

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Let’s dive into the nitty gritty of these two forms of exercise!


Yoga has a heavier focus on spirituality than pilates

While you don’t have to be a certain religion to practice yoga or pilates, yoga is definitely a more comprehensive practice as it pertains to bringing harmony to your inner and outer world. After all, yoga is an ancient practice, much older than pilates! And it is derived from several different religions, even though much of that has been stripped away in modern times.

If you are wanting to dive deeper into your own beliefs, a consistent yoga practice is definitely preferred over pilates.


Pilates is very structured while yoga offers more freedom

Don’t get me wrong! There are several types of structured yoga, such as ashtanga yoga. However, they still offer yogis room for different variations of poses and freedom of movement. 

A pilates class will be full of controlled exercises with repetitive movements matched to your breath. And each exercise will not necessarily “flow” into the next the way yoga asanas most often do. 

If you like very structured movements and exercise routines, you’ll feel very comfortably uncomfortable participating in pilates classes.


Yoga offers immediate benefits while pilates may not

After a yoga class, you will feel the surge of endorphins, serotonin, and other feel good chemicals almost immediately. You will feel both energized and relaxed at the same time. You may experience decreased pain in areas you had pain before you began your class. You will also get more cardio in with some types of yoga than you will with pilates.

Because pilates classes are primarily focused on small movements that build strength (particularly in your core), and not as much on whole body wellness, you may not reap the rewards of a pilates practice right away. It’s important to be very consistent in a pilates practice to see and feel the benefits.


Pilates is mostly a physical exercise, but yoga is an experience

This is the primary difference between pilates and yoga. Pilates is great for strengthening, toning, and connecting your body to your breath. But pilates does not include meditation, various types of breathwork, and certainly does not include any form of chanting or sound therapy like different forms of yoga practices do.

In a classical pilates class, you may use a resistance-based reformer machine or other tools to help you perform the exercises. Or you may only do mat pilates (like in my class)! Pilates is effective with or without a reformer machine.

I love pilates and believe wholeheartedly in its ability to help my students accomplish their goals. If you are accustomed to using yoga only as a form of exercise, then alternating between pilates and yoga will be great for you!

If you are more interested in having a whole body experience, where you can grow in your spirituality, develop your inner self as well as your physical, outer self, as well as strengthen, tone, and become more flexible, then a consistent yoga practice will be more your speed.

And if you want some of both, I encourage you to do both! That’s the beauty of yoga and pilates! 

Yes, you can practice both. I do not recommend you practice both on the same day, unless your yoga practice will be more restorative, such as yin yoga. 

Interested in learning more about pilates? Check out my Pilates for Beginners class at MyYogaTeacher! All are welcome!

At MyYogaTeacher, we have members from all walks of life, religions, and all ages, shapes, sizes, and abilities! MyYogaTeacher offers 1:1 classes with authentic yoga instructors from the birthplace of yoga, India! And if you haven’t experienced virtual private yoga classes yet, MyYogaTeacher makes 1:1 classes affordable and accessible! PLUS, with your membership, you get:

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