Whether you plan to exercise for general health benefits, to improve your flexibility or your overall mental well-being in midlife, yoga and pilates are both great workouts to start with, especially if you haven’t moved for a while.
What we sometimes forget is that they are both forms of mind-body exercises and they have significantly evolved in recent years, so your ultimate choice will mostly depend on your body type, temperament and what you want to achieve from your workout regime.
What are the main differences?
Yoga and pilates are low-impact disciplines, which makes them ideal for women over 50 who are new to working out.
While yoga’s roots stretch back thousands of years, Pilates is relatively new. The physician Joseph Pilates created this system in the 1920s as a way to rehabilitate bedridden soldiers during World War I.
As a rule of thumb. the first one incorporates more spirituality, using the body to connect with the mind and the inner self, whereas the latter focuses on healing, rehabilitation, and the mechanics of the workout.
In short, yoga can help deepen your meditation practice, improve your flexibility, and help with balance. Pilates may be better for recovering after an injury, improving posture, and core strength.
Benefits of Yoga
The ultimate purpose of yoga is to improve emotional and spiritual health through meditation exercises and activities, promoting a better mind-body connection and boosting self-confidence. Also, the repetitive movements of yoga are therapeutic, increasing the flexibility and strength of the body while adopting a position and holding it, or flowing into a different one.
According to internationally renowned yoga teacher Suza Francina, the health benefits of yoga might vary: from improving your immunity to flushing out toxins, as well as supporting a woman’s physical and spiritual journey through menopause.
“During menopause, there is a tremendous shift and release of energy that is both unsettling and liberating“, she explains in her classic bestseller The New Yoga for People Over 50. “Both spiritual teachers and authorities on women’s health agree that during menopause we are being urged, both biologically (physically) and on a soul level (spiritually), to pause from everyone—to pause from our daily responsibilities –and take some much-needed quiet time just to be with ourselves. The practice of Yoga helps us to integrate and cooperate fully with this process, not only restoring vitality to the body but also expanding the mind and soul”.
Benefits of Pilates
There are many pilates variations available making it an excellent exercise practice for beginners. It forces you to increase body awareness and it works from the core to achieve a stronger body as well as combatting age-related muscle loss.
Its primary purpose is to strengthen the stomach, improve posture, and increase overall balance and strength, focusing on breath awareness, and spinal alignment.
A bit more fast-paced than yoga, pilates exercises can be catered to the individual’s skill level and abilities. challenging your core by moving your arms or legs on a mat, or on a specific pilates machine.
It is essentially about re-educating your body, undoing the damage that years of stress and immobility inflict. According to Joseph Pilates, by repeatedly holding certain corrective positions, we can help our musculature to retain a memory of how it feels when worked out properly.
“Pilates describes a philosophy and style of exercise that’s designed to strengthen the body’s alignment and balance through controlled movements and breathing patterns,” says Greta Wyeth, a California-based Pilates instructor and founder of Still Point Movement. “Initially, it was the dance community that embraced Pilates (originally called Contrology) to help with strength, flexibility and injury recovery and prevention. Since then, Pilates has become a mainstream and accepted form of exercise to a broad range of populations, from the office worker with back pain to the professional athlete,” she explains.
You can work it out
When it comes to exercise, many women assume if they weren’t active during their 30s, there’s no point in getting started in their 50s or even later. Fortunately, that’s just not true. It’s never too late to start an exercise program.
Starting a workout routine can help reverse some of the problems caused by inactivity and can make you feel great about yourself overall. With different variations available at gyms and studios around the world, there’s something for almost everyone, so don’t underestimate the impacts of yoga and pilates on your body.
The more dynamic forms can, in fact, target muscle groups that you won’t access in many other forms of exercise. You can be an incredibly fit runner or boxer and come out of a yoga or pilates class in agony because you’ve worked muscles you don’t usually use.
The good thing is that you don’t necessarily need to choose which one works best for you: actually, they can both work together. Strengthening your core in your pilates classes will give you better balance in yoga. And increasing your flexibility in your yoga classes will allow you to move bigger and deeper in pilates.