Is Pilates like Yoga?Jul 19, 2023
This is one of the most common questions Pilates instructors get from friends, family members or potential clients.
It's no surprise. Yoga has seen a huge visibility boost in the last decade. Everyone and their aunt has tried yoga. When they see Pilates on YouTube, in magazines or elsewhere on the internet, they often see mat based Pilates. Both yoga and mat Pilates consist of low-impact bodyweight exercises, so it's honestly hard to see the difference.
(This is proven by the fact that every other image on the web that is supposed to represent Pilates is actually a yoga pose. 🤷🏼♀️)
Additionally, there are now classes like Yogilates that combine the two movement modalities, making a distinction even harder or intentionally blending them together.
If I sense that the person I’m talking to is asking more out of curiosity than a serious intention of giving it a try - I will say: “Pilates can be done on a mat on the floor, which looks a lot like yoga. But they have a slightly different intention behind the movement. In yoga the focus is a bit more on stretching and in Pilates the focus is a bit more on strength, especially core strength. But it’s all bodyweight exercise, so it is definitely similar. But - Pilates can also be done on apparatus, such as the Reformer, Chair, Trapeze Table, Spine Corrector or Ladder Barrel. And that’s very different from yoga, which doesn't use large equipment, only small props.”
If the person asks me a follow up question, I might go into more details. Otherwise, I’m content with the message I’ve sent.
On the other hand, if I have the feeling that the person is interested in trying Pilates I will answer with a question: “Are you practicing yoga?” If someone has a first-hand experience of yoga, we can have a more detailed discussion about the specific movements and experience.
I will ask another follow-up question regarding the style of yoga they practice. There is a huge range from vigorous, sweaty Vinyasa-flow or hot yoga classes to the complete opposite of restorative or yin yoga, with Hatha yoga somewhere in between.
With Pilates, too, your experience will depend on the teacher and the level or theme of the class. No two Pilates classes are the same, but you’ll notice similarities, if only in the words your teacher uses.
Related: What is Pilates?
I can point out that Pilates does not include any religious or spiritual practices, no chanting. Just mindful movement with concentration and awareness.
Every movement in Pilates starts at the center of the body, so core connection is a constant theme in each exercise.
Yoga is about achieving certain postures, about getting into the deepest stretch or holding more challenging poses for longer. Pilates is about getting to know your body with its strengths and challenges and correct imbalances and poor posture.
The question some people might be too timid to ask you directly, but I bet they’re thinking is “Why is Pilates so much more expensive than yoga?”
I actually don’t think Pilates mat classes are much more expensive than yoga classes (please correct me if I live under a tree 🌳). But Pilates Reformer classes are more expensive, because the Reformers need to be paid for and the number of machines the studio can fit into the room limits the number of students they can fit into one class.
Private sessions are naturally more expensive. Any one-to-one appointment is more expensive than group experiences, no matter the field. Your chiropractor might seem cheaper, but that’s because they can fit 3 people into 60 minutes while Pilates sessions usually take 50-60 minutes.
Maybe compare your private Pilates session to a massage. That’s a similar pricing model, just with less overhead in terms of square footage, equipment, etc
Want to learn more about how to sell communicate the benefit of Pilates, I encourage you to join the Pilates Encyclopedia membership at the professional level. It includes a bunch of real-life tips and tricks that'll help you turn curious folks into paying clients.
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