Should I do Yoga or Pilates?


We often recommend that our clients participate in low impact, stretching, and core strengthening activities.  It’s an important transition from recovery after surgery or injury to more strenuous exercise.  In addition, these activities benefit those with chorionic pain, autoimmune, or inflammatory conditions.

Both yoga and Pilates fit these criteria, so clients often ask:

“What’s the difference between yoga and Pilates? And, which should I do?”

The short answer is that they are very similar and can give you comparable results.  As far as which you should do, my best advise is always . . . do the one you are most likely to do.

More than anything, we want you to pick an exercise activity that you enjoy, will look forward to and stick with.

Both yoga and Pilates will help you improve flexibility and build long lean muscles. They promote spinal alignment and strength for better posture.  The connection of mind and body is also emphasized in both, but yoga practices often add a spiritual component with meditation.

With that being said, there are some key differences.  Also, under certain circumstances one may be better than the other.  Let’s dive into each of them and how they differ.


The practice of yoga was brought to the western world more than 100 years ago.  Meditation and breathing are large components and will benefit anyone looking to melt away stress and feel more relaxed.

Yogis perform most poses in standing and are hold them statically.  This static stretch allows for muscle lengthening and improves balance.

This may be the best practice for you if you constantly feel stiff or sore, but you do not have a specific injury.  It’s also a good option in the following circumstances:

  • anxiety or depression

  • high blood pressure

  • chronic pain

  • autoimmune disease


Created in the 1920’s, Pilates was developed for strengthening and rehabilitation from injury.  The main premise is that strength develops from the inside out.  In general, exercises are performed lying down and engaging the “core” or center to lift the body and lengthen the muscles away from the ground.

The slow and controlled movements involve conscious breathing to bring oxygen to the working muscles.  The result is an improvement in abdominal and low back strength, as well and strength and flexibility in the limbs.

This may be the best practice to rehab from injury when your goal is to return to more athletic endeavors.  More specifically, choose this option in the following circumstances:

  • arthritis

  • urinary incontinence

  • joint injuries

  • back pain

My Two Cents

In my personal practice, I find myself recommending yoga for those who have more chronic conditions where stress relief and relaxation will benefit their quality of life.  Older clients with balance and mobility problems also see the greatest benefit from the standing yoga poses.

Pilates lends itself well to back pain and nearly any injury where a strong core and muscular balance is the goal.  Subsequently, you may even find Pilates type exercises and movements popping up in your rehab program here at Peak Potential.

Personalized Help

In conclusion, both workouts require monitoring and modifications if you have any type of back, neck, or joint pain.  Seek out an instructor who has experience making such modifications or talk to your physical therapist about which movements you should avoid.

To speak with a physical therapist about a yoga, Pilates, or functional rehab program fill out this short form for a FREE discovery call HERE.