Man practising yoga

Yoga vs Pilates: What's the Difference?

Yoga and Pilates share many similarities, and if you’re new to the scene, it can be difficult to determine which discipline is for you. Both are mind and body practices that focus heavily on breathwork. However, whilst yoga is centred around static poses, Pilates focuses on smooth transitions between controlled movements. 

The Origins of Yoga and Pilates

The word “yoga” comes from the Sanskrit root “yuj,” meaning to unite. Originating in North India over 5,000 years ago, the practice is designed to unite the body, mind, and spirit. This is achieved through a series of physical postures, breathing exercises and meditation techniques.

Conversely, the origins of Pilates can be traced back to a more recent time, the 20th century to be exact. Developed by physical trainer Joseph Pilates, the practice was initially known as "Contrology" and focused on developing a mind-body connection through precise movements and breath control. This practice was built upon six principles: concentration, control, centering, flow, precision and breathing. 

The Focus 

The key difference lies in the focus of the disciplines. Yoga stems from Hinduism, and as such, has a spiritual focus, whereas Pilates is rooted in the physical. Yoga practice usually includes pranayama (breath work), asana (movement) and savasana (relaxation), relating to the breath, the body and the mind. Pilates on the other hand is designed around exercises that target specific muscle groups, aiming to improve posture, flexibility, strength, and endurance.

Breath work 

Breath work is an essential component of both yoga and Pilates. However, the way in which breath is used differs between the two practices. In yoga, breathing is used to connect the body and mind.

Yogic breathing, known as pranayama, involves deep breathing techniques that help reduce stress and move the body through poses. In Pilates, the breath is used to support exercises. Pilates involves inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth to engage the core muscles and create stability within the body.


While both disciplines can be practiced with minimal equipment, some forms of Pilates utilize specialized equipment such as the reformer, the Cadillac, and the Wunda Chair. The reformer is a machine that operates using a series of springs and pulleys to create resistance for the exercises.

The Cadillac is used for exercises that require hanging or suspending the body, and the Wunda Chair is a small piece of equipment used for exercises that focus on the legs and core muscles.

Which Is For Me? 

It completely depends! Both practices have physical and mental health benefits. While yoga targets the mind-body connection and overall wellness, Pilates is more focused on physical fitness and core strength. Some love the spiritual side of yoga, as combined with meditation it provides a form of stress relief. However, if you’re after a low impact workout that focuses on building core strength, then Pilates may be the one for you. 

Stretch in style at your next class in our Flared Yoga Pants. To find out more about yoga, check out our blog on the top four mental health benefits.