Fitness Watch: Yoga & Pilates

pilatesheartsyogaI read an article on Oprah.com that ticked me off. The title was Yoga vs. Pilates and went on to detail the advantages or disadvantages of both.  What struck me about the article is perhaps the author has never tried either discipline, because the article explores whether yoga or Pilates is beneficial for aerobic and weight loss goals.  The reason I say this, is these two aims aren’t high on the list of priorities when practicing either, not really.  Can you achieve weight loss and aerobic benefit practicing yoga or Pilates?  Sure, if the practice is a part of an active lifestyle and healthy diet, but that’s true of any activity you do. Not one activity is the answer; they are all part of a greater whole that leads to true health, wellness and yes, weight loss.

I work at a Pilates studio and have for years.  I’m always slightly amused when I hear clients saying, “I’m a yoga person, I can’t do Pilates.” Or “I only do Pilates, I’m not flexible.” And there can be a slight distance between yoga and Pilates instructors themselves.  But the truth is, I feel the two disciplines support each other and when practiced individually come together to make some powerful gains for each client.

Top 5 reasons to practice Yoga & Pilates

  1. Balance and Strength and Flexibility, oh my: Pilates helps you strengthen your core muscles which will give strength and support to the balance, inversion and core poses found in Yoga.
  2. Keeps your legs bangin’: There are about 720,000 knee replacement surgeries performed each year in the U.S. Yoga tends to focus on strengthening the front and back of the legs, while the side-lying series in Pilates works the muscles on the outside and inside of your thighs.  Using both practices helps keeps the gams going!
  3. Master Miss Manners Art of Being Graceful: There was a time when women would take a class in how to hold their bodies in perfect posture. Nowadays, we can use Pilates to educate our bodies in holding good posture and neutral spine, while yoga will help gain flexibility and with a few targeted postures strengthen the back.
  4. Bye-Bye Shoulder Slump: In yoga, the focus is on opening the shoulder girdle, with arm balances and standing poses used to strengthen. However, sometimes the upper muscles in the back tend to take over, which can lead to a weakness in the shoulders. Pilates will work to strengthen the muscles needed to stabilize the shoulder blades onto the back and exercises like swan on the mat or down stretch on the reformer provide great extension.
  5. Weight loss, baby: Here’s the truth all those dvd’s, articles, etc. about yoga, Pilates and weight loss probably don’t want you to know. You probably won’t lose weight just doing yoga or just doing Pilates.  However, Pilates and Yoga build muscle which helps burn fat and you may be more likely to lose inches from toning which helps your clothes fit better, even if the number on the scale doesn’t change. And seriously, everyone looks better when they pull their stomach in, stand tall and have good posture.  As I said in the beginning, yoga and Pilates are key pieces of the weight loss puzzle that must also include more activity to increase caloric burn and a healthy diet.  However, add these two to your regimen and you’re bound to see the losses you’re working towards.

Also keep in mind, weight loss doesn’t always mean health.  It’s sometimes more important to pay attention to the shape of the body and how you feel, which yoga and Pilates will definitely change the way your body looks and how you feel.  And it’s in that way which makes yoga and Pilates the perfect partners in your health, wellness and weight loss journey.

Guest blogger Sara Zuboff is a certified yoga instructor, bodyworker, wellness coach and health writer. She specializes in making yoga accessible to every body and skill level. When she’s not working, she enjoys crafting vegan treats for her family and trying to convince them to try them.  Her most recent articles can be seen here and on Elephant Journal.


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