Yoga Vs. Pilates: What’s the Difference?


Although there are many similarities in the movements of yoga and pilates, the two disciplines, while complimentary, are in fact quite different.  Yoga is rooted in ancient philosophy, meditation, and self-study,  and the movements we think of as yoga are quite new in comparison.  Most of the yoga asanas were developed in the last hundred years, combining gymnastic, bodyweight exercises, and calisthenics.  


Pilates is named after Joseph Pilates, a German movement teacher of the early twentieth century who initially named his work “Contrology.”  His system became popular in New York City after he left Germany prior to World War II.  One of the primary differentiators in this modality is the use of Pilate’s inventions- using three primary apparatus; the reformer, the wunda chair, and the trapeze table, movements could be done against spring resistance.  The sliding surface of the reformer allows for new challenges in terms of stability and strength in a dynamic context. 



Yoga, however, is primarily a body weight activity, with the possibility of longer holds to build strength and endurance, as well as props to support poses.

In comparing the two disciplines, there are many similar shapes or poses- there are backbends called Cobra or Swan, planks, bridging, downward dog, elephant and more.  Pilates, however, is rooted in the fitness and rehabilitative tradition whereas yoga practice can be more rehabilitative, restorative, or incredibly gymnastic, depending on the class and teacher.  

Yoga has a separate goal- not so much to achieve the poses, but to cultivate a union behind body and mind.  Joseph Pilates also aimed to enhance bodily control, concentration, breath, and precision, much like yoga.  The two disciplines have more complimentary aspects than most people realize!



I started teaching pilates two years ago, after teaching yoga for 5 years, and found it a beautiful compliment to my Yoga certifications and practice.  Pilates apparatus offer new challenges, new movements, and the possibility of strengthening the body in more ranges of motion.  

Yoga offers the chance to focus on bringing attention inwards, contemplative practices, and also allows the nervous system to down-regulate at the end with a cool-down and Savasana (sanskrit meaning “Corpse Pose”) which offers a deep relaxation to the practitioner. In many ways, pilates offers the chance to cross train uniquely for yoga and other physical activities, and yoga offers a chance to integrate the body in a different way.

Give them both a try! Click here to learn more about the MBS Pilates offerings and here to check the MBS Yoga class schedule!


Kayleigh Miller, MBS Pilates Teacher. Click here for her full bio!