by Deborah Harris
It seems that these days you can hardly turn on a television without hearing someone mention Pilates or Yoga. Articles on Pilates and Yoga fill numerous magazines and it seems “everyone who is anyone” is doing one or the other. Why all the excitement? What is so special about these techniques? What are the similarities and differences between Pilates and Yoga?
Yoga, as we all know it, is aimed to unite the mind, the body, and the spirit. Yogis view that the mind and the body are one, and that if it is given the right tools and taken to the right environment, it can find harmony and heal itself. Yoga therefore is considered therapeutic. It helps you become more aware of your body’s posture, alignment and patterns of movement. It makes the body more flexible and helps you relax even in the midst of a stress stricken environment.
This is one of the foremost reasons why people want to start practicing Yoga – to feel more fit, to be more energetic, be happier and peaceful. The Yoga movements are performed, mostly, in a group setting on a special Yoga mat with an aid of a Yoga instructor.
The body’s own weight is used for resistance and a great deal of focus is accorded to the flow from one posture into the other. There are many different Yoga styles and they differ in their emphasis. No one style is better than the other. The Style you use is a matter of personal preference or a matter of need.
Vinyasa Yoga, for example, makes use of modified Yoga Poses that are designed to meet the specific needs of an individual and to enhance healing, flexibility and strength of joints. The poses also intend to promote the feeling of well-being and strength. Practices may also include meditation, reflection, study and other classic elements, but the emphasis of this branch of Yoga practice is on coordinating breath and movement. As you can imagine, given the scope of practice, the inherent therapeutic applications and the heritage of the lineage, the training requirements for teacher certification are extensive.
Pilates seek to reach much the same goals, also via a series of controlled movements. The major difference is that the Pilates technique not only has a full complement of matwork, but it incorporates work on the Pilates machines. The emphasis of the exercises is to strengthen the abdominals, improve posture, stabilize and lengthen the spine, improve balance and overall strength. Pilates gives you a longer, leaner, dancer-like line.
Unlike many other training programs, Pilates works the whole body, emphasizing control, precision and concentration in both the mind and the body. Movements are not performed rapidly or repeated excessively instead, the focus is on quality not quantity. The abdominal muscles, lower back and buttocks (“powerhouse”) serve as the center of all movement, allowing the rest of the body to move freely. This focus on core stabilization makes one stronger from the inside out and is critical for the advancement of the client.
The low impact nature of Pilates makes it ideal for injury prevention and rehabilitation. Its six principles-concentration, control, centering, breathing, flow and precision-train the body to move efficiently with minimal impact on the body. The balance between strength and flexibility creates a healthy, vigorous and symmetrical workout for all muscle groups resulting in a leaner, more balanced, and stronger body.
If after reading about both techniques you are still left with a question of which of these two fitness techniques is right for you then here is the answer: Do them both in conjunction! The nature of the techniques makes it easy for them to complement each other. Get the stretch from Yoga and keep it from Pilates. Strengthen your abdominals on the reformer and watch your poses improve.
Join the breathing techniques of Pilates and meditative aspect of Yoga into your daily routine and see the stress of your everyday life, begin to dissipate. Both techniques are time-proven, established, and with the help of an experienced instructor, you will surely reach the goals you set up for yourself!
Deborah Harris runs her own Pilates & Yoga NJ studio – Premier Pilates & Yoga in Warren, NJ. Check out www.Yoga-n-Pilates.com or call us at (908) 754 5901 for further information on Pilates and Yoga, and for tips on picking the right studio for you.
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