What is the difference between yoga and Pilates?

The main difference between Pilates and yoga is the intention of practice.

Pilates is an exercise method focusing on strengthening the core muscles: abdominals, buttocks, and low back. The intention is to stretch and strengthen muscles in a deliberate and balanced way to achieve fitness results.

The intention of yoga is established by the person doing the practice. Yoga develops strength, flexibility, and balance, as well as mental focus, stress relief, and relaxation. Although yoga is not, strictly speaking, an exercise method, hatha yoga, defined as the physical poses, is practiced today by many people for the exercise benefits. Yoga includes many other aspects besides the poses, the goal of which is to incorporate yoga into life off the mat, in order to maximize one’s full potential. These aspects are referred to as the Eight Limbs of Yoga or the Eightfold Path.

The Eightfold Path of Yoga:

  1. Values
    – Peace
    – Truth
    – Non-stealing
    – Self-control
    – Non-hoarding
  2. Healthy Habits
    – Cleanliness
    – Contentment
    – Self-discipline (burning effort)
    – Self study (Who am I?)
    – Commit to spirit or higher power
  3. Poses (Hatha Yoga)
  4. Breath control
  5. Calming the senses
  6. Concentration
  7. Meditation
  8. Becoming one with Spirit *

* This eighth limb of yoga, translated from the Sanskrit word samadhi, as with all yoga philosophy, has various interpretations, including bliss consciousness, liberation, highest contemplation, superconsciousness, blissful absorption, to become one with God.

You can practice yoga merely for physical exercise, to reach bliss consciousness, or both. There is no one right way to practice yoga. If you are breathing and paying attention, you are doing yoga.

Other differences between yoga and Pilates include body alignment, names of exercises, and breathing patterns.

What is similar about yoga and Pilates?

Both are body, mind, spirit disciplines. In order to gain the full benefits, one must pay attention to the breath and proper alignment. Photographs of many Pilates mat exercises look like yoga poses. Many Pilates mat exercises are based on yoga. Since there are similar movements, many people who like yoga also like Pilates, and vice versa.

What is Yoga-Pilates Fusion? What is Pilates Plus Yoga? What is Yogalates? Is it more yoga or more Pilates?

These classes combine both disciplines for a complete mind, body, spirit workout. The percentage of yoga and Pilates varies on different days to meet the needs of the group.

Isn't yoga just stretching? Can I really get a workout doing yoga?

Whenever you stretch one muscle, you contract the opposing muscle. Thus yoga can be done for strength training, using your own body weight for resistance. It takes flexibility to get into the pose, but to hold it requires strength. You can practice yoga at a gentle, moderate, or vigorous intensity. If you want a workout, you can get a workout doing yoga.

What style of yoga do you teach?

Inner Flame Yoga is a blend of yoga styles, inspired by numerous workshops and classes, formal teacher training, and personal practice.

The major influence is Kim Valeri of YOGAspirit Studios based in South Hamilton, MA. . Kim has a profound connection to a faith deep within her heart, and guides others to find this place of faith within themselves. The basic premise is that wholeness can be experienced when we are secure and at peace with ourselves and are able to navigate through daily life with discrimination and clarity. This requires that our energies be balanced on the physical, mental, emotional, causal levels and that all the techniques of yoga are used to bring about this state. The postures are taught with proper alignment and focus so that they are effective and safe. YOGAspirit® guides students towards finding harmony of body, mind and spirit. Kim’s primary teacher is Patricia Walden, a senior teacher in the Iyengar method. Iyengar yoga is noted for great attention to detail and the precise alignment of postures, as well as the use of props such as blocks and belts. YOGAspirit embraces the basics of Iyengar Yoga, in an atmosphere of safety and compassion, with modifications and variations that allow every student to experience success with ease and joy.

Classes are also inspired from the following:

Kripalu Yoga is called the yoga of consciousness, Kripalu puts great emphasis on proper breath, alignment, coordinating breath and movement, and "honoring the wisdom of the body" -- you work according to the limits of your individual flexibility and strength. Alignment follows awareness. Students learn to focus on the physical and psychological reactions caused by various postures to develop their awareness of mind, body, emotion and spirit. Listening to your body and responding to what brings fulfillment are key to the practice; doing it right and looking good are de-emphasized.

Anusara means, "to step into the current of Divine Will", "following your heart", "flowing with Grace", "to move with the current of divine will." Anusara yoga is described as heart-oriented, spiritually inspiring, yet grounded in a deep knowledge of outer and inner body alignment. Each student’s various abilities and limitations are deeply respected and honored. 

Vinyasa Flow is moving practice, where postures flow from one to the next, connected by the breath. Flow begins with simple poses and progresses toward the more complex, to cultivate the qualities of steadiness and inner joy.  

Classes have a foundation in exercise science as well. Poses and exercises are chosen to match the goals of the class, with awareness of which muscles are being warmed up, stretched, and strengthened.

Any further thoughts about the interrelationship of yoga, exercise, and life?

The first two "questions" of fitness instructor training were, (1) what muscles are you trying to stretch, strengthen, or limber? and (2) are you doing that? So it is with yoga. Are you trying to be thin, be flexible, be strong, be more focused, be healthy? There is no right answer here; your practice can support whatever intention you set for yourself. So it is with life. What are you trying to accomplish in your career and your relationships? Are you doing that? The inner practices of yoga (steps 5 through 8 on the Eightfold path above) can help. It all starts with paying attention and setting your intention.