What’s the difference between Pilates and Yoga?

Here at Little Venice Pilates, we’re often asked this; and it’s an interesting question!

To those with little or no experience of the two disciplines, it can certainly be rather confusing as to what the differences are, and therefore difficult to determine which might be the best to pursue.

It’s rather like asking “what’s the difference between a Merlot and a Cabernet Sauvignon?” A novice may not notice a great deal, whereas a connoisseur will wax lyrical over countless characteristics which set the two apart.

This is what Celia Carron, Director here at Little Venice Pilates, has to say on the subject:

Pilates and Yoga share many similarities, yet have significant differences too. Both approaches to exercise are about concentration, or focus in the moment, and pay great attention to the movement itself rather than concentrating on the final objective. To put it another way, the focus is always in the current stage of the journey, rather than on the final destination. There are common exercises to both Yoga and Pilates, but there are also some unique to each.

Here are some of the key differences:

In Yoga, the primary focus is on remaining connected to the breathing. So a move starts with the breath and then deepens; whereas in Pilates the primary focus is in the precision of the movement, followed by the co-ordination and rhythm of the breath. In Pilates the breathing is deep and controlled, using and developing the diaphragm. In Yoga the ‘asana’ work mainly involves heat-inducing breaths, in either a smooth or a rapid rhythm.

Both Yoga and Pilates involve exercises which develop strength in the body by using the force of gravity as resistance. But unlike Yoga, Pilates also offers exercises using specialized equipment and machines which provide different forms of resistance, and this can be particularly helpful when exercise is being used for rehabilitation.

Pilates builds abdominal strength first, and from this ‘core’ then develops symmetrical muscle training and flexibility. Yoga works to develop strength in the limbs and flexibility of the spine.


With Pilates, many of the exercises are performed lying down; whilst Yoga uses more exercises which are performed from standing or sitting positions. Both have a range in all positions providing functional movement. Both work against gravity, but Yoga tends to root to the ground and lengthen away; while Pilates uses the abdominal muscles to lift the body against gravity.

These are just a few key differences, and there are certainly many more. So I believe it’s always best to try different classes of both, with high quality instruction, in order to properly find out which best suits your individual needs. I practice both, and find the similarities and differences stimulating. I have certainly found Pilates to be a better place to start for rehabilitation purposes, but of course all well-taught exercise can and should be adapted to the individual needs of a client or patient.

I would strongly recommend that anyone currently considering incorporating Pilates or Yoga into their overall wellbeing regime should contact us here at Little Venice Pilates. We will be happy to discuss your own particular requirements and recommend an approach for you. And as a bonus, we’re currently running an excellent Introduction to Pilates Promotion, so do please contact us before the end of September to take advantage of this.