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6 Main Differences Between Pilates and Yoga


Pilates and yoga are two incredibly beneficial types of exercises that target areas of core strength, mind-body connection, and flexibility. You can often see their various workouts and poses used interchangeably, even though they are two different sectors in the health and fitness realm.


If you’ve been using the two phrases to mean one thing, you’re not alone. We can help you note some of the main differences between Pilates and yoga, along with some of their benefits.

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Yoga and Pilates both get a bad reputation as easy, girly workouts that don’t do much for your body. But that assumption couldn’t be further from the truth.
women doing yoga

What Is Pilates?

Pilates is a well-known, low-impact exercise that focuses on taking one position and increasing its difficulty by adding various types of movements, often with your arms and legs. 


The goal of Pilates is to increase strength and flexibility, and its movements often engage the core. However, many of the positions and equipment used in Pilates target other areas of the body as well, allowing you to get a full-body training experience.


Joseph Pilates created Pilates in Germany in 1883, where he started his work with injured soldiers. His repertoire of range-of-motion exercises has become a huge hit, and you can perform them either on mats or using specially designed machines. 

What Is Yoga?

Yoga is another form of low-impact exercise that, like Pilates, focuses heavily on building and maintaining core strength. Yoga centers its success around an extensive portfolio of poses, breathing techniques, and mindfulness. 


Yoga is often referred to as meditative movement because it relies so much on the mind-body connection. Some types of yoga even involve a spiritual aspect. 


Yoga is ideal for beginners and experts alike, as its poses have modified forms to make them more manageable. 


woman looking into camera with exercise ball

Differences Between Pilates and Yoga

While many of the details about Pilates and yoga are very similar, there are significant differences between the two that we can note.


Being an expert in Pilates or yoga is equally impressive, as they require tons of control and strength. But one thing that yoga includes that Pilates typically leaves out is the spiritual aspect of it.

1. Yoga Involves Aspects of Spiritual Practice 

Some yoga classes leave out this component, but traditional yoga works to create a union between mind, body, and spirit. For this reason, many yoga sessions involve a meditative state or even the repetition of a mantra.

2. Pilates Involves More Movement 

When it comes to yoga, you often see a series of poses held for specific lengths of time. In contrast, Pilates tends to include more movement in its exercises


For example, Pilates can require you to hold firm at the core while moving one leg up and down or an arm back and forth.

In yoga, it’s more likely that a teacher will ask you to hold a solid position overall rather than disturb your balance with additional movements.

woman stretching

Benefits of Pilates and Yoga

3. Yoga Is an Ancient Practice

Yoga has far different roots than Pilates does. The mind-body connection techniques go back as far as 3,000 years – maybe even more. The beginnings of yoga can be traced back to Eastern religions and have served as a holistic approach to health and overall body awareness and consciousness. 

4. Pilates Is More Contemporary 

Unlike yoga, Pilates has a much shorter history and is not rooted in religious practices or spiritual means. Pilates was developed during World War I by the man we mentioned earlier, Joseph Pilates. 

While yoga has its roots in enhancing mind, body, and spirit connection, Pilates was ultimately designed to rehabilitate injured German soldiers. Joseph Pilates worked hands-on with these soldiers to help them stretch, strengthen, and stabilize their muscles. 

5. Body Awareness vs. Mind Awareness

Perhaps one of the most significant differences between Pilates and yoga is their two main focuses: body and mind. 

On the one hand, Pilates focuses on body awareness. While the mental aspect of Pilates is still very integral to the process, the goal is to focus on core strength and stability by performing movements with precision and accuracy. 

Yoga still requires these same goals but emphasizing the connection between the mind, spirit, and body. That’s why the meditative portion of yoga is deemed so crucial.

Pilates instructors are more likely to have their clients focus outward on the physical body, while yoga instructors tend to be more concerned with the inward, spiritual part of the body. 

6. Equipment vs. No Equipment

You can practice both yoga and Pilates without equipment. However, it is far more likely for Pilates to implement the use of equipment over yoga. 

At times, yoga may use various equipment such as blocks, bands, and exercise balls. But more commonly, yoga is performed using nothing more than a yoga mat. Most people don’t even wear shoes! 

On the flip side, Pilates can use a series of highly complex machines and pieces of equipment. Some of these pieces include the reformer, tower, barrel, and chair – all of which are large wooden and metal systems with complicated setups and demanding workouts. 

Pilates also often includes a mat, exercise balls, bands, and blocks. 

Overall, it’s safe to say that Pilates is more equipment-heavy than yoga. 

While the exercises may have their differences, the benefits of Pilates and yoga tend to be very similar. 


Both Pilates and yoga can increase core strength, improve stability, and enhance overall balance. Both of these workouts are low-impact, making them easier for most people to perform as opposed to high-impact routines like running. 


Pilates and yoga can also help improve flexibility by implementing various stretching techniques. 

woman stretching

Final Thoughts

Yoga and Pilates both get a bad reputation as easy, girly workouts that don’t do much for your body. But that assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. 


The fact is that both of these exercises can be incredibly difficult, and they are both backed by several years of history. 


But don’t just take our word for it – sign up for one of these Amphy classes yourself and see what it’s all about!

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