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Pilates and yoga offer a wide range of health benefits.
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Yoga and Pilates have many similar benefits, though their philosophies and founding principles are very different. Both practices sculpt your whole body in a way that improves your body-mind awareness. In general, Pilates better benefits those whose priority is strength building and calorie burning, while yoga benefits those looking for an activity with more general and long-term benefits for overall health and well-being.
Psychological and Spiritual Benefits
Yoga is often considered a holistic practice, or even a lifestyle, whereas Pilates is a workout. Pilates is solely focused on benefiting the physical body, but yoga has a philosophical, spiritual and physical focus that stems from ancient Indian culture. According to Sadie Nardini, who founded a yoga studio in New York City, yoga is a spiritual path that aims to align you with your optimal self. Besides the benefits for the body, she mentions the psychological benefits of clearing the mind and finding peace through meditation. Yoga reduces stress and anxiety, lifts your mood and promotes a feeling of well-being. Though Pilates is focused on conditioning the physical body, it can also have benefits for your mental health by bringing your full attention to controlling your muscles and your breath. This can help clear your mind and improve your focus and concentration.
Pilates is more effective at strengthening your abs and obliques, though yoga is more effective at increasing your flexibility, according to a 2007 article by Naomi Barr, chief of research for "Oprah" magazine. Yoga may strengthen your arms and legs more than Pilates does depending on your level in yoga, since Pilates is very focused on your core and yoga tends to use various muscles in the different poses.
Neither yoga nor Pilates is a high calorie burner like cardio activities, but Pilates generally burns more calories than yoga. According to Barr, a 50-minute yoga class burns about 145 to 250 calories depending on the intensity of your practice. A 50-minute beginner's Pilates class burns about 175 calories, and an advanced class up to 375. Both activities help build your muscles, which raises your metabolism and helps you burn calories hours after your workout is finished.
Flexibility and Other Benefits
Both practices improve your flexibility and posture. Yoga is more focused on stretching than Pilates is, so it's usually the better choice if you want to increase full body flexibility and range of motion. This is important for preventing injuries and keeping your joints healthy as you age. In Pilates, you generally only stretch your back, hips and hamstrings. Yoga has the benefit of increasing your lung capacity, which can reduce the severity of some respiratory problems, including asthma. According to Nardini, yoga is also therapeutic for your internal organs. It stimulates hormonal balance; flushes out toxins from your muscles, organs and lymph nodes; and improves digestion.