Yoga or Pilates?
By Dr. Laina Shulman
When people discuss the physical benefits of exercise, they tend to focus on the three Ss: strength, stamina and slimming. With this in mind, their training program usually consists of weight-lifting to build muscle, with some form of aerobic activity to build cardiovascular endurance and burn calories. There is a second tier of benefits we're beginning to value. These benefits include flexibility, coordination, posture and stress relief.It is not that these secondary benefits weren't always important -- it's just that they're more in the forefront these days due to the growing popularity of so-called "softer" training modalities. Two of the most popular of these types of exercise are yoga and Pilates.
What's the difference?
Yoga, of course, has been popular in North America for many decades. Pilates, however, is a newer trend whose benefits are expressed by many celebrities. Many people would like to try one of these gentler forms of exercise but are confused as to which would better meet their needs. The correct choice for you depends on your goals. Simply put, the difference between yoga and Pilates reflects the difference between Eastern and Western cultures. Both systems build strength and flexibility; the difference between them is not only physical, but also philosophical.
Let's take yoga first. Yoga is based on the Eastern idea of moving energy through your body. The more freely the energy flows, the more energetic and centred you feel. Physical tension hinders this flow and may result in areas becoming tight, more rigid, and even painful. The physical goal of yoga is to keep the body supple and strong through controlled strengthening and stretching. There is a far more powerful dimension to yoga that is often overlooked. Yoga began as a spiritual discipline with its roots in Eastern forms of meditation. The physical postures do condition the body but, combined with proper breathing, are aimed at calming the mind. Yoga participants learn to stay calm and control their breathing while holding challenging physical postures. When these principles of yoga are incorporated into your lifestyle, they lead to an overall awareness of your body and a tool to achieve inner and outer balance.
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