Yoga and Pilates are two separate forms of exercise that share common origins and philosophies. Both yoga, and to a lesser extent, Pilates, are popular worldwide as both freestanding health and conditioning programs and as components of comprehensive stretching, flexibility, and injury rehabilitation techniques employed by physical therapists.
The principles of yoga developed as a part of the Buddhist religion in India over 5,000 years ago. Yoga incorporated eight different philosophies, of which physical training was only one part; yoga adherents were also directed to abstain from violence, to develop an inward focus, to work in harmony with the universe as whole, and to practice meditation. The physiological aspects of yoga included the execution of the physical exercises and the development of breath control. Yoga formed a part of a number of the traditional alternative medicines of India and was believed by its adherents to assist in the progression along a pathway to better spiritual enlightenment.
The essence of yoga exercises is the emphasis on the use of the entire musculoskeletal system to perform the movements. Yoga is predicated on the body supporting its own weight in the course of all of the positions, both standing and prone, where multiple muscle groups must act in unison to successfully sustain the movement. The resistance against which the muscles must act is constant, given that the individual's body weight is the source of the resistance; the longer that the particular movement is sustained, the greater the potential muscular development and corresponding anaerobic effect. In a one-hour yoga session, the practitioner may require the expenditure of as many as 600 calories, subject to the difficulty of the movements. Yoga stresses correct posture, precise movement, and efficient breathing that assists the body in controlling both heart rate and mental control.
Because yoga places emphasis on tranquility and peacefulness in the exercises, it has a deceptively gentle appearance. Most yoga beginners find that it takes a significant measure of practice in a number of the established yoga positions before any of the more demanding yoga routines is attempted. It is common in a yoga position to stretch a muscle group in a static fashion (body weight only generating the resistance), and then to move to a dynamic stretch, where the subject is generating greater resistance through the movement.
Pilates, the exercise program named for its developer, Joseph Hubertus Pilates (1880–1967), is rooted in similar physical principles to yoga. Pilates originally named his program contrology to stress his determination to enhance mind, body, and spirit through his system. Pilates looked to the traditions of yoga, the calisthenics associated with gymnastics training, and his own research to develop a series of over 500 exercises, with progressive increases in
All Pilates exercises emphasize the building of core strength, the ability of the body to maintain balance, flexibility, and control of movements through a strong abdomen, groin, and lumbar (lower back) structure. These muscle groups tend to work in a coordinated fashion in most forms of human movement, and a demonstrated imbalance in any single aspect of core strength will generally impair efficient and capable movement. Like yoga, a vigorous Pilates session carries a low risk of injury to the user, and may require the expenditure of over 600 calories per hour of training.
There are no competitive forms of either yoga or Pilates. Yoga is commonly enjoyed by people as a primary means of fitness, and Pilates is a popular feature in North American health and fitness clubs. The beauty of both yoga and Pilates is that once the user is introduced to and is comfortable with the required movements, the exercises can be performed anywhere that there is space to spread out a mat. There are numerous video presentations available for both yoga and Pilates to be used for programs in the home.