Yoga vs. Pilates – Which Is Better For Weight Loss?

by Rich Jones

Yoga vs. Pilates – it’s a common subject people search for online. The question of which is better for weight loss comes up a lot among those looking to lose weight. Both yoga and Pilates are popular ways of keeping fit. Yoga concentrates more on the extremities of the body, while Pilates primarily works the body’s core muscles. Both can help you increase strength and flexibility, and are excellent at boosting mental and physical health.  Yoga and Pilates are also both used to increase levels of relaxation and reduce stress.  It’s not uncommon for practitioners of either yoga or Pilates to find gentle exercise also aids better sleep and increased well-being.

With all of that said, can either an ancient practice or a fairly new concept also be used to shed pounds? We look at yoga vs. Pilates, and ask: which is better for weight loss?

Yoga

Yoga is an ancient workout from India, and one of the six orthodox schools of the philosophies of the Hindu religion. It eventually spread to the western world by Indian gurus and changed over time. Today, the western world has its own variations of traditional yoga practices.  While the original yoga discipline centered around breathing techniques and restraining the senses, new methods veer from this thinking. These days, yoga is more about increasing flexibility and relaxing, while still giving a nod to its origins.

Different Yoga Forms and Practices

Yoga comes in various forms, all with the same basic principles. There are four main types; karma, raja, jnana, and bhakti. Basically, they all have the same end goal, but each incorporates different elements. For example, bhakti is practiced to soothing music and includes chanting. Karma, as you might expect, is combined with doing good deeds for others. Although these are the primary types of yoga, they aren’t widely practiced in the west. We tend to focus more on a plethora of exercise-based yoga methods, and there is a lot to choose from. The most popular are those that improve core strength and combine mind/body connection. Typical examples of these most practiced methods include Ashtanga, Power, Yin, Iyengar, Vinyasa, and Hatha.

Ashtanga yoga is a very athletic form of yoga, and can be very challenging for newcomers to master. However, this is exactly what yoga does – it challenges you to push yourself. Ashtanga can be a good weight loss yoga practice for beginners. This athletic method will burn more calories than other types of yoga, but might be a better option if you already have some experience. 

Hatha yoga, on the other hand, is a far more gentle and less strenuous method. Hatha concentrates on gentle movement and focused breathing. This allows beginners to slide right into positions and get a decent foothold into the discipline. Of course, you don’t want to overdo it and go from the proverbial “0 to 60” when you first start any exercise regimen, including yoga.

Hot yoga has increased in popularity with those looking for the best yoga for weight loss. This type of yoga is practiced in climate-controlled rooms. It’s not uncommon to end up drenched in sweat by the end of a session. This allows you to exercise, build your strength and flexibility, and flush out toxins from your body all in one yoga class.

Pilates

Unlike yoga, Pilates is a fairly new system of exercise. The concept and practice were developed in the 1920s by Joseph Pilates, as a system of physical fitness. Pilates focuses on low impact flexibility and endurance movements. The emphasis of the practice lies in building strength and toning the body. While Joseph Pilates recommended that it be done three times each week, in reality, it can be practiced every day, if you choose.

Pilates is based around six guiding principles, and this is one of the main differences of yoga vs. Pilates. Specifically, these are centering, control, concentration, precision, flow, and breath. These are the principles behind the ‘Contrology’ method that Pilates aimed to introduce to the world.

  • Centering is aimed to work the body’s core muscles.
  • Control is being able to feel and direct each muscle with a slow and deliberate movement.
  • Concentration is to rid your mind of everything and concentrate solely on your movements. This allows you to ensure you do them properly and reap the benefits.
  • Precision is to slow your movements and do the exercises in a correct and precise manner. 
  • Flow is mastering the art of going from one movement to another in a seamless way.
  • Breath is exactly what it says; it’s breathing properly in a way that allows you to more easily move your body and gain the benefits of the Pilates system.

If you would rather not attend a Pilates class, you may find a Pilates machines at your local gym. Alternatively, you can buy or rent one for use at home. The machines work in the same way you would at Pilates class. Many people use them to maintain their routines and develop in between instructed classes.

Weight Loss

So, we return to our initial question: when it comes to yoga vs. Pilates, which is better for weight loss? The simple answer is that both can be used and it all depends on the individual. Many people swear by yoga to increase and maintain flexibility. Yoga can also help to build up muscles across the body and help tone and firm areas that may potentially become flabby.  This makes yoga good for weight loss as it pushes you (gently) to use muscles you may not otherwise engage in your day to day life. The more physical forms of yoga such as Ashtanga, which is more demanding, help burn more calories.

Yoga for Weight Loss

However, the best yoga for weight loss beginners is any! If you’ve never practiced yoga before, then start small and build up. If you get the basics, then level up to power yoga for weight loss as it burns far more calories. Hot yoga, because of the temperature control and the effort required, is also a great yoga for weight loss. Getting up and moving, to whatever extent you feel comfortable with, will help to burn calories. At the end of the day, if you’re aiming to lose weight with yoga, the exercise must be combined with healthy eating and calorie control. You don’t want to put in all that effort and not shift any pounds, do you? No matter what kind of yoga you choose, you’ll feel and look better, and be more toned, but losing weight will be achieved through a combination of factors, as always.

Pilates for Weight loss

When looking at the Pilates side of the yoga vs. Pilates question, a similar logic applies. Pilates concentrates on building overall strength and flexibility through your core muscles. It’s more about physical exercise with a side of mental well-being, where yoga is the opposite. But both practices are beneficial in increasing your metabolic rate, heart rate, and calories burned. They also both help by reducing stress, simply through their demand to concentrate and focus on yourself.

Pilates will help you build strong muscles and will certainly tone up your body. Doing this alone, however, isn’t really enough to encourage much weight loss. As with yoga, it should be combined with a healthy and calorie-controlled regime. This way, you’re likely to see great results far quicker.  Although losing weight might be your primary target, the benefits of toning up your body and boosting your overall health shouldn’t be underestimated. This is where yoga and Pilates can show their true colors and help you drop pounds in a more positive frame of mind.

The Bottom Line on Yoga vs. Pilates for Weight Loss

In essence, the simple answer is there’s no need to choose one or the other in the yoga vs. Pilates debate. You can do whichever makes sense for you, or both. Just be sure to combine it with a healthy diet and calorie controls, and always check with your doctor to make sure you are healthy enough to exercise before starting an exercise regimen. Start slow, don’t overdo it, but consistently increase the effort and challenge – it will provide you with the best overall results.

What is the difference between yoga and Pilates?

The fundamental difference between yoga vs. Pilates is in their focus. Yoga focuses on the entire body and aims to increase your flexibility. Pilates, on the other hand, focuses more on the core muscles, including the spine and hips. This, in turn, works your body from the inside out and increases your overall strength. Pilates is often used as a form of physical rehabilitation after injury.

Can you lose weight by doing yoga and Pilates?

Yes. Doing either yoga or Pilates can assist in weight loss through building muscle. It will also boost the overall strength of your body. However, both (or either) will be far more successful if they are combined with an overall weight loss plan or healthy eating and exercise.

What is better Pilates or yoga?

As we’ve discussed in our guide above, there is no one right answer to the yoga vs. Pilates question. It’s largely up to you which discipline you choose. There’s no reason not to do them both (unless a doctor or healthcare provider gives you one). So, based on your experience level, interest, weight loss goals, time, fitness level, and other factors, you can do one, the other, or both; combine them with higher-impact exercise and cardio; combine them with a healthy diet option, and more.

Which is better yoga or the gym?

Yoga is a gentle way to tone up, build strength, and boost your mental and physical health. While you can also reach these goals in the gym, it can be a far more aggressive and crowded environment. With a yoga or Pilates class, you are instructed throughout. At the gym, you’re more likely to be on your own (unless you have a specialist personal trainer).

Is yoga or Pilates better for your back?

Although there are many differences between yoga and Pilates, both are good at battling back pain and increasing flexibility. As they offer a gentle workout, they can slowly build up your flexibility without harsh movements.  If you have chronic back pain, some yoga poses can aggravate this, so you do need to be careful when you start.  Make your yoga teacher aware of any issues before you begin. It also doesn’t hurt (pardon the pun) to talk to your doctor, orthopedist, or other specialist before trying any new stretching or workout routines.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, the yoga vs. Pilates argument will likely rage on forever, especially among enthusiast communities online. Both come with amazing health and well-being benefits.  They can also both be very effective at boosting metabolism and weight loss. However, they shouldn’t really be used in isolation, and that aspect of the yoga vs. Pilates discussion is key. All diet plans combine a number of factors, and yoga and Pilates are no different. Heading to the McDonald’s drive-thru after a power yoga session won’t do anything for your waistline. 

It is highly possible, though, that you won’t want to hit up the drive-thru after a few sessions as your mindset will alter. This is one of the main benefits of yoga and Pilates. It changes the way you think and gives you a sense of overall strength and well-being. In turn, this can help change your eating habits and make you more active in your daily life. Although there are many differences between yoga and Pilates, the benefits of both are fairly similar. 

So, the argument over yoga vs. Pilates when it comes to which is better for weight loss is pretty much a tie. Give them both a try and see how you feel – there’s really no downside. You may end up feeling better, more relaxed, and with a toned-up body. Who can argue with that?

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3 comments

Lucia September 30, 2019 - 5:24 pm

Love how you determine that the best one for weight loss is the one you enjoy doing! People too often choose a workout because they heard it will make them skinny. However, studies show you are much more likely to lose weight if yuo are doing something you enjoy as you will be more consistent. There is a workout for everyone!

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