Pilates: A Modern Yoga
Pilates is a modern version of the ancient movements found in Yoga. From hundreds of poses, a man named Joseph Pilates created a basic system of 34 exercises which can be reduced to something less if we're counting, yet richer if we see its depth. Yes, each Yoga posture has great meaning as does its Pilates counterpart. We boast hundreds, even thousands of movements, but the simple truth is, we only need to know three real functions: movement toward and away from centre and rotation around it. And that's the truth in both Yoga and Pilates practices.
Like Yoga, Pilates addresses the energetic and contracted states found in many people who sit at a desk or behind a wheel 40 plus hours each week. With simple ideas of form and postural principles, it will align the spine and open energy channels. It teaches awareness and centering, flexibility and mobility. It is a system of linked exercises which are also beneficial autonomously. Unlike Yoga, Pilates is always in motion (the movements are isotonic and isokinetic, with a focus on suspension within the movement, whereas Yoga is about holding the poses) and is often broken down into biomechanical pieces for a new student. Pilates places equal importance on stabilizing the body to create mobility in another. Like Yoga, all movements are executed with a focus on breath and alignment. Unlike Yoga, the spiritual dimension is missing.
Pilates currently sits at the top of Western fitness charts and is increasingly referred by osteopaths, physical therapists, chiropractors and many holistic practitioners as a primary functional conditioning method. Ashtanga Yoga instructors regularly incorporate the fundamentals as preventative measures against injury. It's remedial facets are used in building awareness and connection between the mental and tactile aspects, as bridges between the many movements, and stand alone as exercises.
Essentially the two are mutually supportive: Yoga gives Pilates flexibility & stillness, while Pilates offers stability and stillness in the motion. When coupled with Yoga, Pilates principles enhance the practice by bringing core stabilization into view as well as preparation and support for yoga postures (especially in the strength to hold). Because Pilates is more about length and strength, Yoga helps to increase the flexibility capacity. As in Universal Law balance is key: Yoga is about allowance and Pilates about doing. If a more poignant paradox exists, I have not found it.
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Shelley is a certified Pilates, fitness and ski instructor; neuromuscular and massage therapist with a background in dance and yoga. She teaches movement education and energetics in the U.S.