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Yoga vs. Pilates (and which is best for you)

August 23rd, 2022 | 5 min. read

By Jen Azevedo

There is a lot of information available these days about yoga and Pilates. It appears that they have a lot of similarities — but are they the same thing? Does it even matter which class you attend?


At Paseo Club, we offer over 60 fitness classes each week. But we know that sometimes so many choices can result in “analysis paralysis.”


We are here to simplify the information so that you can better understand what yoga and Pilates are, who can do them, where they come from, the benefits of these practices, and any reasons not to attend a Pilates or yoga class. 


By the time you have finished reading this article, you will know more about these fitness modalities and which method is the best fit for you. 



Yoga is a meditation, movement, and breath practice originating from India.

Who does yoga?

Anyone can do yoga. There are many levels and all different types of classes to suit all students' needs. 

  • Prenatal yoga
  • Toddler and kid yoga
  • Yoga for seniors
  • Yoga for teens and adults


Are there different types of yoga?

There are many types of yoga developed by individual practitioners and many schools that teach different styles. A student can find a style of yoga that resonates with their body and fitness goals.


  • Flow 

  • Restorative

  • Therapeutic 

  • Yin 

  • Gentle

  • Beginner

  • Tantra

  • Hatha

  • Hot


Is there specific equipment needed to do yoga?

Props are often used to allow students to be more comfortable and create a better form in their poses. Blocks, or foam bricks, and cloth belts are the two most common props. 


What are the benefits of yoga?

Yoga is known for being supportive of the body and the mind. It improves flexibility, reduces inflammation, increases strength, improves balance, supports joint health, and eases and prevents back pain.

Mentally, yoga helps with stress, reduces anxiety, teaches better breathing patterns, and helps to create a calm mind.


What are the origins of yoga?

Yoga is an ancient system of physical and mental practices that originated in the Indus-Sarasvati civilization in Northern India over 5,000 years ago. The word yoga was first mentioned in the oldest sacred text, the Rig Veda.

The fundamental purpose of yoga is to foster harmony in the body, mind, and environment. 


How was it brought to the US?

Swami Vivekananda, a Hindu monk from India, brought yoga to the United States in 1893. It was launched into a modern cultural phenomenon in the 1970s because of the health and exercise boom that happened during that era.   


Yoga has become more embraced by society because scientific studies began to validate the discipline’s physical and mental advantages, making the practice more mainstream.


Are there reasons to not do yoga? 

Almost every person can do yoga in some shape or form. Instructors can modify poses and let students know if a pose has contraindications for pre-existing conditions.


Pilates can be done on specially-developed exercise machines or on the floor using yoga mats.

What are the origins of Pilates?

A German-born physical trainer named Joseph Pilates first invented Pilates in the 1920s to rehabilitate injured soldiers. He originally named the movements Pilates Contrology. After his death, the name changed to the Pilates Method.

How was it brought to the US?

Joseph Pilates came to New York and opened a studio in the same building where the New York Ballet company resided. He worked on prominent injured dancers such as Martha Graham and George Balanchine.


He developed machines that created resistance for training and published two booklets explaining his approach.

Who does Pilates?

Pilates is great for everyone. Although it was developed for rehabilitation, it is appropriate for all fitness levels. Many professional athletes train using Pilates since it targets core strength.


Although people often think of Pilates as a practice used primarily by women, Joseph’s initial clientele was 60% men. 

Are there different types of Pilates?

Yes, there are six different types of Pilates.


1. Classical Pilates 

Classical Pilates follows the original system created by Joseph Pilates and incorporates both mat and apparatus work. It varies from other forms of Pilates because it is taught in a traditional order, which includes transitions between exercises. 


This type of Pilates is a good fit for people who thrive on structure and predictability in their workouts.

Another important distinction between classical Pilates and other types is the resting position. Classical Pilates focuses on a posterior pelvic tilt (hips tilt toward your back) and a few other postural preferences at the head, neck, and shoulders. 

2. Mat Pilates  

You perform the exercises in mat Pilates with your body and a yoga mat in lieu of machines and equipment. Mat Pilates focuses on your core, making it beneficial for those with back pain. 


An April 2014 study in the Journal of Physical Therapy compared mat Pilates and apparatus Pilates (like reformer Pilates) and found the group performing mat Pilates showed greater improvement in both pain level and balance

3. Reformer Pilates  

This type of Pilates offers similar core-strengthening benefits as mat Pilates but uses a reformer, a machine with a bed-like frame, a platform, and a set of springs. 


Many of the exercises on the reformer are the same as mat exercises but are performed with the added resistance of the machine's springs, straps, and ropes.

4. Contemporary Pilates 

Contemporary Pilates is inspired by, and based on, the classical system of Pilates, but is adjusted based on what school the Pilates instructor came from and what style they prefer to teach. The Paseo Club uses a more contemporary approach.  

5. Winsor Pilates  

Renowned Pilates instructor Mari Winsor promoted the Winsor Pilates method via workout videos and infomercials. 

Winsor Pilates focuses on shaping the body with a combination of classical Pilates exercises done in a specific, nontraditional order to maximize results.

Winsor Pilates consists of 13 Pilates mat movements, including the Hundred, the Roll-Up, and the Single Leg Circle, in 20-minute workouts, making it ideal for beginners and those short on time.

6. Stott Pilates  

Stott Pilates creator, ballerina Moira Merrithew, originally studied Pilates after a neck injury. 

Central to this form of Pilates is the incorporation of expertise from rehabilitation experts and movement specialists. 

Each class begins with a warm-up to align the body and release neck and back pressure.

Another unique aspect of this type of Pilates is that it takes the basic principles of the classical method and adds props such as the stability ball, foam roller, and BOSU. It is a good pick for anyone looking to improve their balance. 

Unlike classical Pilates where the lower spine presses into the floor, in Stott Pilates, you maintain the natural curve of the lower spine off the floor. 


Is there certain equipment needed to do Pilates?

Joseph Pilates originally called equipment "apparatus". Different classes use different apparatus.


  • Mats 
  • Small balls
  • Gondola poles 
  • Magic circles
  • Bands
  • Gliding discs 
  • BOSUs
  • Foam rollers
  • Reformers
  • Cadillac tables 
  • Chairs


What are the benefits of Pilates?

Originally Pilates was designed as a rehabilitation program for soldiers and professional dancers.  


Though most of us are not following the grueling schedules of soldiers or dancers, many of us are healing from sports injuries or surgeries, or are looking to get relief from aches and pains.


Pilates focuses on developing core strength which benefits posture, reduces back pain, and enhances the overall alignment of the body. By attending Pilates classes regularly, students also enjoy greater joint mobility and flexibility. 


Are there reasons to not do Pilates? 

Pilates is a safe practice for almost anyone — even people with heart conditions, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol. The movements can be scaled for people with injuries or limited mobility. 


It is a great workout for beginners or advanced athletes. 


Which is better, yoga or Pilates? 

Yoga and Pilates offer movements that benefit people living modern, sedentary lifestyles or competitive athletes, and everyone in between. They both help students focus on their breath, build strength, and increase flexibility.


Yoga is better for people who want to also focus on balance and the mind-body connection through meditation.


Pilates is particularly effective for those in recovery from injuries, who want to improve their posture, or develop greater core strength.


Final thoughts on a yoga or Pilates practice

In this article, we have reviewed what yoga and Pilates are and their benefits and contraindications. 


Now you know how yoga and Pilates are both similar and different, as well as which might be the best fit for you. 


Are you still not sure which class you want to try? Check out yoga, mat and reformer Pilates, HIIT, cycle, liquid cardio, and many more options by becoming a member of Paseo Club. 


Your membership gives you access to over 60 classes each week. See the class calendar and sign up for your class of choice.


Learn more about the mind-body connection by reading about the 8 steps to support your mental health


Want to take self-care to the next level? After yoga class, get a massage or facial at the spa that is on-site at Paseo Club. Learn about different types of spa treatments so you know which style of pampering you want.


Stop in for a tour today to check out the indoor and outdoor fitness facilities, tennis and pickleball courts, and the junior-Olympic pool. 

Jen Azevedo

Jen Azevedo is a tennis professional, pickleball professional, personal trainer, group exercise instructor, and the general manager of the Paseo Club. She loves the community at the Paseo Club and that it is also a safe and fun place for her daughter. Jen’s favorite activities are joining her tribe for trail races or her partners for tennis matches. Occasionally Jen slows down to relax with a book — she reads over 100 a year!