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Pilates promotes a longer, leaner body line just as yoga does, because it involves stretching, bending, and twisting the body while developing core strength. But Pilates is not particularly aerobic, so if you are looking for a big calorie burn, use Pilates as an adjunct exercise to running, walking, biking, or using a fitness machine at the gym. Pilates plus aerobic exercise makes for a comprehensive fitness plan, since Pilates increases strength and flexibility and can prevent injuries and improve athletic performance in the same way as regular yoga practice. Many athletes find the emphasis on core body strength in Pilates helps them in their other sports.
If you take an equipment-based class at a Pilates studio, certified instructors will guide you through use of the machines, which will stretch and strengthen different parts of the body. But you can get all the benefits of the six principles of Pilates from mat-based exercises, too. Many gyms offer mat-based Pilates classes, sometimes called yoga Pilates classes. Some are geared towards beginners and others are more advanced so if you want to try Pilates for the first time, ask at your gym or studio to find out whether the instructor caters to novices.
But you may not be as much of a novice as you think. Many mat-based Pilates exercises will seem familiar if you have attended any type of hatha yoga class.
For example, pigeon pose, a yoga posture that opens the hips, can be found in Pilates routines, as can plank pose, which is popular in power yoga classes as a way to build strength in the core body and shoulders.
Given the similarities between yoga and pilates, combination “yoga pilates” classes are cropping up at many gyms. Pilates has a slightly greater emphasis on core strength, and some people may find that they can build strength in Pilates that translates to an ability to reach more advances poses in yoga. Like yoga, Pilates is gentle enough on the joints to do every day if you wish, but be sure you vary the specific exercises so you don't suffer an overuse injury. As in yoga, it is possible to injure yourself while doing Pilates if you push yourself beyond your limits.
Pilates was inspired by yoga, and Pilates exercises incorporate six principles that reflect yoga principles:
Centering: Centering in Pilates is about engaging the body's core muscles, while in yoga, the concept of “centering” involves the mind as well.
Concentration: Concentration is essential to Pilates to maintain the correct balance and position in the exercises.
Control: There is no slacking off in Pilates exercises; all parts of the body are engaged and have a role in each movement.
Precision: In Pilates exercises, as in yoga, each part of the body maintains a position in relation to other parts.
Breath: Joseph Pilates emphasized the importance of taking full, deep breaths while performing exercises, and concentrated breathing is an important part of Pilates classes.
Flow: Pilates calls for moving through the exercises with fluidity and ease, which helps develop longer, leaner muscles.
Many Pilates exercises may be enhanced by using props such as bolsters, balls, or large, stretchy pilates bands.
A pilates move using a stretchy band that resembles yoga's reclining big toe pose is the single leg circle. In pilates, using the exercise band serves a similar purpose as the belt or strap in yoga. To do the one leg circle with a band, lie on your back with your legs in front of you. Wrap the stretchy band around the ball of the left leg and hold one end of the band in each hand. Pull on the band just enough to provide some resistance, and start by making small circles with the foot, pressing into the band as you do so.
As with many pilates poses, the benefits are similar to the yoga pose it resembles (reclining big toe pose). You will stretch and strengthen the hips and hamstrings.
The bottom line is, whether you choose yoga or pilates, you can find props to help you get the most out of each movement.