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What Are the Differences Between Pilates and Yoga?

If you’re looking for an exercise to improve your strength, flexibility, and mindfulness, you’re likely to have come across Yoga and Pilates. But what exactly are they? Is Pilates just another name for Yoga? Do they have any unique benefits?

In this article, we will be exploring Yoga and Pilates and how they differ from each other.

What Is Yoga?

An ancient spiritual practice originating from India, Yoga is a meditative movement that drew inspiration from Buddhism, Hinduism, shamanism, and other Eastern religions. Over the years, Yoga has been adapted to different cultures, thus evolving into new forms and styles. For example, Westernised Yoga is more of a physical than spiritual practice.

A principle underpinning Yoga is chakras, energy centres that impact your health and well-being. Chakras are believed to determine how you experience reality; if they malfunction or become blocked, you may experience physical, psychological, and emotional distress.

What Is Pilates?

Pilates, originally known as “Contrology”, is an exercise method developed by Joseph Pilates to strengthen body and mind. It is popular used by dancers and athletes for conditioning as well as a rehabilitation tool for people who suffered physical injuries.

Pilates is originally built around six principles: beathing, centring, concentration, control, flow, and precision. The exercises in Pilates work on core stability, mobility, strength and flexibility with emphasis on alignment, muscle control, posture and breathing.

How Are Pilates and Yoga Similar?

Both have gained in popularity over the recent years and are well known for their benefits to both the body and mind. Both emphasise the mind-body connection with focus on control and awareness of the internal body and movement.

How Are Pilates and Yoga Different?


Given its spiritual origin, Yoga focuses on integrating the mind, body, and spirit. Physically, Yoga focuses on achieving and moving between different poses that often require flexibility, strength and control.

On the other hand, Pilates focuses on somatic (mind-body) movement with an emphasis on deliberate, intentional control and good alignment when executing the exercise and movements.


There are numerous branches of Yoga, with some being more fast-paced (such as Vinyasa Yoga) and others being more relaxed (such as Restorative Yoga).

There are two main branches of Pilates: Classical Pilates and Contemporary Pilates. Classical Pilates adheres strictly to the original teachings and methods of the founder, Joseph Pilates. Contemporary Pilates retains the original principles of Pilates but is open to adapting certain exercises and principles in accordance with modern scientific/medical research and might incorporate other forms of exercises and movements into it.

Range of Movements

When practising Yoga, you typically adopt a static pose or flow into a different position.

In Pilates, some fundamental exercises might initially isolate the movement to a certain part of the body (e.g. arm/leg) to teach body awareness, proprioception and control. Ultimately, the goal is for the entire body to be fully integrated in the movement and exercise.


Technically, both practices promote relaxation due to the focus on breath control.

The focus on relaxation is more obvious in Yoga as meditation plays a significant role in the exercise. Based on Eastern philosophy, Yoga encourages individuals to be mentally present and balanced, reducing stress and anxiety.

Pilates uses breath as a tool to facilitate the movement and exercise, allowing the individual to learn to coordinate the breath with the required movement. The focus on controlled and regular breathing indirectly helps to calm the body and mind.

Strength and Toning

Yoga is a full-body exercise that primarily relies on body weight to training the muscles in the body to promote better circulation and improved energy levels.

Pilates is a relatively more core-centric form of exercise that either uses body weight or spring resistance. It targets the local, deeper muscles within the body, helping to build a toner and leaner body and better posture.


Yoga is generally considered a mat-based exercise although certain props like the Yoga Block and Wheel may be used to assist or facilitate the exercises.

While Pilates can be done on the mat, it is also well known for its inventory of machines such as the Reformer. This is exceptionally useful for certain groups of individuals who might currently not be strong enough for mat exercises or might want to progress beyond using just their own body weight.


Pilates and Yoga are often considered interchangeable. However, each is a distinct practice with different focuses and benefits. Ultimately, your choice depends on what your end goal is—if you want to work out your body to improve your form, private Pilates classes might be a good option. However, if you want to focus on connecting with your inner self, Yoga sessions might be better.

If you’re looking for private Pilates in Singapore, check us out at Chuan Studio. We also offer somatic movement therapy and GYROTONIC® classes.


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