What is the difference between yoga and Pilates? How will I know which one is right for me?
Yoga and Pilates have many similarities.
Both are transformational, focused methods of movement that facilitate positive change
Both can improve flexibility, strength and balance
Both focus on the journey of moving rather than the goal
Both emphasize alignment and body awareness
Both connect movement to breath
Both are non-impact
Both can be exceptional workouts
Both improve circulation and highly oxygenate the system
Their differences complement one another in the best of ways.
Yoga concentrates mostly on increasing strength and flexibility of the spine and limbs; Pilates focuses on building abdominal strength first, and then symmetrical musculature as well as overall flexibility.
The breathing patterns are different in both. In most forms of yoga yoga, for the bulk of the asana practice, the breath is heat-inducing, such as ujjayi breath, a smooth, breath pattern that sounds like the ocean. In Pilates, the breath for most exercises is a slow, controlled, diaphragmatic breath, but a few exercises use a rapid, staccato-like breath.
The approach of Pilates is on mind and body; the approach of yoga is on mind, body and spirit.
In yoga, your primary “tool” is your own body weight. In Pilates, you may use bodyweight exercises or machines.
In yoga, the primary goal (aside from proper alignment in the poses), is to stay connected to the breath; in Pilates, the first order of business is the precision of movement, and then, the coordination of that movement with the breath.
In Pilates, most of the exercises are performed on the floor lying down, either prone (on the stomach), supine (on the back), or side-lying. These movements aim to defy gravity the entire time, engaging the abdominal center in order to lift up from the ground to lengthen and strengthen muscles. In yoga, many of the poses are done standing, and work with gravity by rooting down into the earth in order to lengthen the body away from the floor (with the exception of arm balances and inversions where one tries to defy gravity). Note that in yoga, there are a large number of poses done on the floor as well, such as seated forward bends, twists, bow pose, and plow, and in Pilates, there is also standing series, such as the sculpting series or exercises that integrate the magic circle prop.
The practice of yoga began in northern India over 5000 years ago as a means to assist students in sitting in meditation for long periods of time. In the 1960’s it started becoming more popular in the U.S.. Pilates was created by Joseph Pilates in the early-20th century as a form of rehabilitation and strengthening. Joseph Pilates was an athlete who struggled with several ailments as a child. He was inspired by his own illness and by working with injured soldiers during World War I to develop the Pilates method for healing purposes.
If you don't know where to start, try them both. If you are leaning towards one or the other, try them both anyway. That's the only way to really know which practice you will enjoy and benefit from most. And the good news is, it’s not an “either-or” situation!
Can I eat before yoga?
About one hour before class, eat a light, fuel-filled snack, such as a banana or apple lightly smeared with almond butter, a handful of almonds, a small serving of oats, or a simple green smoothie. This will help boost your energy without crowding your stomach leading to discomfort. Try not to shove food in your mouth on your way to class. This will likely cause some stomach discomfort and make you not want to do yoga again any time soon.
In contrast, don’t come without having eaten at all. Simple sources or protein and fiber will give fuel to your practice.
What about drinking before class?
Drink A LOT of water before, during and after your class – at least 8-10 glasses throughout the day. Planning to hit up a hot yoga class? Double your water intake. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty! And make sure to bring a full water bottle to class with you! Hydration is key to staying mindful and healthy during your practice. Note: whether you prefer your yoga hot or not, water is your best friend. Bottoms up! (We also have a water cooler at the studio so you can fill up for free, and we sell bottles of water for $1 at the front desk.)
What do I wear?
Speaking of bottoms up, wear clothes (pants, shorts, tank tops, t-shirts, etc.) that allow you to move freely and fully. In some cases, your instructor needs to see your body well enough to assess the alignment of your bones and engagement of your muscles, so while loose is fine, baggy may distract both of you. It truly doesn’t matter where you purchase your gear (but, ahem, have you seen Beyond Zen’s retail area?) or how much it costs. Really, all that matters is that you feel comfortable when you bend over.
Your best bet for clothing is
Athletic pants or shorts. (We suggest you do the wide-legged bend over test before coming to class to ensure everything is left to the imagination.)
Sports bra, tank or t-shirt (For women)
Athletic tank or t-shirt (for men)
Also, Pilates and yoga are usually done barefoot – no fancy footwear needed. If you are uncomfortable barefoot, then there are socks specifically designed for both activities. They allow you the necessary traction to do the exercises and poses safely without risk of slipping.
If you’re taking a hot class, sweat-wicking fabrics are more advisable than cotton, as the latter fabric is likely to absorb sweat and become uncomfortably clingy.
You will also want to avoid excess accessories such as long necklaces, dangling bracelets and belts that could get in the way while you are moving.
And just to allow you to keep your zen on, we suggest leaving your cell phone, IPad, and pagers outside the classes. This allows you the full opportunity to unwind, and it also removes the possibility of distracting other students.
How much do yoga and Pilates cost?
Since we’re on the uncomfortable topic of money, let’s keep talking. We love yoga and Pilates so much that we wish we could share it with every human being in the world, and it really bums us out that not everyone can access it because of money. That’s why our studio has several options to help us spread the love in a way that’s easier on the wallet:
$40 unlimited classes for new clients (see below)
Half-Off Humpday – half off every Wednesday class
Sawbuck Sunday – Yoga is just $10
However, while we wish we could give yoga and Pilates away for free, we can’t because our instructors need to make a living, too. We charge so we can keep the lights on. We charge so we can hire excellent, knowledgeable instructors. We charge because we believe in this service.
Since you’re new here, we have a deal for you! One month unlimited for $40. Why unlimited? Because they say it takes at least 10 classes for you to get used to any new body exercise. We encourage you to try it on! Explore all of our instructors, the different styles, the class times, and see what sticks with you.
Do I have to be in shape to do Pilates or yoga?
No! Anyone can start Pilates or yoga at any level. It is catered to meet you where you are – whatever age, stage, height, weight, or size you may be. Just be sure to pace yourself appropriately and notice how you’re feeling. It’s great to challenge your body, but you don’t want to overwhelm it. We also love it when clients find us and are just at the beginning of their journey. Then we can provide you the proper instruction, support, and encouragement that you need.
What if I can't do something the instructor tells us to do?
Be kind and compassionate to your body. Please don’t beat yourself up. If your body needs rest, take rest. Child’s Pose is available to you at any time during class. There is no “must” or “have to” in yoga or Pilates! You may see other students doing poses or exercises, but don’t feel like you need to compete with or compare yourself to them.
How often should I practice yoga?
It really depends on your personal goals, needs and schedule. Daily practice rejuvenates body, mind and spirit, but our lives don’t always make that possible. A practice of at least 3 times a week helps develop discipline and can lead to transformation. But hey, come to the mat whenever you can and you will benefit.
How often should I do Pilates?
Because it’s non-impact, Pilates is safe enough to do every day. In order to develop a rhythm and consistency, then a good goal is to do it at least 3 times a week. That said, like yoga, you will benefit whenever you do Pilates, no matter how often.
What should I bring with me to a yoga class? Do I need my own mat?
Yoga can be a very personal exercise. Setting up your yoga space can be as intimate as the actual act of stretching and posing. That’s why we recommend bringing your own mat to class, as well as a hand towel to wipe away any sweat beads that may appear on your skin. If you don’t own a mat, not to worry! We provide studio mats for free in addition to other equipment such as blocks, straps, etc. Just remember to wipe down your mats with the provided cleaner and towels when class is over.
We also sell mats and other equipment in our retail area.
(And oh yeah,… it’s nice if you come with a smile, but if you don’t have one entering our studio, we hope you have one leaving.)
What’s the deal with your hot yoga classes? Why is it so darn hot?
We offer classes with the room set at different temperatures because not everyone likes it hot.
We offer classes at a comfortable “normal” temperature (70-75 degrees); some that are warm (approximately 75 -80 degrees); and some that are hot (80-95 degrees). Classesthat are hot or warm are designated as such on the schedule.
The hot classes utilize the heat to help relax the body, focus the mind, improve breathing, and since most people sweat a lot more, detoxify.
If you have a health condition that you are concerned about, consult your doctor, use common sense, and don’t push too hard. Stop immediately if you get light-headed, dizzy, nauseous, headachy, or have vision disturbances in any way. Drink water, take a rest, and let a studio staff member know so she or he can help you. It’s best to leave the room and go to a cooler area. Lie on your back and if possible, elevate your legs on a wall, chair or cushion.
Is there any situation in which someone shouldn’t do hot yoga?
First, respect and know your body, and be honest with yourself about what’s going on with it. Obviously, not everyone experiences adverse effects from exercising in the heat, but some of us do and that’s okay. Take extra precautions if you have any of the following medical conditions:
Extended sleep deprivation
High or Low Blood Pressure
Being overweight or underweight, and taking certain medications could also interfere with your body’s heat regulation system. If in doubt, ask your physician and be certain to speak with your instructor prior to class. And if hot yoga is not for you, don’t worry, there are lots of alternative classes to help you meet your goals and needs.
Do I have to do hot yoga in order to get a good yoga workout?
Absolutely, positively not. The heat is an enhancement option to your yoga experience, but you can still benefit in flexibility, focus, awareness, strength and breath from a room that is not heated. You can also sweat! We like to provide you with the options.
What is Aerial Yoga?
Aerial yoga is the practice of traditional Hatha yoga by using a low-hanging soft fabric hammock (or swing) that supports up to 400 lbs. With the weight of the body partially or fully supported along with the help of gravity and the fabric, we can explore and create space in our bodies as intended in traditional Yoga practice. More information can be found on our Aerial Yoga page.
Is there anyone who shouldn’t do Aerial Yoga?
We place safety first at Beyond Zen so we appreciate your sharing any medical conditions or medical history with your instructors – this includes illnesses, surgeries, injuries, and pregnancies.
For those curious about aerial yoga, you should avoid it if you have any of the following conditions:
High Blood Pressure
Low Blood Pressure
The instructor or staff person can find an alternative class that will help meet your needs and goals.
What if classes are full?
Definitely hop on the wait list for a class – we’ll notify you if a space opens up and you can decide then if you want to join us. If the wait list is full and you really want in the class, stop by and we’ll put you in if there is a last-minute no show.
I want to take a Pilates Reformer class, but the equipment looks scary? Will I get individual attention?
Yes, with only 5 students in class, the instructors can suggest modifications specifically to you. But if you have special needs or injuries, then we suggest you take 1-on-1 sessions until you are comfortable modifying exercises on your own.
How do I know which yoga class to take? There seem to be many different styles.
The best way to answer this question is to explore your own personal goals. Are you rehabilitating after an injury? Are you wanting a sweat-inducing cardiovascular challenge? Or are you needing to relax and restore? Once you’ve identified your goals, then speak to one of our staff who can help you find the classes best for you. Of course, the best way to answer this question is to try a few different classes and instructors!
What if I have a pain or previous injury?
It is always appropriate to talk to the instructor about any existing physical conditions and concerns you have about them. Yoga and Pilates benefit many people with chronic pain by helping the body regain its balance between strength and flexibility, movement and awareness. If you are under a doctor’s care for an acute situation, please be sure to discuss taking yoga or Pilates classes with him or her. And yes, you can do yoga or Pilates if you are injured, pregnant, or just feel inflexible. Just remember to practice self-care and not to let your ego dictate what you do.
What are the Dos and Don’ts?
DO arrive on time.
DON’T be a no-show. (Please cancel or call if you are going to miss class. If you are signed up, that spot is being held for you. If you cancel in a timely way, we could offer other people the opportunity to attend.)
DO let your instructors know about injuries or changes in your body. (Often instructors will ask the group how they are feeling before class and if there are any injuries. You can speak then or if you want a more private conversation, approach the instructor before class starts and let them know what’s up. New bodily strains, persistent pains, pregnancies, and surgeries are important to communicate.
DON’T use class time as chat time. (We know that you may be in class with your bestie, but your talking can distract other students and the instructor, and you may miss some very important information.)
DO ask appropriate questions. (Some questions can wait until after class, but if something is pressing and won’t disturb the flow, ask during class.)
DON’T do exercises that hurt your body. (Forget about “no pain, no gain!” Adopt a habit of self-care. If an instructor asks you to do something that is not right for your body, it is alright not to do it. You are responsible for your body. You can also ask for modifications.)
DON’T be afraid of yoga or Pilates classes. (Some people are intimidated by classes, particularly if it’s a brand new activity and everyone else seems to know what’s going on. Don’t be afraid. Our Beyond Zen staff are here to welcome you and make sure you feel comfortable and know all you need to know to get started.
I have another question that you didn't cover...
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