Calgary Herald -- If you have never experienced a yoga or Pilates session, they may seem similar.
They are both considered mind-body training. They both include flexibility and stability exercises. They both involve a great deal of discipline and movement mastery. Both are performed in a quiet and meditative studio. Yet they are quite different.
Pilates is a method of conditioning developed by Joseph H. Pilates. It trains both body and mind through a series of exercises that focus on increasing a balance of strength, flexibility and grace through use of flowing movements and breath.
This system incorporates a high degree of mental focus to execute and control integrated sequences of movements. Pilates exercises are designed to work the deepest muscles in the body, creating a strong core for everyday life.
These exercises can be performed on specialized Pilates equipment, such as a Reformer, Cadillac or Wunda chair, or on the floor.
While Pilates is often thought of as core conditioning, this doesn't describe its full essence. Its corrective exercise techniques assist in finding imbalances within the body and re-educating the body to move more effectively.
Yoga, on the other hand, is a much older practice and, in its complete form, is a way of life: a philosophical and spiritual system.
The physical practice of yoga that we are most familiar with in the western world is only one small part of this broader system. The word "yoga" means the union of the mind, body and soul toward the road of self-realization.
In yoga history, the Indian sage Pantanjali systemized the various aspects of yoga into eight limbs - all equally important and interconnected - consisting of moral codes, self-purification and study, yoga postures, breath control, sense control, concentration, meditation and contemplation.
The most popular forms of yoga in the west are based on the practice of yoga postures to increase strength, balance and flexibility. Depending on the style of yoga, it may be more relaxing and meditative or athletic and strong.
Through the practices of yoga posture, you gain consciousness of breath and will increase strength, stability and flexibility, as well as decrease anxiety, pain and discomfort.
Although yoga and Pilates may seem similar, the intention of each activity is very different.
Both approaches have incredible benefits.
Helen Vanderburg, B.P.E., is a renowned trainer, corporate wellness speaker and owner of Heavens Elevated Fitness and Yoga: heavensfitness.com.