Pilates and Yoga 1
Contributed by Judy Farmer, Certified Pilates Instructor and Health and Wellness Coach
What do you think of when you imagine a yoga or Pilates class? Practitioners bathed in sweat during a 92-degree Bikram Yoga room? Or others, pushing breath while contorting like something from Cirque Du Soleil in an advanced Pilates studio? No wonder both workouts seem rather intimidating! Some of us say, “I could never do that.” or “I wouldn’t want to do that!”
These pictures we’ve seen of yoga poses and Pilates movements are nowhere near what most people do when they are beginning.
Instead, picture someone standing as tall as they can, reaching up to the sky, breathing out and stretching. This is a typical beginning Yoga posture, and one that we all could try!
Yoga and Pilates fall in the category of mind-body disciplines. They use slow controlled movement and stretching with an emphasis on breathing. They require focus and concentration on self and usually are performed with silence or music that will help you to relax and not be distracted.
Both types of movement are excellent elements of a healthy lifestyle. While they’re not vigorous exercise in the same way that basketball or volleyball are – they sure do put your body through a workout! If you think otherwise, just try holding a Warrior pose for 3 straight minutes! Your thighs, glutes, shoulders, back and even feet will be begging for mercy!
What makes yoga special
Yoga has been taught in an organized way since the second century AD. Though physically focused, it is primarily a spiritual discipline. Yoga poses – or asana, as they’re called – have spiritual meaning and their goal is spiritual advancement through bodily focus. Those who get hooked on yoga tend toward a spiritual focus and feel that yoga enhances their life spiritually as well as physically. Or they just need the stress relief as much as the exercise!
If you are very stressed and feel the lack of a spiritual base, Yoga may really change your life. But every class is only as good as its instructor. Find one that you feel very comfortable with because you will find that you are vulnerable to their instruction. Focused breathing can take you into a trance-like state in which you will follow the instructor without hesitation.
Yoga enthusiasts are usually tapered and flexible. This is a result of holding positions which cause muscles to lengthen and the body to move energy in various ways. It encourages spiritual advancement and various disciplines have developed over time.
The origin of Pilates
When Joseph Pilates was working with men at an army hospital during WWI he began calling his method “Contrology.” Never muscle-bound, Joseph maintained a near perfect physique until 82 yours old.
He began his life as a sickly boy and through intense focus and encouragement from his very health-conscious parents, he devised several exercises which he believes healed his body of illness.
The Pilates method has branched out into many styles as teachers develop specific ways to incorporate his basic movements. There is no spirituality attached to Pilates but I always tell my people “Something that makes you feel this good can’t not lift your spirit!”
Pilates enthusiasts are usually more muscular in appearance compared with the tapered yoga-fit body. This is because there is more deliberate emphasis on using the body’s weight to increase stability and balance. Engagement of abdominals during every movement requires breathing into the low ribs and back instead of the deep “Buddha breath” used often during Yoga. Sometimes called “thoracic breathing,” the Pilates student increases lung capacity in a different part of the lungs.
The emphasis is on the body’s “core,” which includes the lower back and abdominal muscles as well as the bottom (glutes) and the pelvic floor. Just finding and using all those at the same time is worth the class!
When people ask me which they should try, I tell them to try both. Most often those who enjoy yoga have been looking for deeper spirituality and need to fill the void. Those who get hooked on Pilates are more focused on the physical. They all just love the feeling of discovering their bodies and feel invigorated and refreshed after their workout!