Yoga vs. Pilates

It's an age old debate in the fitness industry about which is the superior form of exercise. They have similar themes so how do you know which one is best for you? As a general rule of thumb if you are stiff you should be doing yoga if you are bendy you may be better suited to Pilates. The truth is you will benefit from both and there's no harm in doing them both in your routine. If you want to come down on one side of the fence though here are some key differences to help you choose:


Yoga was developed over 5000 years ago in India and has evolved into many forms. It uses poses and breathing techniques to focus the mind and improve strength and mobility. It is typically associated with flexibility but there are many aspects within yoga alongside getting more bendy. It is a form of exercise Here are the pros for yoga:

  • It's more spiritual

  • It has strength and flexibility work combined

  • There are many types to suit all levels

  • Often includes meditation and mindfulness

  • Promotes a sense of body awareness and control

  • Some evidence to support it's use in improving mental health as well as physical benefits


The legend has it that Joseph Pilates, a German immigrant in the UK during the war, developed Pilates or 'controlology' when working in a hospital in the 1920s. Using modified equipment and like pulleys and springs, he found his patients would do better than those left to rest. His method was then adapted and adopted in the dance world and has now become a mainstay of the fitness industry and rehabilitation. There are mat and equipment Pilates classes to add variation. Here are the pros of Pilates:

  • It's all about the core - very ab focussed for a flat stomach

  • Promotes precision movements and good postures

  • Focuses on control and body awareness

  • Includes stretching and stability work

  • Often uses resistance and equipment

  • Some evidence to support it's use with back pain recovery

  • Focuses on elongating and strengthening the muscles

Bare in mind:

If you are already bendy you DO NOT need to stretch more!

Being super flexible is not a skill it's genetic and there is such a thing as too flexible. I have had patients who are hypermobile (too bendy/double jointed) who have overdone it with the stretching side of yoga and ended up with low back pain and nerve symptoms such as sciatica. So a word of warning if you are already flexible, use yoga for the strengthening side not to get even more bendy!

In the same way I've had patients who have taken yoga in the wrong way, I've had people go overboard with the 'control' aspect of Pilates. In this sense people hold their abdominals in too much and barely move the mid section of their body or relax when breathing! This can lead to stiffness and poor movement patterns so you need to be careful with how much you're focussing on one thing.

Both are great forms of exercise and I know I'm someone who would benefit greatly from both, having some issues with control but also being very inflexible! If you are more at the stiff or bendy end of the spectrum then you may be able to see a clearer answer in which one is best for you. There are many different forms of both and the key is finding the right teacher who you find sets the right pace for you. If you are completely new to either concept I would start with some one to ones to feel like you are more aware of what your body can be doing as in big classes you won't get the attention you need at the start.


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