I have been practicing yoga for a few years with little inclination to try out the ever-popular Pilates classes on our timetable …. until recently. I had, until then, believed Pilates was for the opposite camp and practitioners rarely co-mingled.
And now, to my surprise, I have discovered that my inner yogi has a lot to gain from practicing a combination of yoga and Pilates. I’m not alone in bringing Pilates to my yoga mat, of course; many yogis are recognising that Pilates is a rewarding complement to asana practice, both physically and mentally and it is experiencing rapid growth since its creation almost 100 years ago.
“The mind, when housed in a healthful body, possesses a glorious sense of power.”
That sounds pretty familiar to us yogis, doesn’t it?! Yoga was actually part of Joseph Pilates’ inspiration. He wrote that your self-confidence and health come from the balance of body, mind, and spirit. As a child he suffered from rickets, asthma and rheumatic fever and became obsessed about growing into a ‘fit’ young man.
Joseph borrowed techniques from various forms of exercise, including yoga, meditation and tai-chi to develop his desired mental and physical conditioning combo that would enable us to live to our fullest potential. Pilates is a core-strengthening practice which employs correct breathing, basic postural techniques and the importance of micro-movements to help postural alignment, greater flexibility, endurance, balance and strength.
The prolonged, steady mental focus which stems from holding unstable slowly micro-moving postures fosters a deep mind-body connection just like yoga and meditation. The breath is just as important as it is in yoga practice, although a different technique is employed. Understanding how to use your breath is incredibly important in both yoga and Pilates. It encourages stability, focus and clarity to perform moves with precision and flow.
While yoga is a holistic discipline originating from ancient India, Pilates is a unique physical system devised by a German anatomist in the early 20th century!
Pilates might be partly inspired by yoga, but physically it is different – yoga is made up of a series of static postures, while Pilates is based on unstable postures and challenging yourself to move with flow, precision, balance, control, concentration and breath. Students focus on the “Powerhouse”, or the core; the group of muscles that support the spine (lower abdomen, lower back, inner thighs, buttocks & pelvic floor) These muscles are engaged before any movement, which is slow and deliberate, takes place.
Practicing a combination of yoga and Pilates is conducive to high levels of spiritual, mental and physical fitness and to the development of a body which is strong as well as lean, graceful, and efficient.
The focus on building and engaging a strong core can propel your yoga practice into new realms. Strengthening the core, ie the body’s centre of gravity, creates greater stability, flexibility, balance and better alignment. Ultimately it can help you to get stronger and avoid injury; by developing a strong ‘corset-like’ support system. Core strength can also help you master those advanced poses you might not have thought were possible; take your crow and handstand to new heights! And the flexibility you gain from yoga practice can help with Pilates exercises.
…you can click here to view our class timetable and book your next Pilates class.
If you are new to Pilates you can sign up to our 4 week beginners’ course with Ailsa Petchey, which starts on Wednesday. The price also includes 14 days unlimited access to studio classes so you should really start to feel all of these benefits I have described.
To quote Joseph Pilates;
“Every moment of our life can be the beginning of great things”
I hope to see you on your Pilates mat very soon!