Sunday, March 9, 2008

Yoga vs. Pilates: A Lean, Mean Showdown

People often inquire about the difference between yoga and pilates, and implicit in this question is the curiosity over which is better. Until recently, I believed pilates to be- while an effective exercise regimen- a bastardized version of yoga, the younger and significantly diluted permutation of a more dignified and potent predecessor, somewhat akin to a recent photo spread in New York magazine featuring Lindsay Lohan aping Marilyn Monroe. The general consensus was that the Lohan reprisal of Monroe's famous "Last Sitting" fell flat because, put simply, Lindsay Lohan is no Marilyn Monroe. Pilates could preen and pose all it wanted, but, in my eyes, it wasn't going to hold a candle to yoga's stature. Pilates was the new found tabloid fodder to my unmatched yogic icon.

Then, I ate crow. May I have that with the dressing on the side, please? Thank you very much. This winter, I started dropping in on the occasional pilates class at my gym and found, to my surprise, that pilates indeed deserved its own spotlight. While yoga will always be my primary form of [physical and mental] exercise, pilates quickly became the perfect complement. Sure, the movements were similar to yoga, but, as a whole, the experience was very different. The exercises that form the "core" of the workout (a little pilates pun, there) were brand new to me, simple enough to pick up quickly, and, still, undoubtedly effective.

This weekend, I took my first private session with pilates coordinator at Equinox in Back Bay Shawn Giles, thereby punctuating my interest and approval for a workout that I previously considered to be a sub-standard remix of a preferred original. Think: Rhianna's rip off of Michael Jackson's catchy, cryptic chorus in "Please Don't Stop the Music." [Mama say, mama sa, mama, what?]. Fortunately, like any good convert, I'm willing to spread the good word. Here's my personal lowdown on the differences between yoga and pilates and the benefits of each.

Yoga: several thousands of years old, a holistic approach to overall fitness and mental clarity, great for seekers, invented in India circa 3300-1700 B.C., encompasses countless styles and disciplines, different styles resonate with different people of varying ability levels, fits into a spiritual framework (if you're doing it right), less standardized due to all the various styles, levels, and teachers, can stand alone as a complete wellness regimen for mind and body.

Pilates: less than one century old, a localized approach to the all-important core, great for strivers, invented in Europe by Joseph Pilates during World War I, comprised of one fundamental method, ideal for people who are injured or working with a limited range of motion, fits into a fitness framework, more standardized, a formidable complement to all other wellness regimens (including yoga, cross-training, cardiovascular activity, dance, etc.).

The edge still goes to yoga, but I'm looking forward to pilates class tonight.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

When are you coming in for your next private?