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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


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Pilates and Sport | Tempo Pilates Blog

Welcome to the July edition of our Pilates blog. Summer has truly arrived and we’re all still riding high on Andy Murray’s Wimbledon victory; strawberries and Pimm’s have never tasted so good! And, as well as Andy Murray attributing his recovery from back surgery in 2013 to Reformer Pilates, many of world’s top tennis players, including Serena Williams, Pat Cash and Martina Navratilova have all credited Pilates with transforming their game.

In fact tennis players at every level are embracing Reformer Pilates, for everything from injury prevention, to rectifying muscle imbalance, improving flexibility and strengthening the core muscles.

If Pilates is good enough for the worlds top tennis players its good enough for us – and it can help you, whatever level you’re at.


So how can Pilates help you improve your game?
Racket sports are one-sided by nature. Most players repeatedly use the same hand and arm to hit the ball, generally in the same direction, with the head and neck adopting the same position. Such pronounced left- or right-sided movements load stress on the body, resulting in a physique that is out of balance and liable to over-use injuries.

Further problems can result from the fact that few tennis players have a bio-mechanically perfect serve. Repetitive, inefficient patterns of movement give rise to problems in the shoulder joints. ‘Tennis elbow’ or inflammation of the muscle tissue and ligaments at the base of the elbow is caused by chronic twisting of the arm, plus repeated shocks to the small bony ridge on the outer elbow.


Reformer Pilates to the rescue
Whether you’re a social player or a budding pro, machine Pilates can not only help reduce the number of tennis related injuries you pick up, it can also improve your range of motion, flexibility and power in your game.

And it’s all to do with core strength.

Most people associate Pilates with the core. This describes not only the abdominal muscles, but all the muscles that support the spine. They help you maintain alignment, which is key for precise body mechanics in ground movement and stroke execution in tennis.


Mental strength
Tennis is as much about mental strength as physical strength and the mind-body connection that Pilates employs is so complete that it contributes to mental discipline on the court. Being able to control the breath and mindfully move the body is crucial in situations requiring mental toughness. And it’s this mental toughness that will give you the edge in any performance situation.

While even the best Pilates instructor may not help you serve like Serena Williams or Roger Federer, a programme of specific Reformer Pilates exercises will work your body more uniformly to prevent overdevelopment of one side, while also strengthening the deep abdominal muscles needed for a stable base from which to hit that winning serve. Addressing flexibility through the shoulders and upper back while lengthening the tighter front muscles of the torso will boost your power and range of motion – and make it easier to reach for that drop shot at the net.


Exercise of the month: Plank
So we’ve established that a strong core will help you improve your tennis game. One of the best Reformer exercises to achieve this is the Plank. It’s a great full-body exercise (working the core, arms, legs and back) and doesn’t require a lot of flexion.

Here’s how it’s done:



With the plank, technique is everything. If you don’t get it right, it will prevent you from getting the most out of the exercise. But it can also feed into other muscle imbalances that may be hurting your posture and performance.

To get the most out of the plank, let’s look at a few of the most common flaws in technique and how to fix them.

Arching your back
The problem: If your abdominals aren’t engaged, your arms will tire from supporting the majority of your bodyweight. When that happens, your first inclination is to arch your back, which puts undue pressure on your spine.

The Fix: Make sure your shoulders are depressed (wide) and that your palms are also wide on the floor. By broadening your shoulders, you will take weight off of your upper body and engage those core muscles that need to be working.

Reaching your butt to the sky
The problem: You shouldn’t look like you are doing a downward dog while planking. You won’t necessarily cause yourself any damage, but you aren’t going to benefit from the exercise either.

The Fix: Get ‘long’ – meaning create some distance between your elbows and your feet. Make sure you are squeezing your glutes and keeping tension in your abs.

Lowering your hips
The problem: When your abdominal and arm muscles start to fatigue, it’s likely your hips will begin to sink. The downside to letting it all hang down is that your core muscles will be less challenged in this position, and you’ll be putting strain on your lower back.

The Fix: Keep your hips raised by tucking your butt in and squeezing your glutes. You can also walk your feet out from each other a bit to give yourself a more stable and solid base. Take deep breaths as you contract and engage your abdominal muscles. Still not sure if you’re doing it right? Balance a bar or a roller along the length of your back as an alignment check.

Looking straight ahead or up
The problem: Another common mistake is cranking your head too far back looking up at the ceiling or straight ahead. This can put a strain on your neck, and as a result, the rest of your form will fall apart.

The Fix: Keep your eyes looking down at so your head and neck are in alignment with the rest of your body. Also think about drawing your chin in towards you — especially when you hit that 60-second mark.

If you need some inspiration for your planks, take some from Mao Weidong – a Chinese policeman, who broke the world record for holding a plank position in May, for an eye-watering eight hours, one minute and one second.


‘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: At my Reformer class last week, I heard someone talking about how fun the jumpboard was. What is it?




A: The jumpboard is an attachment that converts a reformer into a horizontal jumping machine. It fixes to the front of the reformer where the footbar is.

While lying with your back on the carriage you can adjust the spring tension and jump on the board as if it were the floor. The spring tension takes gravity out of the equation, so it feels like you’re jumping on the moon.

The jumpboard provides an excellent and non-weight bearing method to increase heart rate, and as a bonus, a jumpboard workout is safe and much easier on the joints than running, as there is no jarring of the knee joints.


Q: I have really tight hip flexors. What’s the best stretch to do on the Reformer to loosen them?

A: All forms of cardiovascular exercise that work the leg muscles involve hip and leg flexion and extension. Over time your hip flexors can become very tight, causing imbalances in the lower body that may affect the spine, knees, ankles and feet. Floor stretches are effective, but exercises on the Pilates Reformer can also safely stretch the hip flexors and correct muscle imbalances in the body. Watch this video demo to find out how:



Q: How can I improve my balance on the Reformer?

 A: Standing work on the reformer offers a perfect way to improve overall balance and posture.

When standing, we use our levers (arms, legs and torso) in a lengthened position, naturally improving our overall balance. And since the reformer carriage is anywhere from 5 to 30 inches off the ground, just getting onto the equipment provides a new perspective and challenges our proprioception and balance.


Standing Side Splits

The Standing Side Split is a great exercise for improving your balance, while strengthening the hip adductors.

Step onto the standing platform, with one foot on the headrest and the other on the moving part of the carriage. Hold the arms in a rounded position out in front of your shoulders.


Step 1:  Inhale and press the carriage out, keeping the legs straight and the weight balanced evenly on both feet. Control the movement with your inner thigh muscles. Pause with the carriage at its widest point.
Step 3:  Exhale and draw the carriage back to the starting position.


Hope enjoyed the blog, 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


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