What is the difference between Yoga and Pilates?

A yoga mat can be found in almost every home these days. Indian teaching has long since secured a permanent place in our society, but Pilates is at least as popular. Both sports are about conscious movement , that much is clear - but what is the exact difference? We explain why breathing plays an important role in yoga as opposed to Pilates and everything else there is to know about this topic!

What is the difference between Yoga and Pilates?

The basic principle

Arguably the biggest difference between yoga and Pilates is the importance that body and mind each have . Yoga, which is several thousand years old, aims to create a unity between both factors, while Pilates primarily focuses on the body.

Yoga: the philosophy

Yoga is a teaching with many thousands of years of background. The Indian philosophy of life does not focus so much on the movement, but describes the exercises, the so-called asanas, as part of a path with eight steps . This path should lead to self-knowledge and also includes breathing techniques, meditation and inner peace and the ability to concentrate.

Theoretically, you don't "do" yoga, you live it. The age of this tradition, which should not be underestimated, also means that yoga has meanwhile developed in many directions and there is a large selection of styles . Our Western idea of ​​yoga refers to the Hatha Yoga style , but there is also, for example, Bikram Yoga, which is practiced at a room temperature of 40°C, or Kundalini Yoga, where mantras play an important role.

In short: In yoga, the unity of body, mind and soul is paramount . According to yoga teachings, this unity can be achieved through meditation, among other things. The movements are not explicitly intended as a sport, but should help you to concentrate better when meditating and to be able to hold out longer.

Pilates: the philosophy

Compared to yoga, Pilates is still in its infancy in terms of age: this discipline has only existed since the 19th century . Originally developed by Joseph Hubert Pilates during World War I as a strengthening program for soldiers, Pilates really took off in America in the 1960s.

If we go to Pilates today, it is mainly because we want to move. The physical aspect clearly has priority here. Controlled, consciously executed movements strengthen the deep muscles and improve body awareness . The central factor is the so-called powerhouse, i.e. the pelvic floor, lower back and abdominal muscles. This is where most of the work happens in many exercises.

Breathing in Yoga and Pilates

Correct breathing is the be-all and end-all for any type of movement, that much is certain. However, there is a difference in yoga and Pilates in terms of the status and execution of breathing.

yoga breathing

Breathing is a central element of every yoga practice because it is understood as a conscious exercise that guides you through the movements. You breathe through your nose, i.e. work with abdominal breathing. You may have heard of the term pranayama : These are special breathing exercises that are an independent part of yoga and include both nose and mouth breathing.

Pilates breathing

Breathing is also related to movement in Pilates, but there is no spiritual aspect behind it. Basically, diaphragmatic breathing is used here and the air is drawn in or expelled particularly intensively. Breathing is therefore more functional and sets the rhythm of the movements.

Accessories and Equipment: Yoga versus Pilates

If you do yoga yourself regularly, you know: nothing works without the yoga mat ! You can usually do Pilates exercises on the mat, after all, a soft, non-slip surface is never bad. In principle, you can also do Pilates without a mat or use equipment and other accessories instead.

For what purpose are yoga and Pilates suitable?

Since the focus is on different (body) areas, you can easily achieve different things with yoga and Pilates. If your primary goal is to lose weight , Pilates is a good choice because it builds deep muscles and burns more fat. But if the main thing is to release tension, reduce stress and simply switch off , yoga is your candidate .


While yoga is more of a lifestyle focus, while Pilates is more of a sport in the truest sense of the word, the two styles are actually not that dissimilar. Both aim to consciously and fluently perform body movements and to tense or relax the muscles in the rhythm of the breath.

Both yoga and Pilates also want to enable you to perceive your body better in everyday life and to improve your health . So what you can expect from either style if you practice regularly is improved well-being.

If you're curious, you can try Yogalates: This new variant combines calm yoga asanas with dynamic Pilates elements - the best of both worlds!

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