If I had a dollar for every time I was asked this question I would have enough money to live off of the rest of my life and offer free Pilates (and Yoga) classes.
Pilates and Yoga are often grouped together because they both fall into the mind/body exercise category. But, as someone that teaches and practices both, I can tell you that they really aren't anything alike.
Sure, Elephant may be reminiscent of Downward Facing Dog, but you are holding your body in completely different ways, engaging different muscle groups and wanting to accomplish completely different things.
I couldn't find a simple comparison of the two, so, I made my own:
If you are looking to improve your muscle strength, you like to stay mentally engaged and focused throughout a class, you thrive off of visible results and enjoy physical challenges then go for Pilates.
If you are wanting to improve muscle tone and flexibility, you like to be in your own head/have meditative time in class, you thrive off off of emotional results and enjoy finding your still point then head to Yoga.
I feel like we can all benefit from both but everyone eventually gravitates toward one or the other. I practice Pilates every day and Yoga once or twice a week. Attend both classes at least 4-5 times, pick your passion and go that direction, but don't leave the other out completely.
I asked a few friends and students that practice both Pilates and Yoga to give their perspective:
"To me, yoga is unique because you get relaxation along with your fitness. Pilates is more intense physically (at least for me), but you probably see your fitness goals realized sooner. Yoga and Pilates really do complement each other well: strengthen your core in Pilates, and see your flexibility and poses improve in yoga. If each sounds appealing, do both! You can quiet your mind in your yoga practice, and then hopefully use this to help you enjoy a more rewarding Pilates class." -Melinda B.
"Pilates moves at a quicker pace, so I find myself focusing and thinking about how my muscles feel, whether my posture is correct, how I've improved from the last time I went to class. Yoga is such a great practice for getting into a calm head space. It's like a quiet meditation with the reward of a much stronger, leaner body at the end." -Dana B.
"Yoga has taught me how to focus on my body while getting both my muscles and joints stretched and strengthened. I can see why people call it a Yoga Practice! Pilates Mat and Reformer training has greatly improved my posture and occasional back pain. Since I had my a son couple years ago I've had an instability in my lumbar & sacrum. Pilates has helped me regain my core intergrity resulting in no more back pain in just a short amount of time. I can't express enough the great benefits of Pilates type exercises, everyone should do them!" Neda C.
"Pilates has helped me to learn to use my body more efficiently while yoga has helped me to gain focus and take deeper breaths. I look forward to going to both classes because I feel so much better after class." -James R.
I would LOVE to know your thoughts on Pilates and Yoga, their similarities and differences, what the exercises have done for you, and what you feel are the benefits of doing one vs. the other.