Are you considering taking up yoga or pilates? Are you unsure which one is right for you? There are several differences between these exercises, here we compare the benefits to each and outline the different styles practised in Ireland today.
Is yoga for you?
Yoga is an exercise that focuses on flexibility and strengthening varied muscle groups through body postures and breathing exercises. It can also help you develop better balance and endurance. Yoga engages the body in a programme of physical postures. Designed to build physical strength, increase stamina and create a better flow through your body. A typical session will consist of warm-up stretches, breathing exercises, workout positions and a relaxation cool-down.
The benefits of yoga
As outlined above, yoga can help you increase overall flexibility, strength, balance and stamina. It can also reduce joint pains by improving the body’s alignment. As well as the physical benefits of yoga there are a number of other advantages to consider. It has been proven to help reduce stress, improve sleep and lower blood pressure.
Types of Yoga
There are a variety of yoga styles, with a class to suit everyone’s abilities. It’s best to try out different styles before deciding which is right for you. Below are some of the most popular styles of yoga that are practised in Ireland today:
- Hatha: is a category used to describe a broad array of yoga practices. These classes are a great introduction to basic yoga postures and for those who need slow stretches. They can be gentle but also physically and mentally challenging as you hold poses for longer. The perfect complement to aerobic workouts, it can help you release tension, feel looser and strengthen your body.
- Vinyasa: this is a very popular style of yoga that synchronises movement with breath. It moves at a faster pace than some other forms of yoga but still requires a high level of concentration. The main difference between this and hatha is the speed at which one holds the postures, focusing on the flow between the movements rather than individual poses. You will definitely work up a sweat in a vinyasa class.
- Bikram: Unlike vinyasa, where no two classes are the same, Bikram follows a routine of 26 set poses in every session. It also takes place in a 35–42 °C heated studio, designed to help rid the body of toxins through sweat. This is a class recommended for more experienced yoga practitioners. The heat combined with the postures can be very challenging. Bikram will test your physical limits and offer you a more cardiovascular workout than other types.
Is Pilates for you?
Pilates is a form of exercise that focuses on strengthening the body with an emphasis on the core. The core refers to all the muscles in the body’s midsection, including the front, back and sides. It is a suitable exercise for people of all ages and fitness abilities. It can be particularly beneficial for older adults, people who are rehabilitating after an injury and athletes who want to enhance their performance.
Similar to yoga, it uses postures to help improve balance and flexibility. It integrates the whole body in each workout session, with slow and controlled movements designed to inflict the minimal impact on the joints. Unlike yoga, however, Pilates focuses on toning and strengthening.
The benefits of pilates
In addition to tone and strength, Pilates has been proven to improve practitioners flexibility, mobility and posture. In other studies, it was shown to ease back pain, improve bone density and boost heart rate. These factors all contribute to an overall reduced risk of injury in daily life while playing sport or engaging in other exercises.
Additionally, it has been linked to relieving the symptoms of some conditions and illnesses such as:
- Chronic neck and back pain.
- Hip or knee pains.
- Multiple sclerosis.
- Post-partum related problems.
Also, similar to yoga the breathing exercises performed can aid relaxation, reduce stress and help you focus more.
Types of Pilates
- Mat Pilates: as the name suggests this type of pilates is practised on the floor, as originally devised by pilates founder Joseph Pilates. A great exercise for all levels of fitness, mat pilates involves little or no equipment and a specific set of gentle routine movements. These classes can be challenging but highly rewarding as you work on strengthening your core.
- Reformer Pilates: the reformer is a piece of Pilates equipment that resembles a half bed-like frame with a flat carriage on it. Reformer pilates can offer a more challenging workout, with adjustable bars and cables designed to allow the body to move through a full range of motion. This form of pilates can help speed up weight loss. As demonstrated in a study conducted in 2015 in which participants lost fat from their triceps, waist and thighs and gained lean mass after 16 weeks.
Whether you ultimately choose yoga or pilates, we recommend you learn the basics under the guidance of a certified trainer, in a group class or individual session. Finally, you don’t necessarily have to choose one over the other, a lot of people practice both to get the benefits of each.
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