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Yoga and Pilates have much in common. Both have well-established track records of improving health and fitness, both struck the fitness world by storm in the past few decades, and both yoga and Pilates, with their astute focus on the body as a whole – from individual muscles to breathing patterns – help to maintain stress.

That may be where the similarities end, however, as yoga and Pilates are strikingly different in many ways. Weigh up the pros and cons of both forms of exercise and decide which is better for your fitness goals with our blow-by-blow comparison.


One of the oldest surviving disciplines of exercise known to man, yoga – which more accurately consists of several disciplines– originated in northern India about 5000 years ago. Incorporating spiritual, mental and physical elements, yoga is practised more as a way of life than just a form of exercise, with a strong emphasis on inner as well as outer wellbeing. Its aim is more than just personal fitness; rather, it seeks the rather loftier goal of amalgamating body, mind and spirit.

In stark contrast, Pilates dates back 80 years. It was invented by German athlete Joseph Pilates who similarly sought to improve practitioners’ mental and physical health. Many believe that Joseph Pilates was in fact highly inspired by yoga and Zen meditation.


When it comes to the tools of the trade, the contrast between yoga and Pilates is most obvious. Yoga is performed, quite simply, on a mat. It also requires props like straps, blankets and foam blocks to assist with various poses.

On the other hand, Pilates includes not only mat work but also quite high-tech power machines designed to help its practitioners perform to the best of their abilities.

Breathing focus

Both yoga and Pilates are great at making their proponents consciously focus on their breathing patterns, which in turn can promote mindfulness and help maintain stress.

In yoga, it is very important to use the nose for both inhaling and exhaling in order to achieve a deeper level of breathing. Pilates, on the other hand, is less strict with breathing, teaching its practitioners to inhale via the nose and exhale through the mouth.

Muscle work

And now, the big decider: which is more effective for the human body? Yoga, through its many stretches and poses, increases flexibility, lubricates joints and tendons, and tones muscle. Thanks to its focus on the whole body, and on the spiritual aspects of health, yoga is also known to help detoxify the body. It has been credited with massaging internal organs and even glands.

Pilates, on the other hand, also aims to condition the entire body but its focus is very much on core strength. It is also concerned with proper pelvic alignment and elongating the spine (which does wonders for your posture!). People practicing Pilates find that the exercise lengthens and strengthens their muscles, and also helps joint movement and increases muscle elasticity.

The final verdict

It’s a tough call, as both yoga and Pilates have their advantages. Ultimately, it depends on your motivation for seeking out a new form of exercise. If you’re aiming for a lifestyle change, and hope that you will condition your mind as well as your body, yoga is the obvious choice. For those wishing to gain more strength and a leaner physique, Pilates – though less demanding than yoga – is more targeted and probably more effective. But hey, why not try both?

About Author

Alana Kay is a nutrition and fitness expert. When she’s not fighting her personal best at the gym (at Fitness First Brisbane CBD – Elizabeth Street Platinum, 300 Elizabeth St, Brisbane, Queensland 4000) you can find her researching the latest nutritional breakthroughs.

Recommended: Use a voucher code MAS5385 to save an extra 5% when shopping for supplements on iHerb.

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