Pilates VS. Yoga! Which is Right for You?

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When I meet people and tell them I teach Yoga and Pilates, the number one question I get is always “Isn’t Pilates just stretching like Yoga?” That would be a big “NO!” If you have ever taken both a Yoga and Pilates mat class you might notice some similarities. In fact Joseph Pilates, the creator of Pilates, was inspired by Yoga and practiced Yoga himself.

But the two are very different in many ways. It really is like apple to oranges.

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The Origin –

Yoga is thousands of years old and was created in India. Yoga was initially created as a spiritual practice, it’s only now in the modern, Western world that is become more about the physical fitness practice of yoga; with the focus being more on the postures and the physical practice.

Pilates was created by Joseph Pilates in the 20th century as a form of strengthening and rehabilitation. It is first and foremost a physical fitness practice. Pilates focuses on a practice that brings together the mind and the body. Yoga adds in the element of spirituality and  focuses on unifying the body, mind and spirit.

The Benefits –

Both practices offer many great benefits including strength, flexibility, stress relief and awareness of the body and breath. Pilates focuses more on building strength, particularly in the core area.

Yoga benefits include relaxation, focus on breathing, and the addition of meditation.

Pilates benefits also include the guiding Principles: control, centering, concentration, precision, breath, and flow. Pilates also puts a great focus on building better posture and muscular balance.

A Typical Class –

This is really where the two begin to differ. Yoga now has many different styles, so how the class is structured is based on the style of the teacher. Classes will focus on a flowing series of yoga poses, sometimes the poses may be held for a few breaths. Often the moment is coordinated with the breath, particularly in the Vinyasa style of Yoga.

Most classes will begin with some mediation and maybe even chanting. Pretty much every Yoga class will end in Savasana, a final resting pose. Yoga combines standing postures, seated postures, supine and prone postures.

In Pilates you can take mat or equipment classes. Mat Pilates classes most often feature the traditional order of exercises that Joseph Pilates created. When taking a Mat class with a traditional teacher, you can expect the same order of exercises and a structured class. This helps the student to learn the order and focus on working on proper alignment and progressing the exercises. The focus of the class is a great all over body workout, but mainly the work is on building a stronger core or Powerhouse.

In a Pilates class you will move the whole time. The Pilates exercises are not static, meaning you don’t hold poses like you would in Yoga. You are meant to keep the body moving both during the exercises as well as from one exercise to the next. Most of the Pilates exercises are done on a mat, in a supine (on the back) position.

So Which One is Right For You?

So which one is right for you? It really depends on your goal for starting your practice. As you can see there are some overlapping qualities of both. Give both a try and see which one you connect with the most. I highly recommend a practice that includes both and no I’m not talking about Yogalates or PiYo (which are neither Yoga or Pilates), but add both to your fitness routine. I recommend to my students 1 – 2 classes a week of both.

Some people will connect with one over the other. Maybe you want a kick ass workout that focuses on strength. Then Pilates might be for you. Maybe you need a calming class with time to just sit and silence and learn to breath again. Then Yoga is for you. Give each a try and see which one you resonate with the most. Yoga isn’t for everyone and Pilates isn’t for everyone. You’ll only know once you’ve tried both.

As one of my friends said “I’m more interested in learning Pilates, because Yoga doesn’t appeal to me. I have no desire to stand around like a tree” Personally, I love standing around like a tree.

Namaste!

What is Pilates?

 

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When I tell people that I’m a Pilates teacher I often get a quizzical look. Followed with questions like “That’s like yoga right?”or “That’s like stretching for ballerinas right?”

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History of Pilates

Pilates is a method of exercise that was created by Joseph Pilates in the early 20th Century. Originally called Contrology by Pilates, it has become one of the fastest growing methods of exercise. Joseph Pilates was a German who was interned in a prison camp in England during World War 1. Some say that Pilates created the exercises that we now know to help keep his fellow detainees fit and healthy during the war; it was also rumored that he created resistance equipment by using bed frames and bed springs, as well as metal bands from beer kegs. These were the first Pilates equipment that we now know as the Reformer and the Magic Circle.

After the war Pilates moved to New York City where he opened his first studio and worked mostly with boxers. Because his studio was also in close proximity to many dance studios, eventually many dancers came to him looking for rehabilitation for different injuries. Joseph Pilates continued to teach out of his studio for many years, and wrote two books on his method, “Return to Life Through Contrology” and “Your Health: A Corrective System of Exercising That Revolutionizes the Entire Field of Physical Education”.

What is Pilates

Pilates is at it’s heart a physical fitness routine that builds on core strength and flexibility. Focus is put on spinal and pelvic alignment, breath, concentration and control of the core muscle group through body based movements. There are six principles of Pilates that are now known to be a major part of the method. These are concentration, control, center, flow, precision, and breathing.

There are mat exercises that can be done anywhere on a padded mat, and focus more on using one’s own body weight and movement to engage and strengthen the “powerhouse” and other parts of the body. There is also the apparatus that was created by Joseph Pilates and still used today. These include the reformer, Cadillac, barrels and more. These use spring loaded resistance to offer a more challenging strength and endurance workout.

When most people think about the benefits of Pilates, they think “strong core” But my friends, it is OH SO more than that. Everything that we do radiates from our center, or from our core, which in Pilates we call the “Powerhouse”.  Pilates not only strengthens the core but also improves flexibility. Pilates improves muscle tone, balances musculature, supports correct posture, and teaches you to move with ease and grace, while building flexibility and long, lean muscles, strength and endurance in the legs, abs, arms, hips, and back.

As you can see the benefits of Pilates are many. However, my favorite benefit of Pilates is the one that isn’t even visible to the eye; a calming sense of peace of mind. There is a wonderful mind-body connection in Pilates similar to when practicing Yoga. Pilates is like a moving meditation to me. The precision of movement that flows with both grace and strength whether on a mat or a piece of the Pilates equipment can not be beat.

As you move through the exercises with the Pilates principles in mind, you become more in tune and aware of your body. You have very little time to focus on life outside of the studio, as you become one with your body. The stress and tension of work, family life, etc. just melt away as you move through the exercises. It is indeed a very mindful practice.

Of course there are many physical benefits to practicing Pilates, as I mentioned above. Many of my students come to Pilates because of low back pain, or wanting to work on developing lean musculature and strengthening their core. Pilates can help you to look and feel your best, as well as teaching body awareness and good posture. Recent studies even show that Pilates can help alleviate low back pain more than other therapies.

In fact a recent Italian study “found an important improvement of pain, disability and physical and psychological perception of health in individuals who did the daily sessions of pilates”.*  The results of the study showed that Pilates was better at reducing pain in individuals with low back pain more than the standard treatment methods for chronic low back pain. That’s pretty powerful! Pilates heals!!

In my teaching I have many special conditions that I work with and all of these clients have seen amazing benefits from a regular and consistent Pilates practice. Whatever your goal is, Pilates can help you achieve your fitness and wellness goals.

Benefits of Pilates:

  • Increased Core Strength
  • Better Spinal Health
  • Improved Balance and Posture
  • Leaner Musculature
  • Increased Flexibility
  • Increased Energy
  • Improved Joint Health
  • Corrects Imbalances in the Body
  • Establishes Mind-Body Connection
  • Greater Body Awareness

It’s very easy to see how a regular and consistent Pilates practice can benefit you in so many ways, both physical and mental. Pilates is not only great for building core strength, or helping athletes to improve their games, but it can help the every day person (like you and me) to alleviate pain, build strength and flexibility and heal from the inside out. Give it a go and see for yourself.

The beauty of the Pilates method is that is accessible to everyone, and most of the exercises can be modified to suit different populations. If you are interested in further exploring the Pilates method look for a certified instructor in your area and try a class.

*Notarnicola A., Fischetti F., Maccagnano G., Comes R., Tafuri S., Moretti B. “Daily pilates exercise or inactivity for patients with low back pain: a clinical prospective observational study”  European Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine. February 2014

Coffee Chat With Chris – Body Positive – Disordered Eating Recovery

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Sharing my body image issues and my recovery from an eating disorder is something I have always wanted to share with others, but never had the courage to do so. Until now.

Eating disorders, disordered eating and negative body image issues are quickly growing among men, but it’s seldom talked about. In our world of “man up” it is often hard for men to come forward and talk about their struggles with these bodies we live in. However, we are starting to see more men stepping up and talking about these struggles as the Body Positive movement grows. I hope that I can be a loud voice in this movement.

From my teens and into my thirties, I struggled with an eating disorder. It wasn’t only until recently that I’ve been able to speak about it and talked to friends and family about what I went through and why. Even day, while in recovery, I still have moments or triggers, but I’ve learned to deal with those. Everyday, I work hard to accept and love this body I’m in and to work to help others do the same.

In this video I get real on my struggle with and recovery from disordered eating. I share how I discovered Body Positivity and how I work to accept and love myself a little more each day.