“What do you like better, yoga or Pilates?”
You’d be hard-pressed to find someone in the fitness industry who’s been asked that question less than a dozen times…this month. My honest truth is the same answer your mother will give if you ask her which child is her favorite: I love them both for different reasons.
Whatever perceived rivalry may exist between yoga and Pilates should certainly be dissolved because the two are actually perfect complements to one another. Here’s why:
The breathing you do in yoga is distinctly different than Pilates breathing. In yoga, you are encouraged to breathe into your belly. This kind of breath requires your abdominals to be relaxed, allowing the belly to move outward on the inhale. In Pilates, you practice ribcage breathing, which emphasizes keeping the abdominals engaged and expanding your ribs on the inhale. Neither way of breathing is wrong, and it’s actually great to practice both. The more awareness and control you have over your breath, the easier it will be to access either method, allowing you to focus more on the movement.
2) Stabilize the stretching
I hear people say all the time that they don’t do yoga because they’re not flexible enough. First of all, there is no such thing as being “flexible enough” to go to a yoga class. There’s no sign at the door saying your forward fold must be this good to ride. Secondly, that’s the whole reason to go to yoga! The emphasize on length is critical for people with tight hamstrings and hip flexors from sitting at computers and steering wheels all day.
It’s important to balance so much stretching with stabilizing, which makes Pilates a great companion. And when the person on the mat to your right looks like a member of Cirque du Soleil, it’s easy to let comparisons get the best of you and push yourself too far. Pilates focuses on specific exercises within a small range of motion in order to strengthen joints. Strengthening + stretching = happy joints.
3) Stronger abs foster better balance
Here’s an obvious statement: Pilates involves a lot of abdominal work. What’s not so obvious is that stronger abs can greatly improve your balance. Picture one of those inflatable men at used car lots. They are anchored at their base where a fan directs air up into their body and arms. Because the base, the heaviest and strongest part, is so secure, the rest of the body is free to wave and flop around.
Your center of gravity works in largely the same way (though it may not grab attention from the freeway). Your pelvis is the heaviest part of your body, and the muscles surrounding and supporting it generate power. This allows freedom in the extremities.
Next time you’re struggling to find your tree pose, try channeling your Pilates training. Draw your navel towards your spine and magnetize everything towards your center line. You may feel fewer wobbles—and more control.
Author: Ali Weeks