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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Great Eastern Buildings
WC2/ COVENT GARDEN
Studio 2, Gymbox
42 – 49 St Martins Lane