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Downward Facing Dog or The Plank?

Yoga? Pilates? Or both?

30 May 2016

Purely out of interest I asked 2 beautiful friends (one a Yoga teacher (Kate) and the other a Pilates teacher (Vanessa)) to answer a few questions for me on the difference between the 2 disciplines and their thoughts about them.

I am lucky enough to be taught both by both!

I adore each discipline as I find that for me, one compliments the other. Unlike my daughter, I am not a triathlete and was always called ‘little weed’ at school but did excel (admittedly there was not much competition!!) at high diving! I am not super bendy or a particularly physically strong person but with their expert tuition I have gained muscle strength, improved my posture and balance and am now very ‘body aware’, more in tune with ‘me, myself and I’, learning the importance of breathing properly and how to relax and meditate.

Here is what they said:

What is Yoga?

Yoga means union or oneness.

It is a practical science teaching us to unite the power of the body, mind and breath to work together.

What is Pilates?

Pilates is a body conditioning routine (developed by Joseph Pilates) that helps build flexibility, muscle strength and endurance in the legs, abdominals, arms, hips and back. It puts emphasis on spinal and pelvic alignment, breathing, developing a strong core, and improving co-ordination and balance.

What are the principles of Yoga?

To practice both the physical postures (Asanas) and meditation daily to enable us to be the best we can be.

What are the principles of Pilates?

The work of Joseph Pilates is based on the following principles:

Concentration:

To be able to focus fully on each movement blocking out all other thoughts, with one movement flowing into the next bringing mind and body together.

Breath:

The Pilates method of breathing is called ‘lateral thoracic breathing’. (Engaging the deep abdominals focuses the breath into the rib area.)

Centreing:

In Pilates it is believed that all movement comes from a strong centre or ‘core’, which we call the ‘power house’.

Precision/quality:

Correct alignment and positioning of the body is crucial to mastering the technique within Pilates and is the key to the quality of execution of the movements.

Flowing movement:

All Pilates exercise should be performed in a continuous flowing way, aiming to achieve controlled movement and balance.

Control:

All Pilates movements should be executed with complete control, focusing on quality rather than quantity.

Awareness:

Everybody is unique and each exercise will challenge a person in a different way. We learn what our body’s strengths and weaknesses are, which in turn brings body awareness, control and effective execution of the movement.

Stamina:

Repetition and frequency increases skill and strength levels.

Relaxation:

The aim is to work at learning to release any stress, relax through the body and allow it to move in a natural flowing way with ease and fluidity.

Is it ok to mix the 2 practices? Do you think that they can / could compliment each other?

Kate:

Yes, I think that it is good to mix things up ‘exercise wise’ as everything has value and helps with health and wellbeing. Although they concentrate on slightly different breathing techniques it helps one to become body aware.

Vanessa:

In my experience practicing different forms of all types of exercise can only benefit your physically and mental wellbeing.

What are the different types and which ones do you practice and teach?

Kate:

There are a few different types of yoga, Satyandanda, Shivananda, Lyengar, Bikram, British Wheel etc

I teach Satyananda yoga as it is from India with its own University and Ashram and lineage. It is not Westernised in any way so I know all the teachings are ancient and come from a safe source and are taught in a very careful and respectful way that truly nurtures the body and mind.

Vanessa:

Pilates can be done on a mat. or using special equipment. I teach mat based Pilates.

What are the benefits of Yoga?

To keep the back supple is the main focus of many of the Asanas. If the back is strong, supple and tension free it effects all the organs in the body and general well being so the body is enabled to keep its balance more effectively. All the practices help keep all the different systems of the body balanced, so for instance if the immune system is boosted, the hormone system is regulated, the lymphatic system is balanced, the whole body can heal and mend itself more effectively with a daily practice of nurturing yoga. The meditation and breathing practices help to calm and settle the mind, which is invaluable for relieving the stress that is a big part of all of our lives.

What are the benefits of Pilates?

With regular correct training the many great benefits include:

Improved Breathing

Efficient movement

Better mental focus and improved concentration

Enhanced body awareness and body control

Improved muscle strength

Better balance and coordination

Reduced stress

Increased muscle flexibility and joint range of motion

How did you get into it and how long have you been doing it?

Kate:

I have been doing it for 22 years. I first learnt from an old man in Cochin in India who was a disciple of Swami Satyananda and I was then trained with another of Swami Satyananda’s disciples in London, Swami Pragyamurti who I have been with for the last 15 years. One of the most inspiring teachers you could ever wish to meet.

Vanessa:

Having danced all my life, Pilates is something I personally became interested in once I stopped dancing full-time and started teaching dance. As a dancer, I suffered a serious back injury and I have always been keen to prevent this reoccurring. Having been strong and flexible all my life, I wanted to keep this without the physical rigours of full-time dancing and I knew Pilates was a way of doing this. Having put a huge strain on all my joints through dancing intensively for many years, Pilates was a way to strengthen my muscles, especially my core and help protect my joints from everyday strain. I then wanted to introduce Pilates into my dance school to benefit my senior students and decided to qualify as a Pilates Instructor myself and in 2011 began training to teach the Mat Based Fundamentals of Pilates and in 2013 qualified with a Complete Mat Pilates Diploma, which is an Active IQ Level 3 Diploma. I started up Adult Pilates classes at my dance studio and now have clients working at Advanced level.

What do you love about it?

Kate:

Everything! I love the way it balances and strengthens the body, settles the mind and gives us so many tools for coping with the stresses of everyday life. For instance if you wake up with an ache and feeling rubbish and you spend some quiet time gently working with yoga, breathing, moving and stretching, then meditating, often you can shift the problem. Likewise if you are feeling your ‘back is against the wall’ and life is just insurmountably difficult to cope with, yoga can change all this and enable you to make the changes there and then and deal with it all step by step. For something to be that empowering is remarkable. The miracles of yoga never cease to amaze me!

Vanessa:

For me personally, I love the feeling of strength in my muscles, especially in my core, giving protection particularly to my spine. Back pain is very common and keeping supple reduces the strain put on my back and keeping my muscles strong adds to the protection of my joints. As a teacher I love seeing the progression my clients have made, some of whom I have worked with for over 4 years now.

What level of fitness do you have to have if you want to start doing either of these disciplines?

Kate:

No level of fitness required. Anyone can do it, just get going! But get proper tuition so as not to harm yourself.

Vanessa:

No level of fitness is required. Pilates has many layers and each exercise can be tailored towards each individual and the level increased as required.

Can you build your strength and fitness?

Kate:

Yes absolutely, its very important to do this very gently over a number of months so that you work within your body’s own capabilities where at no stage do you need to strain the body. We work with what it naturally wants and can do.

Vanessa:

Pilates aims to strengthen the body in an even way with particular emphasis on core strength to improve general fitness and wellbeing.

What age can you start?

Kate:

I did Baby Yoga with my children, they started at 3 months! It was sweet watching them and working with moving their little bodies! In fact you can start earlier, working with babies in utero. The mums who practice yoga in pregnancy often report wonderful things about their births and how the babies are afterwards. There is no age limit, children love it, adults too and much older people as well. Some of my best pupils are in their 80’s and 90’s!

Vanessa:

Pilates, practiced properly, is an excellent form of exercise for all ages. In particular it is ideal to help prevent or improve some of the conditions that can occur as our bodies age. As all exercises can be modified for each individual it is also ideal for people with injuries and physical limitations.

How can someone find a reputable teacher?

Kate:

Make sure to see that they are properly qualified and trained. Each teacher will have an accreditation and should be able to show you a certificate to prove it. Ideally make sure that their training was a minimum of 2 years. There are some schools that teach training in 6 weeks but obviously that is going to be somewhat limited after a while.

Vanessa:

Anyone can call themselves a Pilates teacher as there is currently no legal requirement to be registered or have a Pilates qualification. There is a nationally recognised level 3 qualification for Mat-Based Pilates teaching, but no qualification for teaching Pilates using apparatus.

When choosing a Pilates teacher, you should consider their experience and the quality of their training, as well as their personality and rapport.

^^^^^^^^

So there you have it!

Personally I think that they compliment each other perfectly. They both demand slow and deliberate breathing patterns, both tone and strengthen all body muscle and by virtue of these styles both promote health and wellbeing. The huge bonuses as far I am concerned is that one is learning new movements and building on what you have conquered all the time so you don’t get bored! Plus it is relatively easy to practice something each day without needing oodles of space, time or equipment at home. Result!

I will continue to practice these disciplines for the rest of my life!

Namaste

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