Pilates v Yoga | Tempo Pilates Blog

Living Life to the Core

Welcome to this month’s instalment of the Tempo Pilates blog, where I’m going to be focussing on answering a question I’m asked all the time at the Tempo Pilates studio: what’s the difference between Yoga and Pilates?

If you’ve never stepped foot in a Yoga or Pilates studio, you’d be forgiven for thinking they’re one and the same, but they’re not. There are some similarities, but there are very different reasons to do them.

So let’s have a look at them in more detail.
Yoga v Pilates

Some practitioners claim that if you’re looking for well-being of mind, body and spirit, you should choose Yoga. But if you’re looking for a leaner, more toned body then Pilates is the best choice. The truth is both are great options, and it really comes down to personal preference.

So let’s do a quick comparison, bearing in mind this is a very generalised overview. There are a lot more similarities and differences that I could discuss at length, but as a starting point, these are the main ones.



Pilates is a physical fitness system that was developed in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates. It focuses on the core postural muscles that help keep the body balanced and are essential to providing support for the spine.
An ancient practice from the northern India known as path to both, physical as well as mental well being which includes everything from physical posture and healthy diet to breathing, relaxation and meditation skills


Mind and body approach to exercise
Mind, body and spirit approach to exercise


Around 80 years ago
5,000 years ago

What is it?

Complicated system of effective but gentle, whole-body conditioning and corrective exercises
Yoga is a lifestyle rather than a system of exercise

Mental areas of Focus

Mental concentration, breathing and movement
Kindness to all beings, including ourselves, and to search for balance in our lives and lifestyle

Physical areas of Focus

Concentrates on building core strength in the body and lengthening the spine
Considered therapeutic and aims at uniting the body with mind and spirit and helps people find harmony and release stress

Pilates is about moving in ways that help strengthen your powerhouse, including your stabilising muscles
Involves static poses, which are held while exploring your breathing, physical feelings and emotions

Pilates emphasises toning over flexibility (but enhances both)
Yoga emphasizes flexibility over building strength (although it enhances both)

Pilates instructs an individual to inhale through the nose and exhale through mouth
Yoga practitioners are taught to inhale and exhale through the nose only

Performance is on the mats as well as the Pilates machines which help build a longer, leaner and a dancer -like physique
The different styles are generally practised in a group sitting on a yoga mat with the aid of a yoga instructor

The Perfect Combo

You may be wondering whether you should practice Yoga or Pilates. But my answer would be why choose one over the other when you can enjoy the benefits of both? Although I practice Reformer Pilates every day, I also incorporate Yoga into my workouts each week. I enjoy the flexibility, freedom, and challenge of yoga, along with the attention to detail and core workout that Pilates provides.
Consider your fitness priorities and level, and build your practice from there. If you’re in great shape and want to burn extra calories and work on endurance, a Hatha, Vinyasa, or Anusara yoga class would be ideal. If you’re a runner and need to fine-tune your core strength, then Pilates may be the best choice. The main thing is to pick a practice that you enjoy and can do on a regular basis.

Exercise of the month: Bridge

We’ve established that both Yoga and Pilates improve flexibility, which is great news if you suffer from tight hamstrings. But before I explain the exercise, let’s look at what causes hamstrings to get tight in the first place.

Protective Tension of the Hamstrings

If you have an exaggerated anterior pelvic tilt, it puts stress on the hamstrings. They are constantly “on” to prevent you from ending up with extension-based back pain, such as spondylolysis (vertebral fractures), spondylolisthesis (vertebral “slippage”), and lumbar erector tightness/strains.

This is a problem more commonly seen in women than men.

Neutral Tension

Just because you feel hamstring tightness doesn’t mean the hamstrings are the source of the problem. In fact, it’s not uncommon for those with lumbar disc issues to present with pain and tightness in the legs, especially the hamstrings.

Aggressively stretching the hamstrings can make these symptoms worse, so it’s important to speak to your instructor before the class starts.
Previous Hamstring Strain
Once you’ve injured your hamstring, it may never be the same again from a tissue density standpoint, whether it’s the surrounding fascia or the muscle itself. A previous injury can leave you feeling permanently tight in the region. But regular manual therapy can help in this regard.
Shoulder Bridge
So, onto the exercise. The shoulder bridge is a classic Pilate’s exercise that builds core strength and strengthens the hamstrings and glutes.

A word of warning: The exercise will make your hamstrings feel like they’re cramping. But don’t worry, this is completely normal. They’re just working.

‘Ask the Expert’

Here’s the part of the blog where we answer your burning questions about Pilates. So if you’re wondering which Reformer exercise will best target your glutes, or why your abs shake while you’re holding your plank, post them below, Tweet us, or send us a message on Facebook.


Q: I suffer from neck pain when doing Reformer Pilates. How can I prevent it?

Neck strain is a common complaint from Pilate’s students. It’s caused by not understanding or having the strength and flexibility needed to support the body and keep stress off the neck.

If you begin to feel a strain in your neck, stop! It’s better to take a break than use muscles that shouldn’t be doing the work and continuing to aggravate the issue.

There are some things you can do to lessen the impact on your neck:

Use the posterior-lateral Pilates breathing technique

Learning how to utilise the Pilates style of posterior-lateral breathing is KEY to lifting the head up off the neck and lengthening the spine. Emphasis is placed on inhaling to fill the back of the ribcage from the bottom to the top. In effect, what happens is as you fill your lungs with air, you’re increasing the natural curves of the spine.

Keep the front of the neck and throat relaxed on your inhale

A lot of people inhale through the torso and tense up so much through the front of their neck that the head gets closer to the body on the inhale. When this happens – the neck muscles are pulling the neck bones closer together (when things should be lengthening apart). Watch yourself breathe in front of a mirror and see if you notice your neck get longer, or shorter as you inhale. Do you see the muscles in the front of your neck tense up on your inhale? Or do they stay loose and relaxed? Think about your neck and throat being an open tube that air can easily flow in and out of.


Special Offer

As an incentive to try one of our Tempo Pilates classes, we’re running an introductory offer for anyone new to Tempo Pilates. Instead of £26, if you visit our sign-up page and create an online account here, your first class will cost £13. So why not experience the many benefits of Tempo Pilates? We have three studios – in Hackney, Shoreditch and Covent Garden – each offering a range of affordable Pilate’s classes to suit every level of fitness.

Pilates near me? Check out our studio locations below and see if you can book your reformer pilates class with us today!

Until next time,


Unit 10, Avant Garde
6 Cygnet Street
E1 6GW

Great Eastern Buildings
Reading Lane
E8 1FR

Studio 2, Gymbox
42 – 49 St Martins Lane