What’s the difference between yoga and Pilates?

There are many different forms of yoga and Pilates all of which are beneficial to health. They have similarities in that they focus on mind and body fitness, encouraging, awareness, gracefulness and thoughtfulness though each move, but they are not the same.

Stretching in the gym studio


Pilates was founded at the beginning of the last century by Joseph Pilates. Joseph was born in Germany in 1880. Having suffered ill-health throughout his childhood, he was determined to overcome this and began bodybuilding. Alongside bodybuilding, he studied anatomy and began researching multiple forms of exercise until he developed the Pilates technique. The focus of Pilates is breathing, core strength and alignment through exercises which help to improve balance, coordination, flexibility and posture. In Pilates, you breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Many of the positions performed in yoga are performed in Pilates, however, unlike in yoga, where the poses are held for a certain amount of time, in Pilates, you move through the body pose to create exercises. Pilates is performed on a mat and various pieces of Pilates equipment can be used to enhance and intensify the exercises, such as a Pilates rings and Pilates bands which are used for toning and strengthening. Some Pilates classes also use a machine called a reformer which helps to strengthen the core and improve flexibility and balance. The exercises performed in Pilates leave you feeling energised and strong.


Yoga was developed in ancient India more than 5000 years ago and is the practice of ‘joining’ the mind and body. There are many forms of yoga including Hatha yoga, Ashtanga yoga, and Bikram yoga to name but a few. With so many variations to choose from, there is a form of yoga to suit everyone. Yoga helps to improve posture, balance, flexibility and mobility in the muscles and joints. Like Pilates, yoga focuses on the mind and body connection, however, this is done using different poses or asanas, breathing techniques and meditation. In yoga, you hold the poses rather than following them though as exercises. Breathing in a meditative way is a key element of yoga helping you to focus on de-stressing and relaxing the mind and body, rather than focusing on muscle engagement, leaving you feeling calm and peaceful. Yoga is practiced on a yoga mat and there are a number of tools which can help you to reach deeper poses such as yoga blocks and yoga straps.