The Difference Between Pilates and Yoga

Pilates and yoga are often thought of as being in the same exercise category. They are gentler forms of exercise and meant to exercise the mind almost as much as the body. Pilates and yoga are vastly different forms of exercise despite these similarities. When you compare both you should be able to determine which one is suited for your unique situation.

Spiritual Vs. Health Origins

Pilates was developed by Joseph Pilates in the 1920’s and was inspired partly by yoga movements as a way to encourage healing after injuries. It is focused purely on physical conditioning, although some people report that there is a mindfulness element to it that reduces stress and encourages contemplation and self-awareness. This effect is secondary however, and not a part of the system in the way it is naturally part of yoga.

In contrast to this earthlier purpose and mindset, yoga originated in India and is thought to be thousands of years old. The original purpose of yoga was to train the body to elevate the practitioner into a state of self-awareness that would promote spiritual development. Yoga was fundamentally important to religious practices in India, and although much of that has been abandoned in western practice, most forms of yoga are focused primarily on the mental components and secondly on the physical elements.

Physical Benefits

Both forms of exercise work on stress relief, flexibility, and muscle control with a series of gentle movements. However, Pilates has a strong focus on core strength and the strengthening of specific muscles. In contrast, the focus of yoga is on flexibility and all over muscle strength. Movements in yoga are often long and flowing, involving the entire body whereas a lot of Pilate’s movements are more focused on a single area.


One important difference between yoga and Pilates is the equipment used to enhance the exercises. Pilates was designed to work in conjunction with equipment that the inventor called the apparatus, with many of the moves performed against resistance created by this apparatus. In contrast, yoga is mostly performed without any equipment, relying on body strength and gravity to provide resistance. In recent years, equipment meant to aid in yoga practice has been added, but this is a recent movement and not fundamentally part of the system.

Breathing Differences

How you breathe is a fundamental concern in yoga. In order to relax the body and train the mind, the breath is used to encourage and reduce stress. Concentration on the breath as a form of meditation is an almost universal technique with this system, and most yoga poses come with strict instructions for how to breathe correctly throughout.

In contrast, Pilates is focused on the physical movements. Because of the concentration on core strength, the belly is often held tight and thus, breathing appears shallower and concentrated in the rib cage. There usually is no meditation in Pilates and no focus on the breath as a way to focus and elevate the mind.

Both yoga and Pilates are gentle forms of exercise that can have very specific benefits for those who practice them regularly. Although they are different, they work together well and can have a complimentary effect if used to promote overall health, strength, and fitness.

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Om – the original sound of the universe

If you ever visited a yoga center, you have probably started with, or relaxed at the end of the session, with the mantra Om (ॐ). But have you ever wondered what it means and where it comes from?

The Sanskrit original word for the westernized “Om” is AUM, and it is described, among other ways, as the original sound. The sound that was born with the universe. Its three letters represent creation, preservation, and destruction. When done properly, the Om sound created by our own throats resonates from the pelvic floor upwards through the crown of the head, filling the body with vibrant energy that empowers us and, at the same time, radiates tranquility.

In addition, it is said that the Om mantra increases self-awareness and concentration in your most intimate spiritual world.

It is important to learn the correct way to chant the Om mantra in order to fully enjoy its benefits.

First of all, let’s learn its correct pronunciation. It has three syllables: A-U-M. It begins with a nasalized vowel [a:] that transforms into [u:] and ends with a long and vibrant [m]. Om is pronounced in a single deep exhalation: a-ā-u-ū-m-(ng)-(silence).

Now that we know the phonetics of Om, let’s move on to the visualization or the feeling of each sound. To sound the first two syllables, open the mouth wide as if you want to swallow the whole universe. When you start chanting, imagine that the first vowel (“a”) appears around your bellybutton, and the sound waves irradiate to your pelvic floor and your lower chest.

Then it grows towards the second syllable, slowly moving the place of the sound to your throat, and allowing the sound to massage your heart, thymus, and thyroid on its way up.

Finally, gently close your lips for the final syllable [m], allowing the sound to move from the throat up. The vibration of the [m] sound then resonates within your skull, massaging your pineal and pituitary glands, until it finally reaches the crown of the head.

The movement of the mantra Om through your body is often associated with the chakras, or energy centers and their colors. So, you can also practice visualizing these colors when you chant: inhale through the back of your body to open those places where tension is locked and then visualizing Yellow, which is the color for the Manipura chakra where Om is originated. Then green (heart), sky blue (throat), indigo (third eye), and purple (crown of the head) when the sound travels up.

It is believed that the power of the Om mantra is so great that even staring and taking in the Om symbol (ॐ) can exert a positive influence. You can even chant the mantra in silence, in your own mind to regain calmness!

Pronounced or written, the Om mantra is one of the essential aspects of yoga and one of the most important stages for the understanding of yoga. I hope you enjoy this practice. Just try to chant it 24 times in a row to see the benefits!


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