pilates body toning exercise

Yoga vs. Pilates—What’s Best for Toning Your Body?

Both yoga and Pilates are low intensity, non-impact exercises. While they each have their unique benefits and ways of toning the body, they are both classified as “low intensity, steady state” exercises, which have low impact on the bones, ligaments, and joints, as well as build endurance through increased blood flow. Aerobic exercises such as Pilates and yoga are essential for burning fat and carbohydrates for energy, as well as slowing down enough to reach a “recovery pace”, which is why athletes typically incorporate yoga and Pilates in their training as “active recovery” sessions. For everyone else, 30-60 minutes of either exercise 3-4 times each week will help promote cardiovascular and muscular health.

So, both yoga and Pilates are good low intensity workouts that strengthen and stretch the muscles, but how do they compare? Is Pilates good for toning or are you better off with yoga??

Pilates is an exercise that focuses on awareness of the posture and activation of the muscles through engaging, releasing, and lengthening. A Pilates session alongside physiotherapy might incorporate special Pilates equipment for extra resistance, such as a Pilates Reformer to increase toning. Yoga, on the other hand, is an exercise that is all body weight.

By focusing on contracting small muscle groups at a time, Pilates can be done at a pace that is safe for you, while also maintaining proper form. Similar to yoga, breathing is cued in Pilates, but in Pilates there is more focus on which muscles to concentrate on and contract.

Here are some of Pilates unique benefits:

  • Improved posture
  • Improved muscle control
  • Increased strength in the muscles of pelvis, hips, and lower back
  • Core strength
  • Increased tone without adding bulk
  • Balance and coordination
  • Flexibility
  • Spinal stability

In contrast to Pilates, Yoga focuses on the body as whole when it comes to flexibility. Yoga also incorporates equipment, but not for increased resistance. Yoga utilizes props like bolsters, blocks, or straps for increasing flexibility and making poses more achievable for anyone.

Yoga also promotes body awareness, but more so through mindfulness of the breath as opposed to specific muscles and small movements. Not only do yoga poses incorporate all body weight to strengthen muscles, but each pose was designed to stretch and strengthen the body as well.

Here are some of yoga’s unique benefits:

  • Reduced stress
  • Increased body awareness
  • Improved cardiovascular health
  • Happiness
  • Improved sleep
  • Balance
  • Increased concentration

If we take into consideration the differences and similarities of each exercise, we see that they both help strengthen and stretch the muscles in order to tone the body. Both incorporate body weight to do so, just using different methods and, occasionally, different equipment.  So really the idea of activating muscles, strengthening, and lengthening, whether muscles, ligaments, or joints, is a focus of either exercise. You may in fact want to try both, unless your personal injuries, goals, and even your physiotherapist determine one would be more beneficial for you than the other.

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