In the last few years, yoga and Pilates have become popular methods for getting more fit. Some of the postures are similar, but there are differences.
Yoga originated in India around 5,000 years ago. Hatha yoga, popular in America, is one of the yoga paths meant to transform the body so a person will be more able to grow spiritually.
Yoga itself is not a religion or a system of beliefs, but is a set of techniques that can allow anyone to find their own spirituality.
Hatha yoga uses controlled breathing exercises called pranayama (pran-e-yama) and postures called asanas to produce deep relaxation.
Teachers of yoga believe that through the spiritual quest associated with yoga practice, one will also gain health, happiness, tranquility and knowledge. Yoga is frequently used to enhance the ability to meditate.
There are many schools of yoga, so no two yoga teachers or yoga classes will be alike. It is estimated that there are more than 200 different yoga asanas, so the combinations are endless.
In contrast, Joseph Pilates developed techniques he called Contrology in the early 20th century. He used controlled breathing and various exercises, sometimes based on yoga asanas, to bring oxygen to the muscles and to develop core strength in people who needed rehabilitation. The exercises focus on the muscles in the abdomen, lower back, hips and buttocks.
During his life, Mr. Pilates worked frequently with dancers who were prone to injury and pain. Eventually, his techniques became popular with people who just wanted to become more fit. His clients not only exercised on a mat, but also used an apparatus called a Reformer that produced resistance on the muscles with ropes and springs.
Both Pilates and yoga:
- Emphasize the flow of movement to encourage flexibility;
- Improve balance, coordination, strength and posture;
- Can be adapted for individuals with physical limitations;
- Have been used by people suffering from chronic diseases, including heart disease, fibromyalgia, scoliosis, Parkinson disease and cancer; and
- Improve posture and reduce stress in children.
Even though you can purchase good DVDs and books on Pilates and yoga, you will learn faster and have better technique if you attend at least a few classes. Many local fitness centers now have certified teachers and in larger towns there are studios dedicated totally to yoga or Pilates.