Choosing between Pilates and yoga

Pilates and yoga have become increasingly popular, and they’re often talked about together. You may even have heard that they can relieve back pain, decrease stress, and increase strength.

Both focus on moving with the breath and using diaphragmatic breathing — pulling breath deep within the belly. Both disciplines require mental focus, may help reduce stress, and can be tailored to your specific fitness level. So how do you pick between them?

And can these low-impact exercises really deliver all of these health benefits?

Health Benefits from Pilates and Yoga

Depending on the types of exercise you enjoy most and your personal fitness goals, both can serve as excellent ways to provide your body with an additional type of physical movement. Both forms of physical activity allow you to focus on specific body parts to improve overall strength and muscle tone.

There are specific movements that set yoga and Pilates apart, but both can provide health benefits, such as:

  • Improving your range of motion.
  • Increasing your flexibility, balance, and core strength.
  • Alleviating stress, headaches, and pain.

The two exercises are compared and contrasted below to help you make an informed decision when choosing a workout plan.

Visit our website or call 412-623-3023 to learn more about the services offered at UPMC Center for Integrative Medicine.



Pilates: Strength, Toning, and Resistance

Pilates focuses on strength, toning, resistance exercises, deep chest breathing, flowing movements, and repetition. It provides a mild to moderate cardiovascular workout. The movements involved in Pilates will tone and strengthen various muscle groups — with a focus on the core — to help you excel in workouts or build up muscles after injury.

Pilates is often practiced on a special mat. You can also use resistance bands and reformer machines to create adjustable resistance for additional strength building.

Yoga: Balance, Breathing, and Poses

Yoga focuses on balance, relaxation, deep abdominal breathing, and flowing or fixed poses or postures to help you achieve inner peace and tranquility that can carry over into your daily life.

Yoga also provides a mild cardiovascular workout. Through repeated practice, you may experience greater strength throughout your body and better flexibility in your joints. It can be helpful for people of all fitness levels, and the stretching used in yoga can also provide a warm up for other exercises. There are many different kinds of yoga you can practice. Some types of yoga use more flowing movements while others use yoga poses that you hold.

Yoga does not require equipment other than a yoga mat. Optional yoga blocks can be used to provide support and a yoga strap can be added to aid in stretching.

Focus on balance Low impact Focus on strength
Mild cardio workout Increase core strength Mild to moderate cardio workout
Increases strength Increases flexibility Increases strength and tones
Heals achieve inner peace Increases balance Uses resistance exercises
Helps with relaxation May alleviate stress, headache, and back pain Uses high-intensity movements
Uses deep abdominal breathing Improves range of motion Deep chest breathing
Fixed postures and flowing movement   Flowing movements
Physical and mental health   Physical exercise
Yoga mat, optional blocks and strap   Pilates mat, optional bands and reformer


Wondering if you should ask your doctor before taking up yoga or Pilates? Learn more in the article Should You See a Doctor Before Starting an Exercise Program?

Visit our website or call 412-623-3023 to learn more about the services offered at UPMC Center for Integrative Medicine.

Editor's Note: This gallery was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .