Pilates Vs. Yoga – What’s the Difference?

To someone coming to Pilates or yoga with no prior knowledge, the two practices can look almost interchangeable. Both are low intensity, low impact, and inclusive forms of exercise involving holding positions for periods of time before transitioning into new ones. There are differences between the two, though.

Group of people doing yoga in the sunshine

If you’re thinking of taking classes in one of them, but can’t decide which is right for you, then this quick Pilates vs. yoga summary should help.


Yoga is a concept which was first practised over 5,000 years ago. It was first practised by holy ascetics in India with the aim of focusing the mind in order to connect it to a higher consciousness.

In more recent years it has evolved and split into different variations, including Ashtanga, Iyengar, and Vinyasa (and even more recently, goat yoga!). All of these different variations are focussed primarily on flexibility and stability.


Pilates was first developed about 100 years ago by a German boxer/circus performer/self-defense instructor called Joseph Pilates who moved to England in 1912, and was later interned with other Germans working in a hospital on the Isle of Man when war broke out in 1914. While working there, he developed Pilates as a way to help bed-bound patients develop their muscles.

Spirituality is not an element of Pilates (though some of the poses are similar to yoga poses), and Pilates moves are built up at a slower pace than those of yoga.

The Main Differences

  • Yoga uses the body to connect with the mind and the inner self, while Pilates uses mindfulness to connect to the inner workings of the body.
  • Yoga focuses primarily on flexibility, while Pilates focuses on strength.
  • Pilates is often recommended for the rehabilitation of injuries, while yoga should be approached with more caution, especially by beginners (it’s possible to overstretch and cause injuries in yoga).
  • Pilates focuses more on the core, while yoga is much more about the whole body.
  • Yoga has a spiritual side, Pilates does not.

Via The Guardian