Pilates or Yoga – What’s the Damn Difference?

The difference between Pilates and yoga is like asking a PMSing woman to choose between eating a dish of ice cream or eating from the carton. Another way to put it is: Do you like to chant and be still? Or do you like to keep moving?

Both Pilates and yoga are based on many of the same principles.

One has been around for thousands of years, and the other is a baby.

And both provide enormous benefits for your health.

But why do so many people think they are the same? And you need be a pretzel to do them?

Well, let’s check it out.


Yoga dates back at least 5000 years. Stone carvings depicting figures in yoga poses have been found in archaeological sites in the Indus Valley. It is believed to have been created as a spiritual development practice (not religious as some believe) to train the body and mind to observe the self and become aware of their own nature. It is a union of the body, mind, and spirit. The poses (asanas) promote toning, strengthening muscles, flexibility, balance, and relaxation. While the spiritual aspect provides tools to help quiet the mind and become more grounded and tranquil.

Pilates which has only been around since World War 1, was developed by Joseph Pilates – a scientist, mechanical genius, anatomist, gymnast, boxer, self-defense trainer and yoga student. The Pilates method was originally developed by Joseph Pilates as rehab for the soldiers during the war and later helped with dancer’s injuries. There are over 500 exercises which are designed to build core strength, improve posture, balance, coordination, and stamina. Originally called “Contrology,” Pilates-based his work on the concept of a balanced mind and body.


Both methods work on:

  • the body and mind connection

  • stress relief

  • flexibility

  • strength

  • control

  • endurance

  • breathing

Why are they so different?



“In 10 sessions you’ll feel the difference,
In 20 sessions you’ll see the difference,
And in 30 sessions you’ll have a whole new body.”

Joseph Pilates

  • One person developed the method.
  • Can be done on a mat or specialized equipment: Reformer, Cadillac, Chair, Barrel.
  • The primary focus is on stabilizing and strengthening the core (abdominal muscles, lower back, and buttocks) or powerhouse.
  • The low impact (especially on the equipment) is ideal for injury rehabilitation and prevention.
  • All muscles groups are worked – even the smaller muscles – providing a more balanced body.
  • The fluid, precise quality of the movements is more important than the number of repetitions.
  • Each exercise is designed for a specific part of the body, so attention to detail and following original instructions is important.
  • You get a longer, leaner body with no muscle bulk.


“Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self.”
-The Bhagavad Gita

  • Yoga traditions have been passed down for many generations.
  • It is almost always practiced on a mat. The use of props has been introduced in more recent years.
  • There are a variety of styles ranging from gentle and nourishing to challenging and sweaty.
  • Breathing techniques (Pranayama) help to lower anxiety, stress and improve overall health.
  • The stillness required to hold the poses (asanas) helps to improve focus and concentration.
  • The spirituality component helps you to learn about yourself and go inward.
  • Meditation helps to calm your mind.
  • Sounds – chanting, gongs, singing bowls – help to balance the nervous system.

I can honestly say as a Pilates and Yoga instructor, that both benefit me. I teach Hatha Yoga (specific asanas with breath work), but I personally practice Kundalini Yoga. Dedicate the last 30 minutes before you go to bed to consciously disconnect from your day and turning your intention inwards. No, I’m not asking you to become a Zen Monk. This can be done in many different ways. @_LiveBalanced Click To Tweet Plus, I do Pilates for core strength, flexibility, cardio workout, and injury prevention or rehab when I need it!

And if you think Yoga or Pilates is just for the young, check out these two ladies:

  • At age 98, Tao Porchon-Lynch is the world’s oldest yoga teacher. She still teaches five classes a week and promotes wellness and positivity around the globe.
  • Joseph Pilates protégé, Romana Kryzanowska, transitioned at age 90. But in an interview in her late 80’s she stated that her day wasn’t complete until she spent an hour working on the reformer.

So with so many health benefits from each, why not give them both a try and see what works for you?

You might not have as much of a variety of styles with Pilates, but yoga goes from the traditional forms to more pop-culture including Silent Savasana and even Beer Yoga. Although, you might need Pilates to rehab injuries after this class! If you’re struggling to implement time to do either, check out the free WWC Family Meeting or come chat with me and lots of other people in the online community aka Facebook Group!

Patti Stevens is an Ageless Lifestyle Coach who helps women at a crossroad to take charge of their life. She is a certified Yoga, Pilates, and Qigong instructor, Holy Fire Karuna, and Usui Reiki Master and essential oil advocate. You can connect with Patti by visiting her website, checking out her Facebook page, and tweeting away on Twitter.