What’s the Difference Between Yoga and Pilates?

Breakdown: Difference Between Yoga and Pilates

What’s the difference between yoga and Pilates? Many of us get these two mixed up – even I do! That’s understandable because many times they sort of get mixed together, even if by mistake. That’s why I had a few experts come in and give us a thorough breakdown of exactly how these two differ. So what’s the difference between yoga and Pilates? Glad you asked!

Let’s clear the confusion

When it comes to the difference between yoga and Pilates we first need to take a look back in time.

Nityda Bhakti, the founder of The Yoga Wellness Space, LLC helped break down the historical difference between the two. For instance, she spoke about the fact that yoga is a stretching/flexibility / spiritual practice over 5,000+ years old. She added

She added that “The practice of yoga is backed by several philosophical texts including The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and The Hatha Yoga Pradipika just to name a few.

What's the Difference Between Yoga and PilatesOn the other hand, Nityda explained that compared to yoga, Pilates is a newer phenomenon created by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s.

Pilates is a system of calisthenic exercises performed to improve your overall strength (especially core) and was, “Devised by one man, whereas yoga has a more complex and spiritual origin.

Basic Underlying Differences

Audrey DeLong, the owner of On Water Yoga, helped break down the basic principles of the two. Basically, yoga differs from Pilates because it is more about the spiritual aspects (it’s a practice of mindfulness, awareness, kindness, non-judgment, self-control, etc., as outlined in the 8 Limbs of Yoga) and stretching, while Pilates focuses on strictly physical exercise.

She explained, “Except for one Pilates instructor, I have seen no mention of mindfulness in this exercise; with yoga, however, mindfulness is foundational.

Like yoga, Pilates is normally performed on a mat but can also employ equipment to make it more strenuous.

What’s Best For Beginners?

All of our experts agreed that both yoga and Pilates were a great way to improve your overall health (more on that later). As DeLong explained, “I wouldn’t say that one is more suitable for beginners, it just depends on what the practitioner is seeking. Pilates focuses on core strength. Yoga is about balance, so it includes core strength, but also stretching and remaining flexible, mind, body, and spirit.

One key difference is that there are so many different forms/styles of yoga compared to Pilates. For instance, there are yoga classes dedicated to just core strengthening, just stretching, just meditation, just joints, and ligaments, just breathing, etc.

DeLong called yoga a “playground” because of the large variance of styles while, “Pilates is very focused; it’s about building core strength in your muscles, period.

Tips For Getting Started

As with any exercise program, make sure to be cleared by your physician before beginning. Likewise, it’s a great idea to take a class or two to help you understand the basics.

This can also involve speaking to the class instructor and trying a few classes to see what you enjoy the most. DeLong explained that because there are so many variations, “Feel free to move on if those particular classes aren’t fitting your needs and goals. Both Pilates and yoga can be very intimidating and strange to beginners. Different teachers have varying experience, training, and abilities and we as students don’t always connect with them for various reasons.

All exercise is about you as the student, and it is meant to provide the best for you to be healthy, happy, and whole. Be open, and have fun!

When it all comes down to it, Bhakti said that “Really, Pilates and Yoga are great compliments to one another. Many modern-day yoga classes in the west incorporate a “core wave” or core exercises into the class because this is important for a healthy spine and general overall health. So taking a Pilates class is beneficial to yogis. (and vice versa)”


Our experts agreed that both can be incredibly great for you.

The main point is to not be intimidated by either and just get started!

So when it comes to the actual difference between yoga and Pilates, now you know!

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