Yoga vs Pilates - Which is Best For You?

Yoga vs Pilates - Which is Best For You?

Which is best, Yoga or Pilates? It's a question that doctors, scientists, and exercise enthusiasts have examined ever since Pilates was first created.

Due to the different types of Pilates and the numerous styles of Yoga, it is difficult to get any clear cut answer for which is best; Yoga or Pilates. In short, it depends on your current fitness level and what you are looking to achieve. Although, both Yoga and Pilates score highly for increasing strength in core muscles and for improving mental health.

yoga mat

What is Yoga?

Yoga is a meditative exercise practice that originated in ancient India sometime around 3000 BCE. Yoga practice focuses on stretching and breathing techniques through a series of postures that are interconnected by flowing movements.

While yoga is a type of exercise, it can also be a deeply relaxing activity. Regular practice has been linked to stress relief and pain reduction, particularly in the back and neck.

There are multiple styles of Yoga, each consisting of its own series of hold poses. There's no straight answer for which style is best because it's different for each individual. So try a few different types of yoga to discover which one suits you.

What is Pilates?

Invented by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s, Pilates originated as a practice to help rehabilitate soldiers who had returned from war by improving their overall strength and flexibility.

Whilst yoga was an existing discipline that already offered some of these benefits, it was a more active series of exercises and poses that Joseph Pilates invented. The main goal of Pilates was to improve physical wellbeing through a series of movements to help increase muscle strength and tone.

Pilates is focused on active stretching, strength and conditioning work. Its most traditional form is Mat Pilates, which involves a series of exercises performed on a yoga mat. These are often broken down into beginner, intermediate and advanced levels. The benefit of this is that someone new to Pilates can quickly begin and then progress to more challenging postures in time.

What's the Difference Between Yoga and Pilates?

The main differences between Yoga and Pilates is that generally Yoga poses are slower, contain more deep breathing exercises and is more of a meditative practice, whilst Pilates focuses on the more physical exercises.

There are at least eight different forms of yoga, and some styles can be more strenuous than others. When it comes to Pilates exercises, there are really only three types - Mat Pilates, Contemporary Pilates and Reformer

Mat Pilates is the traditional form developed by Joseph Pilates and consists of exclusively mat work. Contemporary Pilates builds on this and uses modern exercise science to adapt the postures. In contrast, Reformer Pilates involves using a 'Reformer' or wooden rack to increase resistance and help maintain good form.

Pilates Benefits

The main benefits of Pilates are that through practising it, you can gain increased physical strength and muscle tone. Performing frequent Pilates exercises will help to build core strength and stability, which can improve a person's posture.

Pilates is also known to create long toned muscles and help to boost an individual's BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) or the calories used by the resting body.

Yoga Benefits

Yoga can improve digestion, focus the mind, make you more flexible, and help you to achieve relaxation. Studies have uncovered evidence suggesting that yoga can help with a range of muscular pains and reduce stress.

Those who practice yoga over an extended period find that their commitment is rewarded in the form of better mental health, increased fitness, and better self-control.

As well as this, a yoga class ends with Shavasana - a pose that requires you to lie on the floor on your back. After all, who doesn't love a little lie down at the end of an exercise session? 

Yoga vs Pilates: Which is Better?

There is no right or wrong answer because it's all down to the individual and what they want to achieve. Sometimes Pilates is better, and sometimes it's Yoga.

Don't be afraid to experiment with both, as well as mix and match. The body responds well to new things, so it's a great idea to change things up every once in a while.


Which is Better for Weight Loss, Yoga or Pilates?

Losing weight comes from both calorie burning and muscle building, so both Yoga and Pilates have a role to play. Certain styles of yoga, such as 'hot yoga', burn more calories than something like Hatha yoga which is more sedate.

A Mat Pilates or Reformer Pilates class can be pretty intensive, putting pressure on the heart and, in turn, burning a significant number of calories. As with all exercise, the length of time and relative intensity both impact the number of calories burned.

But remember, weight loss is not all about burning additional calories. Increased muscle tone helps you lose weight as a muscular body uses up more calories daily than an untoned one.

What is Best for Beginners, Yoga or Pilates?

Yoga is generally thought to be better for beginners as it's easy to start with simple poses and then progress from there. Forms of Hatha yoga such as Kundalini yoga are suitable for beginners as classes can be slower and require less physical effort than something like Vinyasa or Bikram yoga.

However, Pilates does feature several exercises that are suitable for beginners. So in that way, it comes with a helpful stepping stone for those who wish to give a Pilates class a try.

How often should I do Pilates?

Depending on your base level of fitness and how experienced you are, it's usual to do Pilates up to 3 times a week. With a few items of home gym equipment, it's easy to build Pilates sessions into your weekly routine.

Some people do Pilates every day to maintain core strength, and there are no adverse effects from doing Pilates every day.


If it came to a straight-up bout in the ring, Yoga vs Pilates, it would be fair to say that the odds would be pretty much 50/50. Both have their strengths and could land a few solid punches. Yoga is loved for its mental health benefits and its connection with increased self-awareness.

Pilates is favoured for its aerobic qualities and the toned physique that it so often creates in those who practice it.

So why not try a little of both and see where it takes you? Every small step you take towards better health and wellbeing today, is worth ten tomorrow.