The yoga we’re familiar with today comes from ancient India. It was a way to promote mental health, positivity, and calm while benefiting physical health too. Pilates appeared over 100 years ago and has gained popularity as a way to exercise and recover from injuries.
Yoga and pilates have an abundance of benefits and are a great form of exercise. Many associate yoga and pilates together, but while they share certain characteristics, they also have key differences. This article examines these key differences and the benefits of both for older adults.
Yoga is an exercise that’s been around for thousands of years. Originating from ancient India, the art of yoga helps cultivate mindfulness, relaxation, and connection with oneself and the world. Yoga focuses on deep breathing, mind-body connections, and positive thinking throughout the movements.
If you’re wondering whether or not yoga is right for you, here are some of the benefits.
Yoga Reduces Stress
The slow, meticulous movements performed during yoga help reduce stress in the body. Too much stress can lead to serious health conditions, trouble sleeping, weight gain, and more. Yoga is well-known for its ability to reduce the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline and promote calm in their place. Stress in life is unavoidable but learning to manage it in a healthy way is easy with yoga.
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Yoga Promotes Emotional Health
Emotional health includes self-awareness, self-control, empathy, and healthy relationships. Emotional health requires regular attention, but as life gets busy, it can become difficult to take care of our emotional health.
Yoga is known for promoting a mind-body connection. As life gets busy, yoga can be a great way to cultivate emotional health and take care of yourself.
Yoga Supports Heart Health
One of the benefits of yoga is its support for heart health. Practicing yoga reduces stress, suppresses inflammation, and promotes better circulation of oxygen and blood throughout the body. Many consider cardio exercise as the best way to promote heart health but giving your heart rest and breathing deeply promotes calm and benefits heart health as well.
Yoga also boosts heart health by regulating blood cholesterol and glucose levels, blood pressure, and heart rate. Recent research shows those who practiced yoga for three months reduced their risk for heart disease.
Yoga Promotes Sleep
Because of the stress-reducing mental health benefits of yoga, it’s also a great way to promote better sleep. One of the leading causes of inadequate sleep is stress. When you go to bed at night and thoughts race through your head due to worry or feeling overwhelmed, it can be difficult to fall asleep.
By practicing yoga, you can learn how to effectively manage stress and promote calm. When you feel calm, you’ll be able to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
Pilates is an exercise developed by Joseph Pilates in the early 20th century. The main focus of pilates is to gently and effectively stretch, balance, tone, and strengthen muscles in the body. Many injured athletes and physical therapy patients use pilates to help recover from injury.
Pilates is very similar to yoga. The exercise is characterized by deep, controlled breathing and movements performed in sequences that cultivate healing and relaxation throughout the body. Pilates offers many benefits to older adults specifically as it is an easy, gentle form of exercise available to those of all fitness levels.
Let’s explore some of the benefits of pilates for older adults.
Recovery From Injury and Medical Conditions
Arguably the most known benefit of pilates is the gentle, effective benefits for recovery. Injured athletes use pilates as a way to heal and exercise while being gentle on the body. Pilates can even be used as a way to ease the symptoms of certain medical conditions.
For instance, many arthritis and osteoporosis patients use pilates as a way to recover as well as manage and soothe joint pain. Those who have suffered a stroke can use pilates to improve walking and movement. Studies have even shown the benefits of pilates for Parkinson’s disease and dementia. For older adults who are at a higher risk of stroke or disease, pilates may be an effective form of exercise to manage and promote health.
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Pilates is an exercise that uses gentle body weight exercises to promote strength and toning of muscle.
For older adults, one benefit of this exercise is that it doesn’t require a large amount of strength to begin with.
Improves Posture and Balance
Pilates targets the core muscles in the abdomen and around the back. These muscles act as a supporting wrap to help stabilize the back and improve posture. In turn, exercising your back muscles and improving your posture can help promote balance.
Posture is an important factor in balance. All physical activities rely on balance to walk properly and stand up straight. If you have poor posture, your balance can suffer as well, and this is a common cause of falls in older adults.
By practicing pilates, you can promote better posture, better balance, and decrease the risk of falling.
Pilates is known for its focus on flexibility and movement, but the way it promotes these factors is unique. Most pilates classes and instructors begin with smaller ranges of motion and progress gradually to larger movements. This avoids introducing movements that could cause discomfort or injury in older adults that other forms of exercise may result in if you’re not careful.
With increased flexibility come many other benefits as well. For instance, increased flexibility helps loosen joints and muscles and results in increased range of motion. Similarly, increased range of motion promotes more activity and movement.
Yoga and pilates share many similarities. Both exercises are gentle on joints, low-impact, and relatively easy to perform without any prior experience.
In addition, both yoga and Pilates have a variety of mental health benefits. They promote calm, relaxation, and can help with stress management.
Yoga and pilates are also a great form of exercise and can increase strength, flexibility, and overall physical health and wellness.
So, what’s the difference?
The biggest difference between Pilates and yoga is found in how the positions are performed. Yoga consists of a sequence of movements that are stable. You go into a position and hold it for a certain number of breaths or seconds before moving on to the next pose.
Pilates is characterized by putting your body in unstable positions and using strength and muscle to challenge balance and stability. Your body must find its own stability during these movements, which is why pilates is such a great strength workout.
Pilates focuses on building strength and muscle by resistance and toning. Basic pilates classes use bodyweight resistance while more advanced classes use equipment for resistance training. Pilates specifically targets abdominal strength, muscular balance, and improving posture through muscle.
Yoga is more focused on mental health via a mind-body connection. Both exercises can promote benefits for stress management, mental health, and strength, but it’s important to understand the focus of each to get the most out of your workout.
Which is Right for You?
Here are a few factors to help you decide which is right for you.
If you have a pre existing medical condition or injury, it’s important to talk to your doctor about whether yoga or Pilates is right for you.
Pilates may be right for those who have little to no prior experience. Yoga often requires greater flexibility to begin with, so if you have a smaller range of motion, consider starting with pilates. If you do want to begin with yoga, here are some yoga poses you can try from a chair.
Pilates may be right for those recovering from injury or with a medical condition that affects the bones and joints.
Yoga may be right for those who want to promote stress relief and increase their mind-body connection.
Yoga may be right for those with heart conditions who want to promote their heart health.
- Both yoga and pilates are great for anyone who wants to form social connections by joining an exercise class or group. Contact your local gym or workout studio and to find more information about joining a class!
Yoga and pilates offer a variety of benefits, especially for seniors. They are low-impact forms of exercise that promote overall health and wellness. It’s important to understand the different benefits offered by yoga and pilates to know which is best for you.
For more resources on how you can implement exercise and health into your everyday life, check out our blog.