As a physiotherapist who uses Pilates to rehabilitate injuries, I often get asked what is the difference between Pilates and Yoga?


Yoga is the ancient practice of philosophies, principles and practices derived from the Vedric tradition of India and the Himalayas, and most people are aware of the physical practice of yoga – termed Hatha yoga.

Hatha yoga can be further subdivided into Ashtanga, mysore and Yin, with these forms of physical yoga practice including postures that take your muscles, joint capsules and neural tissue to end range length and tension.

Traditional yoga physical practice is 90 minutes duration which includes a meditation component following the physical practice, whilst modern forms of yoga are 30-60 minutes duration.


The Pilates Method has been described as a method of exercise that consists of low impact muscular endurance and strength movements which are designed to improve core stability, flexibility, posture, balance and strength.

Pilates was designed by Joseph Pilates to help rehabilitate detainees at the start of world war one. He developed floor exercises and used the bedsprings to apply resistance to his exercise, which later influenced Pilates equipment design.

Joseph moved to New York in 1926 and continued his exercise style in close proximity to The New York Ballet, where his method gained popularity amongst his dancer client base and Hollywood celebrities alike.

Pilates is delivered as mat or reformer classes, and as individualised studio sessions, and in both instances, there is a qualified instructor to run it.

Mat classes are typically performed in a group setting, consisting of 10-15 clients, and spanning a 60-minute duration. The exercise is generic (everyone performs the same exercises together) and usually covers abdominal, gluteal and shoulder girdle strengthening as well as general flexibility. Reformer classes are of similar design but using the Pilates reformer.

Individualised Studio sessions utilises the Pilates equipment and exercises chosen specifically to each clients’ needs and instructors can manage 3-4 clients at one time in this format.

So which is best for you?

It depends on your current strength and flexibility as well as your current and past injuries. Studio Pilates can be tailored to accommodate musculoskeletal ailments, particularly under the guidance of a physiotherapist trained in Pilates instruction.

While for those with fair flexibility (you can touch your toes) and no injuries, you will get the most out of yoga. If you have poor flexibility Pilates is a more graduated place to start. If you have very flexible joints (hypermobility) you need to have the strength to control this when practicing yoga and Pilates can assist with this.

If you’re still unsure, book an appointment with your physio to make sure you find the right option for your situation.

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