Confused about the differences between yoga and Pilates and wondering if one trumps the other, in terms of a full-body workout? Us too. 

We asked experts in the field, Annie Kirwan and Lee Tracey, ahead of their opening weekend at the new R E F O R M A T I O N studios, to explain a little further. 

While there are similar principles and aspects between the two, ultimately choosing one over the other comes down to what makes you feel better, what works better for your body and what do you enjoy more. Both classes consist of movements completed with awareness on your breathing, movements focused with alignment and technique in mind and observing how your body is moving and adapting.

But to get to the nitty-gritty, here’s some background on both as well as some common questions that might help you choose.

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  • Pilates was developed by Joseph Pilates from Germany who wanted to develop a system of movements to help strengthen, stabilize and build balance in the core and body.
  • Pilates is a great way of building core strength, stability, preventing injuries or rehabilitating following injuries. There are a number of movements that can be performed on your mat and there is also Reformer Pilates which uses apparatus to complete movements.
  • Pilates classes usually focus on the movements, they can sometimes include music, use of equipment and are suitable for all ages, men and women, and all levels of abilities. 
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Squeeze your abs *warning ramble ahead* Pilates for me is all the subtleties. Trying to figure out your body, your patterns and lay down good movement patterns that serve you. It is about whole body movement. It is not about having abs but a body that moves well, has solid foundations and that will be still be moving beautifully in 50 years. God knows I love a challenging class. But the most advanced practise is to challenge but keep control.  With that in mind, there are some classic Pilates phrases that make me die a little inside each time I hear them. Squeeze your core, scoop your tummy, lift your pelvic floor. These are just generic cues that don't take into account the individuallity of each body. These cues overly activate certain tummy muscles and can put pressure on pelvic floor muscles, leading to serious issues. For so many of us it is not switching on tummy muscles on that is the problem but being able to relax them, control them and have appropiate engagement. It is about coordination and timing. It is about alignment, breathe and body awareness. Overly squeezing your tummy muscles is like that drummer in the band gone a little cray and out of sync with the rest of gang. Yes you might get tone but at what cost.  Pilates is often known for being about a strong core. But that is only a small bit of the picture. It is a whole body movement program. Everything in your body is linked. How you stand on the your feet, how you breathe, how you hold your jaw, the thoughts you think, your stress levels and so much more all have an effect on your movement. So the whole point of this ramble is to say we must take into account the whole body as your move, we need to get off our backs and do less crunches. And mainly to say our bodies are incredibly smart. We are equipped with a system that innately moves incredibly well. So if we take a step back and look at the bigger picture of our movement habits, our stress and our breathe and look after these aspects you will usually find much better benefits that just squeezing your tummy.  . . . #pilates #breathe #core #abs #tone #movement #pelvicfloor #pelvichealth #wholebodymovement

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  • Yoga was first practised in India and has a much longer history than Pilates. It is rooted in years of practice and philosophy based on reaching a sense of unity and bliss, connecting to our soul.
  • Yoga classes, in contrast to Pilates classes, may include grounding and centering techniques such as pranayama (breathing practices), meditation and relaxation in Savasana (lying down at the end of class) to develop an overall sense of well being, allowing you to calm your body and mind.
  • The physical practices in yoga are similar in its benefits to Pilates, developing strength, coordination, balance and awareness of movements with your breath. Postures and sequences can also be much more flowing and focus on also developing flexibility in the body.

What if I am not flexible enough or strong enough?

Often people fear what the levels will be like, if the class will be too ‘advanced’ or if you will be able to keep up. If that's your concern, make sure to speak to the teacher before you attend and express that you are a beginner. Look up classes that are specifically labelled as beginners classes and a great option is, to begin with a course so you can learn all the fundamentals consistently for a number of weeks before availing of drop-in classes. It also means you’ll have been shown the basics properly and will be less inclined to hurt yourself.

What are the other people involved like?

You might also be unsure of trying something new and different and wonder what the other people in the groups will be like, will it be all chanting and candlelight or will it be full on competitive exercising. Don’t worry, as I mentioned classes are available for all types and styles, so if you are looking for yoga/Pilates for your age group, for sports, for strengthening, for women or men only or for relaxation you will find details in the class descriptions and make sure again to speak to the teacher before you attend. If you sign up for or attend classes with your particular need in mind, you will more likely meet like-minded people and feel more at home.

Do I need to buy anything or how do I prepare for classes?

Both yoga and Pilates are great ways to keep active affordability-wise. Besides kitting yourself out in some luxe lycra (which is entirely your own prerogative), the only expense should be your class or course fees. For most classes all you will need is a mat, a water bottle and a towel. If there is any other specific equipment needed usually the studio or teacher will provide it and if you don’t have a mat to begin with, most studios will rent you one for a nominal fee.

Yoga and Pilates are super ways to keep your bodies in balance and to take time out and ease the mind, they are similar but not the same, so make sure to experience both and see what is best for you.

And you can experience both, at our UMove event in the REFORMATION Studios with Annie and Lee, on Saturday 23rd February. Just click here sign up for the last few remaining tickets.  

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