What is better for flexibility: yoga or Pilates?

When it comes to exercises to improve flexibility and mobility, nothing beats Pilates and Yoga. These exercises consist of moves and stretches designed to help limber you up and achieve great joint and muscle mobility and flexibility. However, which is the best for flexibility: Yoga or Pilates?

In general, Pilates may be better than yoga for flexibility. This is because Pilates is created with flexibility and strength building, while yoga may focus more on general wellness. However, the differences are minor and may not matter. You are advised to try both before making your decision.

In this post, I will explore if Pilates or yoga is better for flexibility. I will start by describing the differences between yoga and Pilates and the benefits you stand to gain from both exercises.

What Are The Benefits Of Yoga?

In general, yoga may help with easing lower back and neck pain, as well as migraines. Yoga may also improve balance, flexibility and can also help to relieve some symptoms of menopause, which makes it popular with middle-aged females. Some also like yoga’s calming effect on the mind from their meditative exercises.

Yoga is a form of exercise appreciated by many for its low-intensity, low-impact workouts. You do not place too much impact on your body since you are not moving about too actively, nor do you need a high degree of fitness to perform it.

Regular practice of yoga poses provides benefits such as easing the pain in the lower back, neck, and migraine. Its meditative and spiritual practices were also found to help with mental issues such as anxiety and stress.

Some women undergoing menopause also reported that Yoga helps them manage the symptoms. As a result, it’s popular with many middle-aged women. However, this may not apply to all menopausal females.

Yoga class

What Are The Benefits Of Pilates?

In general, Pilates helps with improving core muscle strength, as well as posture. Many Pilates practitioners also reported better joint and muscle mobility and flexibility. Some also found the slower workout pace therapeutic and stress-relieving

Pilates is an exercise that is also low-impact and low-intensity. Pilates consists of a series of poses, stretches, and movements that help increase core strength and improve muscle and joint mobility and flexibility.

Most Pilates practitioners reported better core muscle strength after practicing Pilates, especially around the abdominal and back. Pilates is also found to help with flexibility and posture.

Many Pilates practitioners find Pilates mentally therapeutic, as the slower, controlled pace helps to relax and slow down the mind. As a result, Pilates may help with mental conditions such as anxiety.

How Are Yoga and Pilates Different?

Pilates and Yoga are relatively similar in many ways, with minor differences. Pilates may focus more on improving physical health, while Yoga may have mental and spiritual exercises such as meditation. You may also do more movement in Pilates compared to Yoga, where you tend to hold on to poses.

Physical exercises Focuses on flexibility and strength

More movement

May be modified for better calorie burn
May include mental exercises such as meditation

More focus on general wellbeing

More ‘holding on’ to poses Less modified for calorie burn

Spiritual/Mental: When performing Yoga, you may be brought into some form of spiritual and mental exercise, where you may be asked to meditate or do chanting. Some forms of Yoga have more of these activities than others.

Pilates generally does not perform any of these mental/spiritual exercises, with the focus much more on physical improvement. However, some Pilates practitioners appreciate its workout’s calming and therapeutic effect, as you regulate your breathing while performing Pilates.

Wellness Scope: Pilates is much more focused on improving your physique. You perform stretches and movements that help you increase your core strength, flexibility, and mobility. Long-term practicing Pilates may produce leaner, toned muscles and excellent joint mobility.

Yoga focuses on a broader dimension of wellness, incorporating not just physical health but also mental health. You perform Yoga exercises to improve your physique, meditate and perhaps do some chanting to improve your mental health.

Some mental and spiritual activities may be related to Vedic religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, or Jainism. More traditional forms of Yoga may even include guidance on diet and philosophy.

Movement: In general, you may describe a Pilates session as moving into a pose and performing smaller movements on your arms and legs to challenge your core muscles. For example, holding onto a cat post and then raising your arms and legs one at a time.

A Yoga workout may include changing into multiple poses and then attempting to hold on to them as long as possible while focusing on your breathing and meditation. As such, you may conclude that, in general, you move less in Yoga compared to Pilates, although there may be exceptions with certain forms of Yoga.

Calorie Burn: Some variants of Pilates are designed to help you burn more calories, for example, hot Pilates. A hot Pilates class is usually held in a heated up, with higher humidity to encourage you to burn more calories. Elements of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) may also be included to further promote calorie burn.

Yoga may have some variations to encourage more calorie burn, but not as intensive as Pilates. For example, Hot Yoga may also be performed in a heated-up room similar to Pilates. However, you still focus on stretches and poses and may not see as much HIIT as hot Pilates.

What Is Better For Flexibility, Yoga Or Pilates?

You may assume that Pilates may help with flexibility better than Yoga, although the differences may be minor. Pilates focuses more on improving muscle and joint mobility, while Yoga has a more wholesome approach. You may need to experiment yourself to determine your preferred workout.

In general, you may assume that you will have improvements in your flexibility, no matter which workout you choose.

This is because both Yoga and Pilates perform exercises that help to stretch and move your muscles and joints. As a result, your flexibility should improve, making you a more limber person.

However, suppose you are to nitpick between the two. In that case, Pilates may provide better flexibility improvement than Yoga, although the differences may be minor.

The difference here is that in Pilates, you focus much more on physical exercises and stretches compared to Yoga. In Yoga, you may perform other mental and spiritual activities such as meditating.

On top of that, you simply move more when performing Pilates, which means your muscles and joints may work more in a Pilates workout than in Yoga. This may just translate into better muscle and joint flexibility.

Does Pilates Help You Lose Weight Better Than Yoga?

Pilates may help you to burn more calories compared to Yoga, although not by much. However, Pilates has variations designed to help you burn off more fat, such as Hot Pilates. As such, Pilates may be a better choice for weight loss.

Another popular question from many when choosing between Pilates and Yoga is weight loss. They wonder which of these two workouts helps more with weight loss.

In general, when you compare regular Pilates and regular Yoga, you stand to lose more weight performing regular Pilates. The logic here is simple. You simply move more in Pilates than Yoga, which translates to more calories burned, eventually leading to more weight loss.

Pilates moves also tend to make use of your body weight more, making it a more challenging workout routine.  

If weight loss is a goal in your exercise regime, you may even consider a variant of Pilates called hot Pilates. This exercise is designed to increase your calorie burn. You basically perform Hot Pilates in a heated-up room with higher humidity. This raises your heart rate faster, and you simply sweat more. On top of that, you perform some HIIT to further amp up your calorie burn.

READ MORE: Is Hot Pilates Better Than Regular Pilates?

There is a version of Yoga similar to hot Pilates called hot Yoga. Still, in hot Yoga, you may not perform HIIT activities but focus on stretches and poses instead. As a result, you may not burn as many calories as hot Pilates.

Final thoughts

I love that both of these are accessible to people of any fitness level, you can take Pilates or yoga classes as a beginner, gain more flexibility, mobility and strength and then advance to more challenging exercise programs.

Both are low-impact exercises that offer physical health benefits and mental health benefits and so my advice is simple: try them both out and see which you prefer.

That’s exactly what I did many years ago, and it started my journey to loving Pilates so much I retrained as a qualified Pilates instructor.

Donna Finnie

Donna loves to share her passion for Pilates with others. She is a fully qualified instructor who believes Pilates is for everyone, regardless of age, as it can truly help to increase strength, flexibility mobility and athletic performance.

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