If you practice yoga, Pilates can help to complement your yoga practice. Yogis who practice pilates as well, can create greater stability, better alignment and have stronger cores. This deeper strength can give greater control over your movements, allowing you to move between poses and hold them for longer.
Pilates is an 85 year old system of body conditioning, which can complement asana practice. It’s focus is on building and engaging a strong core - essential for advanced yoga poses. It was developed by Joseph Pilates, who studied a number of forms of exercise including yoga to come up with the practice.
Similarly to yoga, the focus is on connecting the mind and body to create the movement, but the movements themselves are very different. How Pilates and yoga are different is that while yoga holds each pose for a while, or flows through in vinyasas, Pilates is a practice which one repeats precise movements up to ten times in a rhythmic flow. The method to pilates is an emphasis on the controlled flow of movement.
This focus on targeted movements that develop core strength in Pilates, can help yogis to build a strong and stable center, lengthen the body and increase your awareness of your alignment. Pilates can help you get stronger, avoid injury and advance into trickier poses that you may be struggling with.
The emphasis with Pilates is the proper use of the core, to support the spine and back, and create stability in the core. Your core muscles are the deepest layer of your lower abdominal muscles, including your pelvic floor or the lower back muscles closest to your spine. Strengthening these muscles will allow your spine to move safely without causing pain or injury and improve flexibility - which are essential in yoga.
Pilates also helps to improve posture and correct any imbalance in your body. It can help to strengthen the weaker and unused muscles in your body, and relieve tension in thigh muscles.
Pilates also helps you to become aware of any imbalances you have between the sides of the body. Bringing balance to the body is very important in yoga, as incorrect posture and imbalance can lead to injury, pains and aches in the body, as well as joint problems.
Pilates can help your yoga practices, as a strong and well engaged core helps you hold you balance better - which is useful for poses such as Tree pose and Headstand. This in turn helps your mind calm, allowing you to reap the mental benefits of a yoga practice.
Having that core strength that Pilates builds up can also prevent strain on your body and joints. Poses like Child's pose can put stress on the hip joint, if you don’t have any core strength to support your joints.
However, it’s not just your core. Pilates is whole body fitness, which trains your body as a whole. Pilates workouts promote balanced muscle development and increase range of motion in your joints. It’s hard to find a whole body workout quite like it.
You can also try the practice whatever your level and needs. The foundations of Pilates can be picked up by any age or fitness level. There are thousands of exercises and modifications, with pilates being able to be tailored to your individual needs.
Pilates helps to create long and lean muscles which are useful in yoga and more difficult asanas. Instead of creating bulk muscles for show, you are working to build toned muscles that work together in the body, cultivating functional fitness needed for all sorts of activities. Pilates uses a type of muscle contraction and eccentric contractions to create these lean and strong muscles. This works towards a safer stretch of the muscles and helps increase the range of motion in your joints, helpful to all yogis on the mat.
Posture is also improved by practicing pilates. Good posture is a sign of good alignment and a strong core, and it’s essential in all movements, especially during yoga. Pilates trains your body to have good posture through its movement and repetition through the exercises.
Finally, Pilates can increase awareness and improve the mind and body connection that’s essential in yoga. Joseph Pilates created the practice to be about the complete coordination of body, mind and spirit. Practicing each movement with total precision helps to connect the mind and body, and increase awareness - similarly to how yoga helps connect both aspects.
By Amy Cavill
Why not try it? Our 5 Day Pilates Yoga Fusion Intensive with Claire Petretti Marti will help you reap the benefits of both practices to improve your time on your yoga mat!
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